SRJC student activist awarded by ACLU

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“Let’s do the work that nourishes us,” SRJC freshman Marjorie “Maggie” Coshnear said in her Mario Savio Student Activist Award acceptance speech May 6, at the American Civil Liberties Union of Sonoma County 2011 Awards Celebration and Annual Dinner.

ACLU of Sonoma County Chair Marty McReynolds, a retired journalist, noted the important accomplishments the local chapter achieved in 2010, working toward: immigrant rights, police accountability, unexplained deaths at the Sonoma County Jail, bias-free sex education in schools and marriage equality. He invited all interested parties to attend ACLU of Sonoma County Board Meetings at 7 p.m. on the third Monday of each month, 7:00 p.m., at the Peace & Justice Center, 467 Sebastopol Ave, in Santa Rosa.

Local comic legend Tommy Smothers, who received the Jack Green Civil Liberties Award for his own activism, spoke in awe of Coshnear’s diligence and perseverance toward attaining equal justice under the law.

“I never was there where she is,” Smothers said. “There was no particular aim on my part. I never had any particular thing in mind, I just happened to be there.”

Civil liberties work nourished Maggie since childhood, when she and her parents picketed with the Sonoma County Industrial Union. As a young teenager, she sought to re-establish the Pueblos Unidos, defending immigrants’ rights. She co-led a student walkout against the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, spearheaded by Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner.

All of which led swiftly to the doorstep of the American Civil Liberties Union’s local chapter, where her father Richard Coshnear is vice-chair of the Board of Directors.

As a civil liberties journalist, Coshnear wrote articles for “The Peace Press.” She’s a member of the October 22nd Coalition, organizing annual marches against police abuse. Her fluency in Spanish crossed language barriers at home and abroad, as she fought injustices on the road with the Quakers on the U.S.-Mexico border and in Bolivia.

“If I identify a problem,” she said, “it is my responsibility to be part of the solution. We need to see everything we do as part of a narrative toward reaching the finish line.”

Coshnear admitted that she spreads herself too thin sometimes. She finds solace in a quote from a mentor: “Burnout is a disconnect from vision.” Coshnear always returns to that vision.

“We are evolving toward becoming agents of change in history, organizing strikes, fighting budget cuts, transforming our education system,” Coshnear said. “It’ll keep me in the movement for a lifetime…or until we win. Whichever comes first!”


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