ANGELA Y. DAVIS (RFC Advisory Board member)
Through her activism and scholarship over many decades, Angela Davis has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the world. Her work as an educator – both at the university level and in the larger public sphere – has always emphasized the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial, and gender justice.
Professor Davis’ teaching career has taken her to San Francisco State University, Mills College, and UC Berkeley. She also has taught at UCLA, Vassar, the Claremont Colleges, and Stanford University. Mostly recently she spent fifteen years at the University of California Santa Cruz where she is now Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness – an interdisciplinary Ph.D program – and of Feminist Studies.
Angela Davis is the author of nine books and has lectured throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. In recent years a persistent theme of her work has been the range of social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination. She draws upon her own experiences in the early seventies as a person who spent eighteen months in jail and on trial, after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.” She also has conducted extensive research on numerous issues related to race, gender and imprisonment. Her recent books include Abolition Democracy and Are Prisons Obsolete? about the abolition of the prison industrial complex, and a new edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In 2012 she published a new collection of essays entitled The Meaning of Freedom.
Angela Davis is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex. Internationally, she is affiliated with Sisters Inside, an abolitionist organization based in Queensland, Australia that works in solidarity with women in prison.
Like many educators, Professor Davis is especially concerned with the general tendency to devote more resources and attention to the prison system than to educational institutions. Having helped to popularize the notion of a “prison industrial complex,” she now urges her audiences to think seriously about the future possibility of a world without prisons and to help forge a 21st century abolitionist movement.
Eve Ensler (@EveEnsler) is a Tony award winning playwright, performer and activist. She is the author of international phenomenon, The Vagina Monologues, which won an Obie and has been published in 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Eve wrote the New York Times Bestseller, I Am An Emotional Creature: The Secret Life Of Girls Around The World. She then adapted it as a play which ran to critical acclaim in South Africa, Paris, Berkeley and Off-Broadway.
She is the founder of V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls, which has raised over 100 million dollars for grassroots organizations around the world. On V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, it launched its most ambitious campaign, One Billion Rising, which inspired one billion people in 207 countries to Strike Dance and Rise on Feb 14, 2013, for the freedom, safety and equality of women. With the women of Congo, V-Day opened and supports City of Joy In Bukavu, Congo, a revolutionary center where survivors of gender violence Turn Their Pain to Power.
Eve starred in the HBO version of The Vagina Monologues. Her play Here was filmed live by Sky Television in London, UK. She co-produced the documentary What I Want My Words to You which won the Freedom of Expression Award at Sundance. Her other plays include Necessary Targets, The Treatment and The Good Body, which she performed on Broadway, followed by a national tour. In 2006, Eve released her book, Insecure At Last: A Political Memoir, and co-edited A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and a Prayer. Her newest book, In The Body of the World is published by Holt and will be on sale - with Eve signing copies - in the lobby at the June 16th show.
MARTÍN ESPADA (RFC Advisory Board member)
Martín Espada (www.martinespada.net) is the author of more than fifteen books. His latest collection of poems, The Trouble Ball (Norton, 2011), received the Milt Kessler Award, an International Latino Book Award and a Massachusetts Book Award. His previous collection, The Republic of Poetry (Norton, 2007), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His book of essays, Zapata’s Disciple (South End Press, 1998), has been banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Espada teaches at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Klemente Gilbert-Espada is a graduate of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts high school in South Hadley, Massachusetts. He has performed in numerous Shakespearean productions, including King Lear at PVPA, As You Like It, Twelfth Night and Richard III for the Hampshire Shakespeare Company, and Macbeth for Out of Joint at the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts. He also appeared in the New Century Theatre production of Voices in Conflict, a play about the Iraq War, and most recently in The School for Lies, a production at Bennington College, where he is entering his senior year. He is the son of Martín Espada.
Christina González was yanked into this world in 1986 in Far Rockaway, Queens, NY. Raised by her mother's white american family and her father's Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrant family, discrimination became something that she was aware of at an early age. After dropping out of school at 16, she eventually graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, magna cum laude, with a Bachelor's Degree in Deviant Behavior and Social Control.
Christina traveled with John Jay's Dept. of Latin American Studies to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to study border conflict. She traveled to Egypt with Youth International Empowerment to work with high school students on creating revolution. Christina was awarded a grant from the Vera Institute allowing her to become an intern with the Center for Employment Opportunities, an organization that assists formerly incarcerated people. Christina was accepted as a student leader at John Jay College's Office of Community Outreach where she received a grant from Americorps and completed over 300 hours of community service.
After graduation, Christina became a full-time human rights activist and was part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. She wrote about her OWS experiences in Wrapped In Orange Nets, Separated, Trapped: One Woman's Arrest Story, that was published in a book titled, The 99%: How the Occupy Wall Street Movement is Changing America. She also participated in acts of civil disobedience to bring a halt to the NYPD's racial targeting of black and brown youth called Stop, Question, and Frisk. Most days you can find her holding a sign on a busy street or playing guitar with her 8-year-old sister.
Lennox S. Hinds is a Professor of Law and former Chair of the Administration of Justice Program, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. A graduate of The City College of New York and Rutgers Law School, he was awarded the law school’s J. Skelly Wright Award for contribution to civil rights. He was a Charles H. Revson Fellow, Center for Legal Education and Urban Policy, City College of New York 1979-1980. In addition to his practice as a criminal defense and international human rights lawyer, he was Nelson Mandela’s U.S. attorney and is counsel in the U.S. to the Government of South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa and SWAPO of Namibia. He is the permanent Representative to the United Nations for the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.
Before joining Stevens, Hinds and White, PC, as its senior partner, with law offices in New York, New Jersey, Great Britain, and Johannesburg, Hinds served for many years as National Director of the National Conference of Black Lawyers of the U.S. and Canada. He has represented a number of politically unpopular clients, including Assata Shakur, the New York ,8 and victims of police brutality and other governmental lawlessness including COINTELPRO.
Hinds has traveled, written, and lectures extensively in Africa, Europe, Asia and North America on international human rights issues and on the impact of racism on the operation of the law, particularly the criminal justice systems of the U.S. He has published and taught about crimes against humanity under international law for more than two decades and has presented expert testimony on the Crimes Against Humanity of the Apartheid Regime before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Johannesburg, South Africa presided over by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He is now Vice-President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers with jurist members throughout the world.
He is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the International Criminal Court for Rwanda (ICTR), the International Criminal Court for Yugoslavia (ICTY), the Permanent International Criminal Court in The Hague and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Most recently, Hinds has been appointed by the UN as lead counsel to represent the interest of defendants accused by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) of genocide, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. He is one of the few U.S. attorneys appointed to the panel of defense lawyers by the UN. He has served on International Commissions of Inquiries and worked for the release of political prisoners in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. He assisted in drafting the Luanda Convention on Mercenaries in Luanda, Angola in 1976.
Emma Lang is a third-generation radical, agitator and educator. Her work, both politically and as a curator at historic museums, has often centered on workers' struggles and their grounding in community networks. She was involved in the early-2000s wave of organizing, from the A16 World Bank mobilization onwards—as a street medic and student organizer. Emma's family's experience during the Red Scare and the repression of the movements of the 1960s and 70s as well as the extreme repression she has seen perpetrated against activists today, have shaped her work in many ways. She is proud to continue the activist legacy of her parents, grandparents, and extended family.
Shola Lynch (@sholalynch) is an award-winning American filmmaker who burst on the scene in 2004. Her eagerly anticipated second feature documentary FREE ANGELA & All Political Prisoners is a first hand account of the events that thrust Angela Davis into the national spotlight from a young college professor to a fugitive on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. This complex film has challenged Lynch and showcases her progress as a promising director and producer.
FREE ANGELA & All Political Prisoners details Davis’ experiences as an activist, intellectual and a woman caught up in the tumultuous and violent social upheaval of the early 1970’s. The film project has taken seven years of intensive research, fundraising, planning and production to complete. Lynch cites her passion for the film, her curiosity about the subject and the support of family and colleagues for ultimately bringing it to fruition.
Shola’s first independent feature documentary, CHISHOLM ’72 – Unbought & Unbossed, about Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s historic run for president in 1972, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, aired on PBS’s POV series, and garnered two Independent Spirit Award nominations and a prestigious Peabody for excellence.
Shola honed her filmmaking skills as a visual researcher and Associate Producer for Ken Burns and Florentine Films. Her work on the two-part Frank Lloyd Wright documentary and the ten-part JAZZ series inspired her to pursue the craft of storytelling. Since then she has produced and scripted stories that have aired on BET, CNN, ESPN, HBO Sports, and PBS.
Shola also holds a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University and is working on a book based on her new film. She lives in Harlem, NY with her husband and two young children, Julian and Violet.
JENN MEEROPOL (RFC Associate Director)
Since joining the RFC in 2007, Jenn Meeropol served first as the Grantmaking Coordinator and is now the Associate Director. She oversees all the Fund’s awards made to the children of targeted progressive activists and oversees aspects of fund raising and financial management for the organization.
Before joining the RFC, Jenn received her B.A. from Harvard University and her M.A. from Brown University. Jenn then spent almost a decade administering programs in the non-profit and higher education sectors. She has authored or edited several journals and books including The Community’s College: Indicators of Engagement at Two Year Colleges and One with the Community: Indicators of Engagement at Minority Serving Institutions.
The older daughter of the RFC’s founder Robert Meeropol, and granddaughter of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Jenn will assume the become Executive Director of the foundation in September 2013 following her father’s retirement.
MICHAEL MEEROPOL (RFC Advisory Board member)
Michael Meeropol is the older son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. In 1953 when he was 10 years old, the United States Government executed his parents for “conspiring to steal the secret of the atomic bomb."
Michael is married to Ann Karus Meeropol. They have two children, Ivy and Gregory, and two grandchildren, Julian and Dylan Ann. Ivy’s husband is Thomas Ambrose and Gregory’s wife is Patrycja Mikos. Michael received his undergraduate training in Economics and History at Swarthmore College and Cambridge University in England before completing a PhD in Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
From 1970 to 2008 he taught economics, history and various interdisciplinary courses at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts. Since 2009 he has been visiting Professor of Economics and Interdisciplinary Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of CUNY.
Beginning in 1973, he joined with his brother Robert in an effort to re-open his parents’ case. With Robert he co-authored two editions of WE ARE YOU SONS, THE LEGACY OF ETHEL AND JULIUS ROSENBERG and he edited a complete edition of his parents’ prison correspondence. He has also written SURRENDER, HOW THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION COMPLETED THE REAGAN REVOLUTION and has for the past seven years been a regular commentator on WAMC-FM, the NPR station in Albany, NY.
Robert Meeropol is the younger son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. He was six years old when his parents were executed.
For over 40 years he has been a progressive activist, author and public speaker. In the 1970’s he and his brother, Michael, successfully sued the FBI and CIA to force the release of 300,000 previously secret documents about their parents. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Anthropology from the University of Michigan, graduated law school in 1985, and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar.
In 1990, after leaving private practice, Robert founded the Rosenberg Fund for Children and has served as its Executive Director for its first 23 years. The RFC is a public foundation that provides for the educational and emotional needs of children in this country whose parents have been harassed, injured, jailed, lost jobs or died in the course of their progressive activities. The Fund also supports youth who have been targeted for their own activism. In its more than two decades, the RFC has awarded almost $5 million in grants to benefit almost a thousand children.
Robert’s memoir, AN EXECUTION IN THE FAMILY, was published by St. Martin’s Press on the 50th anniversary of his parents’ executions. The book details his odyssey from Rosenberg son to political activist and leader of the Rosenberg Fund for Children.
Robert will retire from the RFC’s Executive Directorship at the end of this summer, when he passes on leadership to his daughter, Jenn, who will carry it forward. He will remain on the RFC's board.
MIKE + RUTHY
After thousands of concerts across tens-of-thousands of miles, Ruth Ungar & Mike Merenda have emerged as one of acoustic America’s most revered musical duos. As Mike notes, “We do this Pete Seeger song, ‘Oh Had I a Golden Thread,’ and by way of introduction we often acknowledge Pete for all his work in helping people to believe in humanity. After a concert recently a fan approached us and said, ‘You know, you guys do that too.’ I was elated.”
As story-tellers, as singers, as poets, as parents (they tour with their two small children), Mike + Ruthy (www.mikeandruthy.com, @mikeandruthy) are heralds of an American cultural awakening, one that values honesty and togetherness, one that prefers grit to glitz and one that - in the face of an information super-highway - revels in the old-fashioned telling of a story.
Their most recent projects include a newly minted folk and roots festival called the Winter Hoot which brought Spirit Family Reunion, Amy Helm, Elizabeth Mitchell, Natalie Merchant, Jeffrey Lewis, Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, and other Americana favorites to the Ashokan Center near their home in upstate NY, a haunting posthumous Woody Guthrie collaboration (“My New York City”) which lends its title to their most recent EP, and a growing family, with different generations who regularly join them on tour and on stage.
Described as "rich, warm Americana" by Time Out NY and "infectious new folk rock" by the Boston Globe, an evening spent with Mike + Ruthy promises to thrill your senses, raise your spirits, and delve deep into your soul.
Fronted by MC’s Rodstarz, MC/Producer G1, and backed by Producer/DJ Illanoiz, Rebel Diaz (www.rebeldiaz.com, @RebelDiaz) shows us the true global power of Hip-Hop. After first performing at an immigrant rights march in New York City in 2006 in front of a half million people, the bilingual crew has taken the international community by storm with their explosive live shows. With influences ranging from Dirty South bounce to South American folk, Rebel Diaz combines classic boom bap tradition with Hip-Hop’s global impact. The group’s versatility has allowed for them to share the stage with the likes of Common, Mos Def, and Public Enemy, while feeling right at home with acts like Rage Against the Machine and Calle 13. Recent tours in Europe and Latin America have only solidified their international appeal.
With roots in Chicago and now based in the South Bronx, NY, Rebel Diaz has also piqued the interest of the academic community with their poignant social commentary and energetic performances. They have spent the last seven years visiting dozens of colleges and universities, facilitating workshops, speaking on panels, and performing at national conferences. Building on this growing network of positive young people in Hip Hop, the group opened a community arts center in the South Bronx in 2008, the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective (www.rdacbx.org @RDACBX).
On the heels of their critically acclaimed Otro Guerrillero mixtape series, and 2011's #Occupy The Airwaves mixtape, Rebel Diaz will soon be releasing their debut album, The Radical Dilemma.
RAFAEL RODRÍGUEZ CRUZ (RFC Board of Directors, Chair)
Rafael Rodríguez Cruz is a Puerto Rican activist. In the 1970’s he was a student at the University of Puerto Rico and actively participated in the 1973 students’ strike. Rafael was also involved in the struggle against the U.S. Navy presence in Vieques between 2000 and 2003. He was arrested and convicted for his activism in 2001.
Rafael has been a free lance journalist for progressive journals in Latin America, including the Claridad, Cubadebate and Rebelion. He has contributed to the magazine Counterpunch covering issues such as the incarceration of Mumia Abu-Jamal. He has also been an outspoken advocate for the freedom of the Cuban Five and the rights of their families to visit them. Rafael has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Rosenberg Fund since 1998 and the Board Chair since 2012. He is an attorney.
SERIOUS PLAY! THEATRE ENSEMBLE: (left to right) Kaliis Smith, Tony Manica, Michael Pray, Alyssa Breguet, Matt Haughton (not pictured)
Serious Play! Theatre Ensemble (www.seriousplay.org) maintains a multigenerational company of experienced and cutting edge actors, designers, musicians and teachers under the artistic direction of Sheryl Stoodley, able to lead explorations in the unique work of physical theatre. Serious Play! trains actors and focuses on theatre as an innovative art form with emphasis on the collaborative process in an ensemble setting. It creates and performs original work and reinterprets classic and modern scripts informed by the perspective of the ensemble on contemporary issues. It tours locally, nationally and internationally and maintain a commitment to diversity and to understanding each others’ point of view.
Serious Play! has received support from the Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Kahn Institute of Smith College, the Puffin Foundation, Mass. Foundation for the Humanities & Public Policy and is one of the non-profit organizations in MA chosen by the Phillips Foundation Catalogue for Philanthropy. The ensemble is a member of NET (Network of Ensemble Theaters). Contact Serious Play! at email@example.com.
Cotter Smith’s New York theater credits include the Broadway productions of NEXT FALL (2010 Tony Award Best New Play nomination), Wendy Wasserstein’s AN AMERICAN DAUGHTER and Lanford Wilson’s BURN THIS, as well as many Off Broadway productions including COCK (American Premiere of the Olivier Award winning Royal Court production), DREAMS OF FLYING (Atlantic Theatre), SIDE EFFECTS (MCC Theatre), KIN (Playwrights Horizons), HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE (1998 Pulitzer Prize, Vineyard Theatre), A SOLDIER’S PLAY (1982 Pulitzer Prize, Negro Ensemble Company), THE BLOOD KNOT (Roundabout Theatre), and many new American plays as a 10‐year member of the Circle Repertory Company. He is also a founding member of the Matrix Theatre Company in Los Angeles and was in the National Tour of the Tony Award winning play ART with Judd Hirsch.
His screen work ranges from his debut as Robert Kennedy in the miniseries BLOOD FEUD to his roles as the President in X2: X‐MEN UNITED and the prosecutor of Dr. Kevorkian, portrayed by Al Pacino, in Barry Levinson’s HBO film YOU DON’T KNOW JACK. He has also appeared in over fifty television shows along the way, from the early days of HILL STREET BLUES to his recent roles on PERSON OF INTEREST, THE AMERICANS, DAMAGES and THE GOOD WIFE.
He is on the graduate faculty for The New School for Drama, teaches in the Conservatory Program at The Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and also runs a private New York Scene Study Workshop.
Sheryl Stoodley, Artistic Director of the Serious Play! Theatre Ensemble & Training has directed, performed and taught for the past 30 years with regional and academic theatres throughout the USA. She holds an MA in Theater from Smith College and is a professor of theatre & movement at Holyoke Community College. As part of her Masters work at Smith, Stoodley conducted a three-year program of theatre workshops with incarcerated women, published two books of the inmates' writings, and developed, produced and toured an original play, Ain't No Man Dragged That Moon Down Yet.
Sheryl has directed four presentations of Celebrate the Children of Resistance for the Rosenberg Fund for Children. Sheryl leads workshops in the Serious Play! Intensive Theatre Training process incorporating the methodology of Tadashi Suzuki, Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints vocabulary and other ensemble-oriented physical acting techniques. She has directed over 30 productions with Serious Play! including Milosevic at the Hague, which toured to the JoakimInterfest in Serbia where the production received an international theatre award and a write up in American Theatre magazine.
Other productions include: What's Left is Not Right; Marat-Sade, with new music by Elizabeth Swados; Lenelle Moise’s adaptation of Kafka’s story, Matermorphosis; Becoming Antigone, developed in collaboration with Universes; Hamlet, Asalto a la Inocencia, a reinterpretation from the Puerto Rican-American point of view, with new text by Migdalia Cruz, and Alice Tuan’s Coastline, performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Recently, Sheryl worked with NYC playwright Jessica Litwak on her original scripts The Snake & the Falcon and Wider Than The Sky; the latter received much acclaim as a staged reading at the Boston Museum of Science.
Presently Sheryl is developing a new devised ensemble piece, Blind Dreamers, inspired by the rehearsal process of German choreographer Pina Bausch, performing at Irondale Theater Center in Brooklyn this August 15, 16 & 17. For more information go to www.seriousplay.org.
Djibril Toure is a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and co-coordinator of the Peoples' Self Defense Campaign, which seeks to address issues of police misconduct/abuse in central Brooklyn. Djibril became active around this issue after directly experiencing and witnessing the NYPD's selective Stop & Frisk policy firsthand. His work has included conducting know your rights workshops/activities for the larger New York City community as well as organizing Copwatch, which is a volunteer based program aimed at observing and reducing illegal stop and frisk activity.
In addition, MXGM has provided individual assistance in filing complaints/lawsuits and offered legal clinics to the community at large. As a member of Communities United for Police Reform, Djibril has helped co-coordinate a working group to develop community leadership.