About The Honorees

2014 Tribute to Change Honorees

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Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI
Sue Osthoff
Mia-lia Kiernan
Decarcerate PA
Resource Generation, Philadelphia Chapter

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The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI was an incredibly courageous group of people that gathered in 1971 with the goal of uncovering evidence of FBI surveillance and intimidation of activist groups. They broke into the FBI office in Media, PA, and the documents they stole and mailed anonymously to reporters prompted a national investigation that exposed the depth of the FBI’s surveillance of the American people.

Bonnie Raines, John Raines, and Keith Forsyth will be attending the Tribute to Change.

Learn about the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI in the video below:

About Bonnie Raines

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Photo credit Ellie Seif

Bonnie Raines holds a master’s degree in Education and founded child care centers for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and LaSalle University. She established standards and developed facilities for high-quality care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. During her tenure as Executive Director of Educating Communities for Parenting, that program became established as a national model of education, incorporating a formal curriculum, program evaluation and training systems.

More recently, as a policy associate for Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Bonnie led a city-wide initiative to partner with community groups and social service organizations in starting after-school programs and teen programs in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods. She coordinated the newly-formed Picasso Project to raise funds for grants to city schools without adequate arts resources. Over seven years, the project has awarded grants totaling $422,000 to 107 programs in elementary, middle and high schools and provides leadership for arts education advocacy in Philadelphia.

Bonnie has served as the president of the board of directors of the West Philadelphia Child Care Network and the Northwest Interfaith Movement. Married to John Raines, she is the mother of four and grandmother of seven. Bonnie was one of eight members of the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI. Her recent article, “I broke into an FBI office and took every document. Here’s why,” was published on the ACLU blog on January 15, 2014.

About John Raines

John RainesJohn Raines became active in the civil rights movement as a Freedom Rider in 1961, as part of the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964, and as part of the Selma March in 1965.  In 1964, he helped organize The Seminarians Vigil in Washington protesting the filibuster of the Civil Rights Bill by southern senators.  In the late 1960s, he and his wife Bonnie joined the mostly Catholic “East Coast Conspiracy To Save Lives” where they learned the burglary skills they put to use in robbing the FBI office in Media, Pa. in March 1971. Once published, the files documented J. Edgar Hoover’s massive surveillance and use of infiltrators and informants intended to intimidate and silence public dissent. The disclosure led to Senate action to protect civil liberties and hold accountable the FBI and the CIA.  The 200 agents Hoover assigned to find the robbers were not successful.

John taught in the Religion Department of Temple University for 50 years.  He won a Lindback “Distinguished Teaching Award” and was elected “Honors Professor of the Year” in 2004. He has authored many books and won repeated Fulbright awards to help establish a comparative religious studies program in Indonesia.  Raines is an ordained minister of The United Methodist Church and has four children and seven grandchildren.

About Keith Forsyth

Keith March 2014

Photo credit: Sue Anne Ryback

Keith was born in 1950 in Marion Ohio, where he spent most of his childhood.  Politics entered his life in 1968 when he was exposed to the realities of the Vietnam War by a fellow student and member of the Religious Society of Friends.  He left Ohio for Philadelphia in 1970, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia and the murders at Kent State and Jackson State, intending to become more involved in fighting against the war.

For the next several years, Keith actively participated in both the legal peace movement and in illegal nonviolent resistance, while earning a living as a cabdriver, stamping press operator, and electrician.  In 1972, his main focus shifted from the anti-war movement to community and then union organizing.

In 1980, Keith withdrew from active political work and began attending night school, eventually earning a master’s degree in engineering in 1992.  He met Susan Grossinger in 1978, and in 1981 they were married; their sons Adam and Micah were born in 1983 and 1986. Keith is current working as an engineer and as an adult education math teacher, and devotes most of his free time to playing jazz.

About Bob Williamson

Bob WilliamsonBob Williamson grew up in the Philadelphia area and attended St. Joseph’s College. After the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he became active as a community organizer and social worker in a Philadelphia inner city neighborhood. He also became an antiwar activist, and was arrested as one of the Camden 28 defendants in August 1971, a few months after the Media FBI office burglary.

In 1973, Bob moved to New Mexico, where he founded and ran a small graphic arts agency for 12 years. Since 1988, he has been a business and life coach. He lives in Albuquerque, near his daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren.

Bob Williamson is unable to attend the Tribute to Change on June 24, but he offered this statement:

“At its heart, I believe our action in 1971 was taken to protect the First Amendment rights of all Americans.

“The power of the government has been abused by both political parties to suppress speech at both ends of the political spectrum. If we are to remain a nation of free people, we must all work to protect freedom of thought and speech for all – and especially for those with whom we disagree.”

Additional reading about the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI

“It Was Time to Do More Than Protest”: Activists Admit to 1971 FBI Burglary That Exposed COINTELPRO
Democracy Now!,  January 8, 2014

Learning from the FBI Media Burglars
By David Kairys, Slate, January 17, 2014

Behind “The Burglary:” a Q&A with Author Betty Medsger
By Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, Beacon Reader, January 22, 2014

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Photo credit: Lindsay Aikman/Michael Priest Photography

Photo credit: Lindsay Aikman/Michael Priest Photography

Sue Osthoff was working at Women Against Abuse in Philadelphia when she met Juanita.  It was 1984. Juanita was sitting in jail, facing a murder charge for defending herself against her abusive husband. Meeting Juanita changed Sue’s life forever.

Sue was well aware of the efforts of battered women’s advocates to get police and prosecutors to respond aggressively to batterers and to help protect victims. But once arrested, Juanita was no longer seen as a victim. It was as if her experiences of being battered had disappeared completely.

Sue knew she had to take action to fight the blatant and pervasive injustices victims of battering like Juanita faced once charged with a crime.  She recognized the need for victim advocates to forge new alliances, especially with defense attorneys, and to build a national network of like-minded advocates.

Sue co-founded the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women in 1987. This resource and advocacy center assists victims of battering facing criminal charges, incarcerated women, women reentering their communities after serving time, and members of their defense teams. Sue’s original goal continues to define the organization’s mission: to help victims of battering charged with crimes get fair trials with proper legal representation and support. A strong proponent of defendants’ rights, Sue is passionate about justice for all, not a select few.

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Photo credit: Wei Chen

Photo credit: Wei Chen

Mia-lia Kiernan was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1984. She is Australian and Cambodian. She came to the US with her family in 1990 and learned at a young age about the injustice of war and US militarism in her family and community. Mia-lia has been a Philadelphia community member for 13 years. From 2007 to 2010, she worked as a youth organizer with the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia and with the South Philadelphia High School Asian Student Advocates to address systemic anti-Asian/anti-immigrant bias, and racial and ethnic harassment and violence in schools.

During the fall of 2010, the Cambodian-American community in Philadelphia was hit by a detention and deportation crisis that targeted people with criminal histories. What began as a campaign to release close friends and family from the prison and deportation systems grew into a grassroots movement building organization, 1Love Movement.

1Love organizes to address the root causes of migration due to US militarism and foreign policy, conditions of poverty and intergenerational trauma in our communities, education divestment, the prison industrial complex, and unjust deportation policy. 1Love Movement now exists as a national network of grassroots Asian American organizers. Mia-lia is the 1Love National Organizer and Co-Founder, and is a board member of Asian Americans United.

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Photo credit: Sean Damon

Decarcerate PA is a coalition that formed in 2011 to challenge the expansion of Pennsylvania’s prison system amid drastic cuts to vital social services. Seeing a chance to shift the state’s priorities, they began building a campaign to shrink the prison system and expand the community institutions that actually keep people safe—education, housing, reentry, and health care.

Since then, Decarcerate’s three-point platform demanding no new prisons, decarceration, and community reinvestment has been endorsed by 100 organizations across the state. Decarcerate has had letters and opinion pieces published in the state’s largest newspapers and debated Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel on WHYY. Social media campaigns have engaged thousands on Facebook and Twitter, and a weekly radio show on WPEB 88.1 FM has engaged local audiences.

As active as Decarcerate has been in the media, they’ve been even stronger in the streets. They’ve led protests and rallies all over the state at the headquarters of prison-profiteering corporations, the Department of Corrections, the rotunda of the State Capitol, and throughout Philadelphia. In November 2012, in an act of civil disobedience, seven Decarcerate members temporarily halted prison construction at the site of SCI Graterford. In May 2013, Decarcerate organized the March for a People’s Budget, a ten day, 113-mile march from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. They continue to grow in strength and numbers as an important voice for community empowerment.

Visit www.decarceratepa.info for more information.

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RG members pictured: Back row, left to right: Heather Davis, Hillary Blecker, Julia Stone, Sara Narva, Sarah Burgess Front row, left to right: Jay Saper, Kate Poole, Jessica Rosenberg

Resource Generation is a national organization that organizes young people with financial wealth and/or class privilege to leverage resources and privilege for social change.  Since 1998, Resource Generation (RG) has engaged over 1,800 young people with wealth across the U.S. Through community building, education and organizing, RG helps young people with wealth bring all they have and all they are to the social change movements and issues they care about. RG organizes to transform philanthropy, policy, and institutions, and to leverage their collective power to make lasting structural change.

Resource Generation’s Philly Chapter recently began a series of conversations around one question: “How can we use our collective resources (financial and otherwise) to shift the balance of power in Philadelphia?” RG Philly has continued to explore this question and has started to share their ideas. They wrote a letter to the public critiquing the current role of philanthropy in education, and spoke about this issue on the radio with a representative from the Philadelphia Student Union. RG Philly members also spoke out at a rally about the tax abatements at which they suggested that we should raise taxes on the rich.

Recently, RG Philly offered a workshop for educators entitled “Taxation, not Philanthropy” at a national conference. RG Philly looks forward to partnering with others pushing the conversation and working to change public education in our city. RG Philly members are also beginning to explore accountable ways to give money through cross class giving circles.

Join these amazing honorees at the Tribute to Change on June 24!

Will you join us in celebrating these Conscience and Freedom heroes?