The 18th Annual Jim Perry Progressive Leadership Awards will be held on Thursday, May 20th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Each Thursday leading up to the event, we’ll introduce you to one of this year’s honorees. The fourth in this series of posts is Joe Seeman.
That is what Joe Seeman said to himself in the early 1980s when he and his wife, Linda, embarked on parenthood. Fifteen years later, Joe understood that life actually never would get easier. After hearing Jim Hightower and Molly Ivins speak from the founding convention of the Alliance for Democracy about building a movement to oppose Corporate Power (on Democracy Now on WRPI Radio), he realized that it was time for him to return to his activist roots.
Joe was raised in Brooklyn. His parents were Holocaust survivors who taught him that powerful people can do terrible things to the powerless. They also explained to him that people in Europe who participated in the Holocaust weren’t all that different than the people of our current society. His parents’ experiences made Joe understand that some of the underlying causes of Nazism are with us, and that there is an ongoing struggle for justice.
Joe’s first political activity was participating in a student walkout at his New York City High School against cutbacks in education and in support of public school teachers. When Joe was in college in California, and later back in New York City, he was an anti-nuclear activist, first with the Abalone Alliance in California, and then with the Shad Alliance in New York City.
In 1996, Joe attended one of the early meetings of the local chapter of the Alliance for Democracy. The Alliance advocated public funding of elections to take corporate money out of the election process. When it came time to pass the sign–up sheet around, Joe volunteered to set up a computerized member list. This was Joe’s first step in a long journey that eventually resulted in him editing the Capital District Peace and Justice calendar. After many years, Joe passed this calendar on to ActivistResource.org, resulting in the larger, self-automated calendar that we all use to share information about our meetings and events with each other and with the general public. His data bank of names and address, coupled with Joe’s readiness to use his computer skills and his commitment to expand the horizon for organizing, has resulted in Joe taking on leadership of many issues – all primarily focused on building an anti-corporate / pro-democracy movement.
On August 13, 2005, as Cindy Sheehan started an anti-war vigil outside former President Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch, MoveOn.org called on its members to organize local vigils. Joe (and others) responded, and four days later there were vigils in Albany and Saratoga with 300-400 people attending each vigil. Many of these people were not connected to any local organized anti-war group. Joe realized the potential in internet organizing and was hooked.
In 2006, Joe helped organize the “caught red-handed” campaign which bird-dogged former Congressman Sweeney and tied his pro-corporate, pro-energy voting record to substantial campaign contributions and junkets that he had received from corporations in those sectors. This campaign weakened Sweeney’s political base and undoubtedly made it easer for Kirsten Gillibrand to be elected in 2006. Joe continued his work with MoveOn.org focusing on clean energy, the election of President Barack Obama and, more recently, national health care reform. Joe is presently a volunteer coordinator of the local MoveOn.org Organizing team.
Joe has continued his work with Alliance for Democracy. He has worked with Citizen Action on Clean Money, Clean Elections and other issues. He is an active member of the Interfaith Alliance of New York and the Saratoga Peace Alliance. He has participated in the election campaigns of Kristen Gillibrand, Scott Murphy, and Barack Obama.
He is always ready to share his point of view that the root of our political problems is the corruption that follows big money into politics. His organizing goal is always to bring groups and individuals together into a progressive populist movement that can build a Progressive Majority.
Joe is addicted to jogging every day, regardless of the state of the world. Joe is a father of four: three adult children, Rebecca, Jeremy, and Matthew; and a nine year old son, Matthew. He is a husband and a grandfather of two. Joe proudly retains his Brooklyn attitude!
Please join us on Thursday, May 20th in support of Citizen Action of New York and this year’s honorees: Norma Chapman, Judith Mazza, Vera “Mike” Michelson, and Joe Seeman.
This year’s event will be held at The State Room, 142 State Street, Albany, NY from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.