In our spring newsletter we announced that Gina Belafonte is the latest addition to our Advisory Board. This group is comprised of artists, activists, public intellectuals, and others with valuable skills or expertise, who publicly endorse our work and take other actions to support us in special ways. Gina – an actor/director/producer and activist – co-directs Sankofa.org, the organization her father Harry started to encourage artists to use their visibility to further movements for social justice. Harry Belafonte also has been on our Advisory Board since 2003.
Many prominent individuals have been part of this group over the years, including in memoriam members Pete & Toshi Seeger, Studs Terkel, Adrienne Rich, Ossie Davis, Ronnie Gilbert, and Richie Havens. Well-known present members include Angela Davis, Susan Sarandon, Chuck D, Eve Ensler, Holly Near, Ed Asner, and Mandy Patinkin, among others.
But whether or not they’re household names, all members of the RFC’s Advisory Board have powerful credentials and do exciting work in different realms. Here are short profiles of several of them.
- Will Potter is an investigative journalist, author, and TED Senior Fellow. His work focuses on civil liberties post-9/11, and how political activists have been classified as "eco-terrorists" and domestic terrorists. He has been invited to testify before Congress about his work, as the only witness opposing the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, and his reporting has both overturned criminal prosecutions and been monitored by the Counter Terrorism Unit. You can watch his TED talks at willpotter.com, or learn more about these issues at GreenIsTheNewRed.com.
- Mike & Ruthy Merenda (Mike + Ruthy) are hard at work booking their 2016, which will see them at four West Coast festivals in June, New York's Greyfox Bluegrass Festival and The UK's Cambridge Folk Festival in July, and their fourth annual Summer Hoot in August. The Woodstock, NY folk music duo who tour with their two small children, are also working on a follow up to 2015's "Bright As You Can" album as well as the inaugural installment of Mike's passion project, "69 Protest Songs." They were a memorable part of the cast in the RFC’s CARRY IT FORWARD show in 2013. Their performance included their anti-fracking song “Drill on the Horizon,” and an English-Spanish, folk/reggae/hip hop, mash-up of Bob Marley’s “Get up, Stand Up,” along with Rebel Diaz. You can follow Mike + Ruthy at Patreon.com/mikeandruthy.
- Anthony Arnove produced the Academy Award-nominated documentary Dirty Wars and wrote, directed, and produced The People Speak with Howard Zinn, which featured an incredible array of artists. He is the editor of several books, including Voices of a People’s History of the United States, which he co-edited with Zinn; The Essential Chomsky; Howard Zinn Speaks; and Iraq Under Siege; and is the author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal. He also wrote the introduction for the 35th anniversary edition of Zinn’s classic book A People’s History of the United States. Arnove is on the editorial boards of Haymarket Books and the International Socialist Review.
- When Kitama Seeger Jackson’s grandparents, Pete and Toshi Seeger, passed away just over two years ago, he took their spot on the Advisory Board, “as a way to keep their unwavering support of social justice and dedication to the next generation alive.” Kitama adds, “My grandparents were always my guides, friends and mentors. After spending 12 years as a documentary filmmaker, I am now becoming a social worker and am about to earn my master’s degree at Columbia University. As I work with young people who are trying to overcome obstacles and achieve their dreams, I think about the work of the RFC and my grandparents every step of the way.” Kitama also conceived of and produced Seeger Fest (which Gina Belafonte and Sankofa co-produced), the five-day, multi-venue, memorial tribute to Pete and Toshi that included an amazing line-up of hundreds of performers from different genres and generations.
- Rachel Meeropol is a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she has spent the last fourteen years representing Muslim, Arab and South Asian non-citizens swept up and abused in connection to the 9/11 investigation in their class action lawsuit against former-Attorney General John Ashcroft and other Bush-era officials. After a favorable decision from a federal appellate court in New York last summer, the case may be bound for the Supreme Court. (Rachel is also the sister of RFC Executive Director, Jenn Meeropol; daughter of RFC Founder Robert Meeropol; and granddaughter of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.)
- Peter Mulvey is a singer-songwriter and author who often tackles social issues in his art. Amidst a repertoire bursting with upbeat energy and wit, are songs that address social issues including the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO; the Syrian refugee crisis; and the racially motivated shootings in the Charleston, SC church in 2015. Ani DiFranco – whom Peter cites as among the activist artists he most admires – is producing his latest album. He supports a number of youth-oriented organizations through benefits and other activities. He regularly tours by bicycle. And later this year, Peter will publish Vlad, the Astrophysicist, an illustrated book spun off his spoken-word piece musing about the possibility of other intelligent life in the universe. Information on all Peter’s endeavors is at www.petermulvey.com.
We encourage you get to know these folks. They’re all doing impassioned, important things, and have been generous about sharing their time and talents with the RFC.
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