Honoring Champions of Social Justice

Where most people see a troubled kid, actress Sonja Sohn, best known for playing Detective Kima Greggs on The Wire, sees someone whose potential has not yet been tapped. To me, Sohn's best role is the one she plays in real life, as the founder of ReWired for Change, which helps kids turn their lives around so they can achieve their dreams.

During an interview earlier this year with the Criminal Justice Conversations at the University of California-Berkeley, Sohn spoke about the kids she tries to help. She described them as young people who had been in trouble with the law before "whose family members and teachers and other folks had sort of given up on helping, because they seemed to be too far gone."

But to Sohn's credit, ReWired for Change does not see these kids as "too far gone." The organization sees the kids as too valuable to let slip through the cracks. Since 2008, Sohn has worked tirelessly to help these kids gain better futures. Instead of just lending her name to a good cause, Sohn has thrown herself into this work. And for her dedication, I'm happy to say that Sohn is this year's recipient of the Center for Community Change's Champion in Community Activism Award.

The Change Champion Awards honors people and organizations whose work is making progress toward social justice a reality. The Center for Community Change is honored to recognize these behind the scenes heroes who help empower others to take action so they can fight for themselves and their communities.

Just look at Paulette Meyer and David Friedman. Meyer founded the Women's Initiative for Self Employment in San Francisco to train and finance low-income women to start their own businesses. Her work on women's rights issues is known nationwide. Like his wife, Friedman believes in strong civic engagement. A structural and earthquake engineer for 37 years, Friedman promotes seismic safety around the globe. He also helps rebuild and restructure San Francisco's public housing neighborhoods. And both played leadership roles in progressive organizations and charities. For their efforts, Meyer and Friedman will receive the Champion in Community Leadership Award.

The Communications Workers of America is receiving the Champion Award in Labor Partnership, in memory of Seth Rosen who passed away unexpectedly this year. Rosen, Vice President for District 5, was the inspiration for and the architect behind "Stand Up Ohio," a coalition of unions, community, faith, policy and civil rights organizations that in his words "leads the resistance" to the conservative attack on working people and forges a progressive vision for the future.

The Ohio Organizing Collaborative (OOC) is receiving the Champion in Community Organizing Award for uniting community organizing groups, labor unions, faith organizations and policy institutes. The OOC has become a leading statewide organizing model and has emerged as a significant force in shaping Ohio public policy.

I could go on and on about the great work our award recipients do. What I hope the public does is support all of them in their endeavors by joining in their fight for social justice.

Go to www.changechampions.org for more information about the Change Champion Awards.The awards ceremony will be held Thursday, Sept. 20, in Washington, DC, and will be emceed by Bob Herbert.