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21st Century Democrats 2010 Honors

Legendary Activist Si Kahn

Solidarity Forever Award 

Si Kahn has worked for 45 years as a civil rights, labor and community organizer and musician. He recently retired from his position as Executive Director Emeritus of Grassroots Leadership, the Southern-based national organization he founded 30 years ago that works to abolish all for-profit private prisons, jails and detention centers as a step toward helping create a prison and criminal justice system that is truly just and humane.

Si began his organizing career in 1965 in Arkansas with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (more popularly known as SNCC), the student wing of the Southern Civil Rights Movement. During the War on Poverty, he served as the deputy director of an eight-county community action agency in rural Georgia and coached the first racially integrated Little League team in that part of the state.

In the 1970s, he worked with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) during the Brookside Strike in Harlan County, Kentucky, and was an Area Director of the J.P. Stevens Campaign for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU). These historic labor struggles are portrayed in the movies Harlan County U.S.A. and Norma Rae. Si founded Grassroots Leadership in 1980 and served as its Executive Director until February 1, 2010, when he became Executive Director Emeritus.

Si’s songs of family, community, work and freedom have been recorded by more than 100 artists and translated into half a dozen languages. His musical body of work includes 16 albums of original songs for adults and children, plus a collection of traditional labor, civil rights and women’s songs recorded with Pete Seeger and Jane Sapp.

Strictly Country Records released Si’s most recent CD, Courage, in April 2010, concurrently with the publication of his latest book Creative Community Organizing: A Guide for Rabble-Rousers, Activists and Quiet Lovers of Justice. Si also co-authored The Fox in the Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy (Berrett-Koehler 2006) with his wife and public philosopher Elizabeth Minnich, and he wrote two widely used organizing handbooks, How People Get Power and Organizing: A Guide for Grassroots Leaders.

Si is a member of the organizing committee for Local 1000 of the American Federation of Musicians, AFL-CIO; a past trustee of the Labor Heritage Foundation; a lifetime member of the International Bluegrass Music Association and of the Folk Alliance; and the official poet laureate of the North Carolina labor movement by unanimous vote of the convention in 1985.

Professor Simon Johnson

Award for Visionary Leadership

For more than 20 years, Simon Johnson has worked on crisis prevention and economic recovery around the world.

He is currently the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C. He is also a member of the Congressional Budget Office’s Panel of Economic Advisers.

Johnson co-founded BaselineScenario.com, a leading economic blog, dedicated to explanation and discussion of economics, finance, and public policy. He recently co-authored, with James Kwak, 13 Bankers, a book which offers an in-depth explanation of the factors that led to the financial crisis, and identifies the factors that set the stage for another financial crisis, another government bailout, and another increase in our national debt.

He is a weekly contributor to NYTimes.com‘s Economix, has a monthly column with Project Syndicate that runs in publications around the world, and has published high impact opinion pieces in The Atlantic, The New Republic, BusinessWeek, Bloomberg, and The Financial Times, among other publications. In January 2010, he joined The Huffington Post as contributing business editor.

Johnson was previously chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, president of the Association for Comparative Economic Studies, and a member of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Advisory Committee on Market Information.

He is a sought-after commentator on current financial and economic issues, and has recently appeared on programs such as Bill Moyers Journal, PBS NewsHour, This American Life, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, On Point with Tom Ashbrook, The Diane Rehm Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and The Colbert Report. He also writes a weekly column for the New York Times’ Economix blog.

Professor Johnson received a B.A. in Economics and Politics from the University of Oxford, an M.A. in Economics from the University of Manchester, and a Ph.D. in Economics from MIT.

Congressman Elijah Cummings

Award for Excellence in Public Service

Congressman Elijah Cummings was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, where he still resides today. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Howard University, serving as Student Government President and graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and then graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law.

He began his career of public service in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he served for sixteen years and became the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tem. First sworn in as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996, Congressman Cummings has proudly represented Maryland’s 7th District for seven terms.

Congressman Cummings is a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where he sits on the Subcommittees on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials and Aviation and serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. He is also a senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Congressman Cummings is committed to and has played an active role in eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs to fully and responsibly utilize every taxpayer dollar. He sits on the Subcommittees on Domestic Policy and on Federal Workforce, Post Office, and the District of Columbia as well.

Congressman Cummings is a member of the Joint Economic Committee and the House Task Force on Health Care Reform. He is a former Chairman and current member of the Congressional Black Caucus and is a co-founder and Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Drug Policy. He is also a member of the Progressive, Port Security, and Get-out-of-Iraq Caucuses.

Congressman Cummings has been a leader in the House on issues of financial reform including the introduction of House Resolutions 846 and 3436, and a call for an investigation of AIG’s counterparty payments.
Congressman Cummings serves on numerous boards and commissions. He is spearheading an effort to strengthen the Maritime curriculum at the Maritime Academy in Baltimore. He is the Chairman of the Maritime for Primary and Secondary Education Coalition (MPSEC).

He also serves on the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors; the Morgan State University Board of Regents; the Maryland Zoo Board of Trustees; the Baltimore Aquarium Board of Trustees; the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors; and the Yale-Howard Nursing Partnership Center to Reduce Health Disparities by Self and Family Management Advisory Committee. He is an active member of New Psalmist Baptist Church.

WI State Senator Russ Decker

Award for Excellence in Public Service

Senator Russell Decker was born in Athens, Wisconsin. He graduated from Northcentral Technical College in 1980 and has served as a full-time legislator since first being elected in 1990 to the Wisconsin State Senate (29th District). He also works as a journeyman bricklayer.

Senator Decker was elected to the State Senate in 1990 and became Majority Leader in 1997.Senator Decker is the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Senate Organization.

He is also part of the following Joint Committees: Joint Committee on Legislative Organization; Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions; Committee of Conference on Assembly Bill 75 (Co-Chair); Joint Committee on Employment Relations; Building Inspector Review Board; and Joint Legislative Council.

Senator Decker is currently a member of the Bricklayers Intl. Union; Marathon Co. Democratic Party; National Rifle Association; Friends of Rib Mountain; and Rib Mountain Bowmen Archery Club as well as a former member of Central Wisconsin Building Trades (pres.); Boy Scouts of America (assistant Cub master); AFL-CIO Conservation Committee (secy./treas.); and Bricklayers Joint Apprenticeship Committee.


21st Century Democrats was proud to present these awards at a June 10, 2010, ceremony held on the Rooftop Terrace of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Building, Washington, D.C.



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