2008 Tribute to Change Honorees

Father John P. McNamee – The Paul Robeson Award for Lifetime Achievement

Father John P. McNamee has been the pastor of St. Malachy’s Church and St. Malachy’s School in North Philadelphia since 1984. This year, at the age of 75, McNamee will submit his letter of retirement as is required by the Catholic Church. When McNamee arrived to St. Malachy’s in 1982 the neighborhood was a place of unemployment, drugs and lost hope. Today, thanks to his tireless fight against poverty, McNamee has made incredible strides in providing a welcoming environment of safety and community in a neighborhood where the majority of residents are not Catholic. His school is one of the few parochial schools in the city that continues to thrive despite increasing financial strains.

McNamee is a long-time labor supporter and peace activist. He has worked with unions locally, standing by the side of nationally known organizers such as Cesar Chavez. He was actively involved in the Philadelphia peace movement against the Vietnam War and continues to be a strong anti-war voice within the Catholic community.

McNamee is also a seasoned writer. He has published three compilations of poetry and his memoir, Diary of a City Priest, was turned into a full-length, award-winning film in 2001.

Linda Lee Alter – Robin Hood Was Right Award

Linda Lee Alter, a local artist, is being honored with the Robin Hood was Right Award. In 1993 Alter established the Leeway Foundation, an organization dedicated to recognizing and supporting women and trans artists creating social change in the Philadelphia region. With Alter’s support, under the leadership of her daughter, Sara Becker, Leeway transitioned from a one-member charitable foundation to a community- and artist-led foundation in 2006. Alter serves as a leader in the field of social change philanthropy as well as a role model for other activists with wealth in the Philadelphia region.

In addition to the Leeway Foundation, Alter contributes to many other organizations dedicated to the arts, women and social change. Since the 1980’s, Alter has collected art by women with the intention of making women’s art more visible by gifting the collection to an institution.

Alter has been a professional artist for more than 45 years. A fine artist, she taught arts and crafts, worked as a commercial and display artist, and illustrated children’s books. Her artwork has ranged from vibrant fabric wallhangings appliquéd with lively allegorical depictions of fables and Old Testament stories, to paintings that serve as metaphors for life events. Alter’s artwork has been widely exhibited and collected. In 2008, Alter was given a retrospective exhibition at the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, PA.

Wayne MacManiman – Emerged Leader Award

Wayne MacManiman is being honored with the Emerged Leader Award after nearly two decades working with the Service Employees International Union. MacManiman, who began his career as a maintenance mechanic, has transformed what was once a sleepy union local into a vibrant and effective vehicle for social change. As the Chairman of SEIU’s Mid-Atlantic District 32BJ, MacManiman led service workers in passing a new contract that provides an additional $23 million in health care coverage, an increase of 42%. This increase will allow workers access to health coverage for themselves and their family members at a reasonable and affordable rate. Additionally, the contract provides for yearly wage increases from 3.5-4% over the next four years.

Thomas Robinson – Emerging Leader Award

Thomas Robinson, a security guard employed by AlliedBarton, is being honored with the Emerging Leader Award. Robinson has worked closely with his colleagues, as well as with activist group Jobs with Justice, in an effort to unionize AlliedBarton, one of the country’s largest employers of security guards. This organizing campaign is called Philadelphia Officers and Workers Rising (POWR) and with Robinson’s help, the ongoing campaign has secured three paid sick days for security guards at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), as well as a pay increase for roving security guards at UPenn. The scope of POWR has expanded to include workers at other security companies and Robinson hopes these efforts will serve as a model for neglected and disenfranchised workers throughout Philadelphia to take action and fight for living wages and reasonable working conditions.

Casino-Free Philadelphia – Community Empowerment Award

Casino-Free Philadelphia’s mission is simple: stop casinos from coming to Philadelphia and close any that open. Casino-Free Philadelphia believes that their work is grounded in issues of open and transparent governance, how our city plans (or does not plan), and how public policy is used to benefit some at the cost of others. They believe the benefits of casinos can never outweigh the social and economic costs from an industry reliant on addiction to survive. According to Casino-Free Philadelphia, the casino industry thrives by increasing gambling addiction, targeting the poor, and avoiding paying the costs associated with crime, bankruptcy, and the losses from other local businesses and thus should not be allowed to open their doors in Philadelphia.