SAN FRANCISCO-- Tides is proud to announce the 2012 Jane Bagley Lehman Award winners, two astounding local leaders and grassroots activists who brought their communities together and advocated for truth, accountability, and justice in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Brenda Dardar-Robichaux and Marylee Orr work every day to provide for the people who have been adversely affected by the oil spill and to hold BP accountable for the damage wrought upon their communities.
From testifying in front of Congress to running an in-house clinic to tend to skin and respiratory problems and memory loss, to taking court action and providing educational tools to their community to deal with chemicals in their blood, these two women remind us what ordinary people can accomplish and the power of local leaders in driving national change.
"When I started doing this work, I was called Henny Penny and Chicken Little, and now I'm sitting on agency panels and taking court action to make BP listen," says Marylee Orr. "Ordinary people can really do a lot."
In efforts to raise awareness and draw attention to the toxic exposure and the high concentrations of volatile organic chemicals found in former clean up workers, commercial divers, and individuals living and recreating in the coastal areas after the oil spill, Mary Lee, executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), and LEAN have developed creative tools to educate communities about toxic exposure and video testimonials for impacted individuals to share their stories. "My goal is to help people become the experts of their own situation," says Orr, "and to be able to lead them to a stronger sense of leadership in their community."
Brenda Dardar-Robichaux has testified before Congress twice to talk to them about holding BP accountable. "BP is responsible for hazardous waste in the heart of the Indian community. They say, look at the jobs we have created. I say it doesn't give you the right to destroy the community. There is no balance here," Dardar-Robichaux says. Brenda and her husband, a physician, have re-modeled their family home to incorporate an in-house clinic, where they tend to the skin problems, respiratory problems, and memory loss of those affected in their community. "My greatest accomplishment is to provide for the medical needs of the people who have been adversely affected by the oil spill," she says.
Tides is proud to honor these two women, who have worked to catalyze community action in the Gulf, with the Jane Lehman award. Each woman will receive a grant of $15,000 and will be honored at Fairgrinds in New Orleans on August 28th.
About the Jane Bagley Lehman Awards: The "JBLs" seek to recognize individuals who have exhibited a deep commitment to the public interest and whose work demonstrates innovative approaches to social change. Jane Bagley Lehman was one of the founders of the Tides Foundation in 1976, and the Chair of the Board until her death in 1988. An unconventional philanthropist, her insatiable curiosity was matched by a willingness to take risks. Jane was most intrigued by the approaches and strategies of advocates and organizers and their willingness to challenge traditional assumptions. She also cared deeply that the results of these efforts be translated into the broader area of public policy.
The Tides mission is to partner with philanthropists, foundations, activists and organizations across the country and around the globe to promote economic justice, robust democratic processes, and the opportunity to live in a healthy and sustainable environment where human rights are preserved and protected. Tides provides financial and management services –and inspiration- to donors and doers so they can focus on achieving their vision of a just world. With offices in San Francisco and New York City, Tides provides fiscal sponsorship for over 200 groups across the country, operates and supports green nonprofit centers, and granted $108 million in 2008 alone. For more information, visit www.tides.org.