The evening of Friday, May 31st brought out the best of the community to celebrate the 13th birthday of the Social Justice Center and to present the 2013 social justice awards.
In 2000, the Tenant Resource Center, Madison Community Cooperative, Wisconsin Community Fund, and Citizens Action Education Fund — the founding organizations of the Social Justice Center (SJC) under the tutelage of advocate Nan Cheney and a handful of other grassroots advocates — came together to purchase the old Willy Street Market, renovated it, and moved their offices into the SJC in October of 2000.
Now, in 2013, the SJC has grown to five partner agencies —The Tenant Resource Center, Madison Community Cooperative, Dane County TimeBank, WYOU Community Television, and Today Not Tomorrow-Club TNT. In addition, it houses five organizations in its incubator, and has vacancies for three more.
Since its inception, the Social Justice Center was a place where grassroots advocacy was supported and nurtured. It has a standing history of honoring individuals with the annual Social Justice Legacy and Visionary Awards.
This year’s birthday celebration and awards presentation, held at the Cabin Room of the Badger Bowl, recognized Barbara Vedder with the Legacy Award and Philip Ejercito, posthumously, with the Visionary Award. The Legacy Award recognizes lifetime efforts to affect changes while withstanding challenges and obstacles to improve the common good. Vedder, introduced by Dane County Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner, has done just that. She has represented the County Board’s District 2 on Madison’s isthmus since 2005 and served on the Madison Common Council prior to that from 1995 until 2001. Supervisor Vedder was particularly active in human services and economic justice issues with the county.
The Social Justice Visionary Award is presented to recognize innovation in seeing how the future of social justice should be, in light of how it is. This year’s honoree, Philip Ejercito, did just that through his photography and passion in the area of housing and social injustice. He touched many lives during his life through his passion and commitment to social justice and to improving the lives of tenants and citizens through his public service, photojournalism, and dedication and commitment to housing issues, democracy, and social justice. Philip’s parents, Victor and Nemesia, and brother, Steven Ejercito, accepted the award in his honor. A slide presentation represented the scope of Philip’s work and passions. It was prepared and presented by his father, Victor.
Celebrating with the hosts for the 13th birthday celebration were members of the SJC board of directors — Megin McDonnell, Carol Carstensen, Gaddi Dan, Rick Fairchild, Kathleen Parker, and Leslie Peterson. Several past honorees were also in attendance including John and JoAnn Elder, Chuck and Connie Smalley along with members of the business community, including Wyman Winston, Executive Director of WHEDA, Carola Gaines of Unity Health, and many social justice activists, such as David Carrig, Will Williams, and Allen Ruff to name only a few.
The evening festivities were topped off with a delicious hot and cold appetizer buffet and dessert bar. Hats off to Jeff Cummings, general manager of Badger Bowl, Jessica Shields, banquet manager, and their staff.
For more information on the Social Justice Center, and how to support its efforts visit www.socialjusticecenter.org, or contact the coordinator at (608)770-2049.