Edith Hood, the Red Water Pond Road Community, NM; Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) and New Mexico Environmental Law Center.
Edith Hood is a mother of four and grandmother of six granddaughters and three grandsons. Ms. Hood worked as a school administrative assistant for years, and then went back to school and earned a BS in Elementary Education with a TESOL endorsement. She has been retired for a year after a brief second career as a classroom teacher. Ms. Hood is most proud of her achievements as a Navajo language and culture teacher.
Ms. Hood was born and has lived her whole life in the Red Water Pond Road community, located in the Coyote Canyon Chapter of the Navajo Nation. In the 1960s uranium mining and milling began in her community and more than 50 years later, her community is still being contaminated by radioactive and toxic pollution from three Superfund sites within 1/2 mile of her home. Ms. Hood spends much of her time now advocating for cleanup of her community.
Horacio Amezquita, General Manager, San Jerardo Cooperative, CA
In 1974, Horacio Amezquita immigrated to the United States, from Mexico, with his parents, six brothers and two sisters. Mr. Amezquita has worked in different aspects of the agriculture industry through –out his adolescent and adulthood. Mr. Amezquita has experience growing, harvesting and marketing a variety of fruits and vegetables. From 1980-1985, Mr. Amezquita managed a farming cooperative of mostly strawberries and vegetables. In 1986, he worked with his parents and brothers/sisters to produce and manage 100 acres of strawberries. In 1994, Mr. Amezquita became the assistant manager for a marketing Cooperative where he market and sold strawberries and raspberries.
For the past ten years, Mr. Amezquita has been the general manager for the San Jerardo Cooperative. The San Jerardo housing community is located seven miles southeast of Salinas. In the mid 1970’s, farm workers, their families, local Salinas Valley volunteers, high school and community college students helped built and construct San Jerardo. It was completed in 1979 and was occupied by its members. The Amezquita family was one of the 60 original families that help built the San Jerardo housing community. Mr. Amezquita is in charge of sixty-four family units, a childcare center and community hall.
Over the last 25 years, San Jerardo has been dealing with water contamination issues that have had negative health effects on its residents. In 2001, all of San Jerardo three drinking water wells had beend wer Mr.oamily was one of the 60 original families that help built the San Jerardo housing contaminated. The community of San has encountered severe and grave water contamination issues since the last water well was contaminated. Mr. Amezquita has been involve and concerned with these issues prior he became the general manager for the San Jerardo Cooperative.
Mr. Amezquita is a graduate of Salinas High School and holds two degrees and a certificate from Hartnell College. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture Business Management from California State University of Monterey Bay.
Maureen D. Taylor, State Chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Detroit, MI
Maureen D. Taylor is a lifelong soldier in the war against the poor. She has served as State Chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization since 1993, and was elected Treasurer of the National Welfare Rights Union in 1994.
Since 1993, Maureen D. Taylor has served as Chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, a union of public assistance recipients, low-income workers and the unemployed that organizes members to fight for their rights and to eliminate poverty in this country. Over the past several years, Maureen spearheaded several MWRO campaigns to protect low-income Detroiters against electricity, gas and water shut-offs. She participated in negotiations for the Water Affordability Plan for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department; and she was a key consultant on two award-winning documentaries, “The Water Front,” about water rights and water affordability in Highland Park, Michigan; and the film, “A World Without Water” on the crises of international water affordability and access which featured a segment on Detroit. Additionally, Maureen has a MSW in Social Work and is a Detroit school counselor who is improving student and teacher success rates.
Marian Kramer, Michigan Welfare Rights Organizaton, Highland Park, MI
Marian Kramer has been in the front lines of the welfare rights and civil rights movement from its origins in the 1960s. She is Co-chair of the National Welfare Rights Union (NWRU) an organization of, by, and for the poor in the U.S. Marian's actively involved with the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and the Highland Park Human Rights Coalition where she is engaged in local, regional and national campaigns on water rights violations due to shutoffs, property tax liens, unaffordable rates, water cleanliness, and emergency manager impacts. She is a revolutionary leader who speaks out on the crisis of capitalism and the poverty and misery created worldwide by this system. Ms. Kramer is a mother, grandmother and wife of the late, great, labor leader, General G. Baker, Jr. of the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement.
Catherine Coleman Flowers, Alabama, ACRE & EJI
Catherine Coleman Flowers is the founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corporation (ACRE) which seeks to address the root causes of poverty by seeking sustainable solutions. She also serves as the Rural Development Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative and a Senior Fellow of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. Her goal is to expose to America to the Third World conditions that exist in rural communities in the South which she has characterized as “America’s Dirty Secret.”
Serving the citizens of Lowndes County, one of the 10 poorest counties in Alabama’s Black Belt, Ms. Flowers has been able to bring significant resources to the County to address its many infrastructure and social problems. In the first six months of her tenure, Ms. Flowers was able to help secure a federal grant for over half a million dollars through a federal appropriation sponsored by Senator Richard Shelby, to address countywide sewer problems. In 2002 she helped to negotiate an agreement with the local electric cooperative to help poor residents plagued with power bills which were among the highest in the nation. She also assisted families by negotiating an end to a policy where poor families faced arrest or eviction from their homes because they could not afford a septic system. After pursuing the release of the 2002 appropriation for eight years, Ms. Flowers helped to produce a master plan for addressing the raw sewage issue in Lowndes County.
Additionally, Ms. Flowers served as the economic development coordinator for Lowndes County. In this capacity, Ms. Flowers worked to develop strategies and programs to spur economic growth. She wrote the grant that funded the creation of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for the county. Working with Cliff Henry of Hamer, Siler and George, nationally recognized economic development consultants, she facilitated the local involvement in the development of the CEDS plan. Funded by the Economic Development Administration of the United States Department of Commerce, the CEDS was essential in securing $4.2 million for infrastructure development within two industrial parks. The industrial parks, located in Fort Deposit, Alabama, the county’s largest city, and the Tyson plant, near Hayneville, house two tier one suppliers to Hyundai. From 2004 to 2007, she administered the ACRE Community Resource Center in White Hall, which provided numerous services to residents including job information, medical treatment, financial literacy training, homeownership training and career development. In 2004 she was appointed by Governor Bob Riley to serve on Alabama’s Women’s Commission, and in 2005 she partnered with the Canterbury School to educate students that were in limbo due to Alabama’s High School exit exam. Ms. Flowers has been instrumental in eight poor families living in dilapidated housing receiving donated homes.
A long time civil rights and community activist, Ms. Flowers has been a powerful voice for the less fortunate since her childhood. Influenced by the history of Lowndes County, at the age of ten she began to write poetry and songs about social change. A local television reporter became aware of her writings when he accompanied a team from the British Broadcasting Company to her parents’ home in 1973 to interview her mother who had been a victim of sterilization. At the age of sixteen, she became a regular guest on the weekly television show Focus, speaking publicly on issues of the day, with quality education and student rights becoming her forte.
During her junior year in high school, she organized The Concerned Parents and Students for Quality Education in Lowndes County, because of the type of instruction offered at a school which showed an “R” rated movie during the school day to youths from grades seven through twelve. Largely through her efforts, the principal and superintendent resigned, leading to major change in the county. As a member of the Alabama Students for Civil Rights, Catherine was selected as a Youth Fellow of the Robert Kennedy Memorial Foundation where nationwide she advocated for quality education for all children. As a college student she was one of the five original plaintiffs in Knight v. Alabama along with Dr. Alma Freeman, Dr. John Gipson, Randy Anderson, and John Knight. She organized the Student Action Committee at Alabama State University in 1981 which coordinated a statewide march on the Capitol to protest Governor Fob James’ plan to merge Alabama State University under the proposed University of Montgomery. That action led to an alliance with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the university lifting its ban of SCLC activities on ASU’s campus which was instituted in the 1960s. In 1981 SCLC held its national Board meeting at ASU and the Student Action Committee received its charter as a chapter of SCLC. Later Ms Flowers became the first director of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama.
Using her leadership abilities, Ms. Flowers decided to enter the education arena as a history teacher to inspire youth, spending more than thirteen years in the classroom advocating social responsibility and community service. In 1990 she brought a group of her students from Washington, DC and they marched the historic route from Selma to Montgomery. The participation of the students was hailed by the Washington Post. While teaching in North Carolina, she became the first teacher in the history of the U.S. Department of Education to file a discrimination complaint on behalf of African American and Native American students. The resolution led to blacks and Native Americans being elevated to positions of authority within that school system that reflected the makeup of the population, and the elimination of discriminatory policies. As a result she was approached by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to become a lead plaintiff in a case they were considering to attack tracking in public schools. Upon moving to Detroit to teach, she developed a reputation for innovative and effective teaching methods, as well as a deep commitment to and genuine concern for her students. After a year at Phoenix Academy she was recruited to teach at the prestigious Renaissance High School. In 2000, Flowers and her students joined the reenactment of the march from Selma to Montgomery. During this march she met the Pulitzer prize-winning historian Taylor Branch. She assisted him with research and interviews for his book, At Canaan’s Edge, which chronicles the Civil Rights Movement. Her knowledge of civil rights history led historian Hasan Jeffries to ask for help with his book, Bloody Lowndes. He noted her work in the area of civil rights in the book’s epilogue. In 2010 during the 45th commemoration of the Selma to Montgomery march she worked quietly with community leaders to ensure that the march would continue once it began despite the issues within the leadership of SCLC. Coordinating food, lodging, community participation and mass meetings, Ms. Flowers was credited by SCLC staff for enabling the completion of the march.
Her awards and recognitions include recipient of the Interreligious and International Peace Council’s Crown of Peace Award for Exemplary Leadership in Reconciliation and Peacemaking in 2004; The Dorothy L. Height Award for Social Work from Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. Montgomery Alumnae Chapter in 2011; inducted in the Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society, Alpha Gamma Chapter in 2013; and 2014 she became a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.
Ms. Flowers still considers herself a teacher by profession but an activist at heart. Throughout her life, she has always been at the forefront of social justice. She feels that she has been called to champion social and personal responsibility, and to model solutions to poverty by strengthening families and communities, as well as give voice to the needs of the less fortunate. The death of her father, a well-respected community leader and strong advocate for the poor, led her to return home to Alabama to rededicate her life to addressing the needs of the people in her native Lowndes County. She believes that the work of the ACRE, will serve as a model providing solutions for rural poverty that could be applied throughout the United States. Her testimony before an independent expert of the United Nations on the raw sewage issue in Lowndes County was part of the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque to the United Nations Council on Human Rights in August of 2011.
The accomplishments of Ms. Flowers have been chronicled in publications such as The Washington Post, The Detroit Free Press, The New York Times, The New Republic and the Montgomery Advertiser. Televangelist Creflo Dollar won a regional Emmy Award for a television he did highlighting her work. Currently she is writing a book about her life and commitment to serving the poor, as well as a children’s book about Lowndes County’s fight for voting rights. She is a candidate for a Masters of Art in History at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.