The Ford Foundation’s Accolades for Activists

Working with the low-income, primarily Latino population of East Austin, Texas, Susana Almanza and Sylvia Herrera of People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources led a successful fight to shut down a chemical tank farm and move a rodent-infested landfill.

Rufino Dominguez santos was recognized for his toxics work with immigrant families.© Olivier Laude

These 2002 winners of the Leadership for a Changing World award are joined by honorees the Sacramento Valley Organizing Community and the Burlington Community Land Trust, both of which work for affordable housing. Arizona-based Tohono O"odham Community Action and Oregon’s Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission were honored for their promotion of Native American causes. And the Laotian Organizing Project was cited for its environmental justice work in industrially polluted Richmond, California.

Activist work is honored each October when 20 winners are named for the Leadership for a Changing World Award, which is given by the Ford Foundation in conjunction with the Advocacy Institute and New York University. Each year the program recognizes outstanding leaders and supports them financially through a $100,000 grant over two years.

Rufino Dominguez Santos received a 2001 Leadership award for his part in creating a language outreach program that helped safely relocate three dozen immigrant families living next to a toxic dump. Milo Mumgaard won that year for his work helping Nebraskans living next to a meatpacking factory to get stronger air quality standards passed. Sarah James, also a winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, was honored for her work as spokesperson of the Gwich"in Nation in Alaska, speaking out against oil drilling.

2001 Leadership Award winner Barbara Miller is the director of the Silver Valley People’s Action Coalition, which is working to clean up the lead and other highly toxic materials in Idaho’s Silver Valley. After years of silver mining in the mountains there, floods have washed toxins downstream, polluting more than 1,500 square miles of land. Though the Environmental Protection Agency declared the 21-mile mining area a Superfund site in the 1980s, it took Miller and the Coalition to finally push the agency into beginning cleanup.

Miller says the biggest change the award funds will bring is giving her the means to hire help. "For 15 years I had to work alone, and with this money I was able to hire a staff that will help bring in more funds and maintain a base of support so we can continue cleanup on the largest Superfund site in the U.S."