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Abe Osheroff (1915-2008) dedicated his life to the pursuit of social justice. As a young man, Abe was active in community organizing efforts in his native Brooklyn. At the age of 20, he joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a group of U.S. volunteers who fought alongside the Spanish Republican forces in an effort to stave off the fascist Franco regime. It was in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War that Abe’s deep commitment took shape: although he was wounded in battle, and Franco’s forces went on to install a fascist dictatorship that ruled Spain for 36 years, Abe’s willingness to put his life on the line for justice was not vanquished.
Back in the United States, Abe went on to participate in political organizing and social activism. He returned to military service, signing up for the US Army to fight against Hitler once the US entered the war. In the United States, too, his work required courage and commitment. As a labor union organizer working among coal miners in Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, he was repeatedly threatened for his work. Similarly, when Abe participated in the civil rights movement, building a community center with residents of Holmes County, Mississippi during the famed Freedom Summer of 1964, his car was firebombed and he was threatened by police because he was working with African-Americans. His efforts later took him to Central America and led him to be a vocal critic of the war in Vietnam. Abe also returned to Spain in the early 1970s, where he produced a documentary film, Dreams and Nightmares, which exposed the US government’s support of the Franco dictatorship. For Abe, it was an outrage and injustice that his own government would lend support to a fascist regime, and particularly important that American citizens demand accountability for what was done in their name.
Within these movements for social change, Abe was known as not only a talented and courageous organizer, but a critical thinker. Once a member of the Communist Party -- and persecuted under McCarthyism for his affiliation – Abe publicly renounced the American Communist Party when he learned of the horrific abuses committed under Stalin. And although Abe travelled to Nicaragua to help provide poor peasants with decent living conditions, and was deeply critical of US intervention there, he also spoke out against corruption and abuses of power under the Sandinistas. For Abe, no cause was more important than that of basic human decency, and the defense of the vulnerable against abuses of power – what Abe called “radical humanism.”
Later in life, Abe and his wife, Gunnel Clark, settled in Seattle, where they were active participants in movements opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Abe also engaged in many efforts to share his energies with young people, among them teaching at the University of Washington.
The Abe Osheroff and Gunnel Clark Fund provides financial resources for undergraduate and graduate students to support human rights projects that promote social change through direct action and adhere to the principles that guided Abe’s lifelong activism.
Applications are open between March 3, 2014 and April 4, 2014.
The Osheroff and Clark fund provides financial resources for undergraduate and graduate students to support human rights projects that promote social change through direct action. In 2014, we anticipate having approximately $4000 available to distribute; the entire amount may be issued in a single award or split between multiple awardees. The number of awards and amounts will vary depending on the number and quality of applications.
All undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Washington (Bothell, Seattle, Tacoma) are eligible to apply. All hands-on human rights projects aiming to achieve real-world impact -- in other words, to improve human rights -- are eligible, whether the work is to be carried out in the United States or elsewhere in the world. In keeping with Abe’s and Gunnel’s belief that accountability begins at home, priority will be given to projects that speak to the particular roles and responsibilities of our own institutions (including government, private sector entities, and the university itself) in human rights.
Preference will be given to projects with the following characteristics:
To be considered, please submit the following materials in a single PDF file to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Your CV or Resume with full contact information (phone, address, and email)
2. A document answering the following questions:
3. A detailed budget describing how the funds would be used and, if necessary, the source of supplemental funds to complete the project.
4. A letter of support from the primary organization with which you will be partnering.
5. The names and full contact information (campus address, phone, and email) of two University of Washington faculty members who are familiar with your work.
If you have any questions about the application process, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
Emily Garverick is a second year undergraduate intending to major in Law, Societies,and Justice, and Interdisciplinary Visual Arts; she serves as co-chair for UW’s chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops. With support from the Osheroff-Clark Fund, she helped organize and carry out a speaker's tour to inspire action among US consumers about garment factory safety in South Asia – a topic that could not be more timely, in light of the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh and, before that, the massive fire at the Tazreen factory. This spring, USAS and the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) sponsored a US speakers’ tour of two Bangladeshi garment workers: Sumi Abedin, a survivor of the Tazreen factory fire and Kalpona Akter, the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, a former child garment worker who has appeared extensively in the international media. They came to Washington state as part of this tour and participated in actions at local Walmart and Gap stores, and visits to lawmakers in Olympia.
UW's chapter of USAS is one of the strongest chapters in the nation. Their group has made it a top priority to take immediate action on factory safety in South Asia. As Emily wrote in her application, "Companies like Walmart and Gap have steadfastly refused to take responsibility for the conditions in their supplier factories where these fires have taken place, choosing to blame factory owners that are under constant pressure from brands to produce faster and cheaper. ...This tour is designed to promote concrete measures that make US companies accountable for working conditions in Bangladesh. The Tazreen factory fire brought the most media attention on the sweatshop issue in over a decade, and created a climate that is ripe for change. In addition to providing first-hand information about the conditions in Bangladesh, this speaking tour seeks to convince Walmart and GAP to sign binding fire safety agreements. Walmart is the largest customer in the Bangladeshi garment sector and its products were being produced at Tazreen when the fire occurred. PVH/Tommy Hilfiger and a large German retailer have signed binding agreements that mandate safety inspections of suppliers and provide the necessary funds from the brands to make life-saving upgrades."
By promoting binding fire safety agreements, USAS and ILRF are highlighting practical ways that brands in the garment industry can address this problem, which is claiming the lives of workers on an all-too-regular basis.
Katherine (“Katy”) Lundgren ~ traveled to Nicaragua and El Salvador to further relationships with factory workers on the ground. She participated in an eight-week internship, partnering with the Solidarity Center and United Students Against Sweatshops. She was placed in Managua, Nicaragua, where she partnered with local organizers to support strategic organizing in apparel factories there.
Janey Greenstein and Mina Manuchehri ~ traveled to Washington DC to continue their research in the US declassified documents pertaining to El Salvador and the repression that took place during the Salvadoran Civil War, through an unpaid internship with the National Security Archive. Mina and Janey worked in the Library of Congress and National Archives, both examining the documents that are available, and making note of those that are not, to fuel future Freedom of Information Act requests. We hope that through their efforts, we might continue to dig up vital information that can be shared with survivors of violence in El Salvador who are still searching for justice some twenty years after the war.
Ana Lottis ~ Ana traveled to El Salvador for two weeks, to work with COPPES, CHR's project partners in the El Salvador History, Memory, and Justice Project, and create an initial inventory of the documents in their possession. She scanned and translated some preliminary samples of what the project's full archive will later contain. In this sense, Ana's work is one piece of a larger institutional effort, but a vital one in helping launch what we hope will be an important collaboration.
Geoff Morgan ~ Purchased new equipment and conducted water quality testing aimed at pinpointing the source of water contamination as part of the the CHR's Human Rights and Natural Resource Management Project in Guatemala. Through this work, Geoff helped establish the specific responsibility of agroindustrial corporations.
Erin Murphy ~ Collaborated with Ngecha Artists Association, Kenya, on art as a medium for promoting dialogue about human rights
Peter Morris ~ Completed a project in conjunction with Japanese NGO, Human Rights Now, to provide legal assistance to Burmese migrants in Thailand