Final Report from Robert Meeropol: June 19, 2013
Today, the 60th anniversary of my parents’ execution, I am reporting to you for the last time as Executive Director of the RFC. My daughter, Jenn Meeropol, will take charge of the Rosenberg Fund for Children on September 1st. I’m a long way from that frightened and confused four-year-old child, whose initial question the first time I visited my parents on death row was: “Why you no come home?” But to this day I remember the powerful sense of dread I felt then. That’s true even though I’m now a 66-year-old grandfather who via the RFC has succeeded in transforming the destruction that was visited upon my family into a constructive force to benefit so many others.
With your help the RFC has also come a long way from our first modest awards totaling $808 to the almost $5 million we’ve granted since then. Today your donations support the children of a targeted Walmart Union organizer, brutalized anti-racist activists, Iraq War resisters, previously imprisoned pacifists, an imprisoned veteran of Occupy Wall Street, jailed grand jury resisters, a fired teacher, harassed journalists, Vieques freedom fighters, environmentalists behind bars and so many more.
Imagine how many children must share the same sense of foreboding I felt 60 years ago. And unfortunately, as the partial listing above indicates, we face new waves of repression and political imprisonment that will leave even more children in harm’s way. Here are two examples:
Amy has four children and is pregnant with her fifth. She’s an Army private who just began serving a 10-month sentence in a military prison because she fled to Canada rather than return to Iraq. When she was first deployed, Amy felt she was supporting democracy for the Iraqi people, but she soon became disillusioned. She was particularly influenced by seeing a crying two-year-old Iraqi girl coming with her family to claim compensation for a bombing by coalition forces. Amy found only lies in Iraq and felt betrayed by the U.S. government. She sought counsel within the Army, but was denied help. Finally, rather then return to her unit, she fled, and began a new life raising her children with her husband in Canada, while speaking out against the war. Unlike what happened with Vietnam-era war resisters, Canada refused to grant her asylum. She was forced to leave and was seized at the border when she returned to the United States. Amy’s younger children may wonder, as I did in 1951, why she can’t come home, but at least an RFC Attica Prison Visit Fund grant will enable them to see their mother while she serves her sentence.
Rebel Diaz is a radical hip hop group in the South Bronx. Two of its members’ parents were tortured by the Pinochet regime because they had supported the Allende government. In 2008 Rebel Diaz formed the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective (RDACBX). The Arts Collective rented an abandoned warehouse and transformed it into a community center that served as a safe haven for young people and also provided progressive education. But their “No Human is Illegal” and “Free Mumia 2012” murals infuriated the police. As gentrification hit the area, and after the Police Benevolent Association complained to the landlord about the murals, their landlord reneged on an earlier agreement, and more than doubled their rent. When the Arts Collective balked, they were raided by the police and federal marshals who destroyed over $20,000 in property and locked them out of the building. An RFC grant will help replace recording and multimedia equipment that was seized and smashed. We are honored to help RDACBX continue to provide a creative outlet for young activists and artists.
I get the most profound sense of personal satisfaction from providing this kind of aid to such an important progressive community resource, and I’m sure you will as well. And I have the most intense feeling of kinship with Amy’s children who now must share my experience of visiting an imprisoned parent. I know that they’ve already suffered, and like you, I wish these events had never happened. While we can’t eliminate painful memories, every dollar you donate makes a concrete contribution to the children’s well being. Times are hard and finances remain tight, but I bet there are few things you can think of more worthy of your support than bringing solace to these children.
I know how painful childhood memories can be, but I also know that they can be transformed into a powerfully positive force. That’s why the Rosenberg Fund for Children makes grants that help alleviate the nightmarish childhood experiences of political repression by connecting kids to a nurturing community of support. This is your last opportunity during my tenure as the leader of the RFC to take all of these children into your loving arms and demonstrate that you are on their side.
You know we will use your precious funds carefully. The RFC has been helping kids and youth like these efficiently and effectively for over 22 years. And, because the generous support of several dozen major donors covers much of the RFC’s operating expenses, 90% of every dollar you contribute in response to this letter will be awarded this year to children like those described above and so many more.
Finally, there is an additional reason why I make this personal appeal to you today. It has been 60 years since my parents were executed at Sing Sing prison. Please consider responding positively to this letter as a tribute to the 60th anniversary of that dreadful day, and to honor every child who, like me, has endured having an activist parent in prison. I know you will be most generous.
Thank you for marking my final days as the RFC’s Executive Director with your donation.