I am currently studying the work of people I consider among the most important social justice fighters of our time--Sister Helen Prejean, Wangari Maathai, and Aung San Suu Kyi.
I'm drawn to them as a person wanting to understand how one turns outrage into action to effect major social change.
How much can an individual accomplish when confronting established power? What must a citizen do to have a reasonable chance of success in taking on "City Hall?" Are these three women ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances, as Prejean claims, or extraordinary individuals? Have they dedicated their lives to fights they cannot win, or have they been smart enough and strategic enough to have a reasonable chance of success?
I had begun to have some answers, beginning with the observation that all three were drawn into their work by a radical empathy for the people whose rights were being compromised; that this empathy hurtled them beyond fear into action; that the fact they. had taken action sustained them and allowed them to persist. Recent choices by Aung San Suu Kyi, now a political figure rather than an activist, have caused me to challenge some of my assumptions, at least about her, but it is increasingly difficult to get accurate information.
I created this site to make some of my shorter publications about their efforts available and to invite commentary as the project continues to grow. I have interviewed hundreds of people in the U.S., Kenya, Burma, Thailand, and the U.K. in my search for information and perspective.
I also use the site to accompany teaching seminars, primarily at the Newberry Library. I'm Professor Emeritus and former Dean of DePaul University School for New Learning (the undergraduate college for adults now called School of Continuing and Professional Studies). I earned a PhD in literature from The University at Albany with an emphasis in medieval British literature.
In the 80s I co-founded and served as editor of Washington Park Press, a regional publishing house in New York's Capital District. Among works we published are O Albany! by William Kennedy, Albany Girlhood by Alice Kenney, and Mayor Corning by Paul Grondahl.
I've consulted about higher education for adults in the U.S as well as internationally, first at University of Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and more recently at Tangaza University College, Nairobi, Kenya, where I first became interested in Wangari.
I'm mother of three, grandmother of one. I'd be pleased to hear from you.