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Friday, Jun. 27, 2008 at 7:02 PM
Contributors to this biography include: Jan Goodman; Blase and Theresa Bonpane; Dennis White; Lydia Brazon and Margaret Prescod.
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DON WHITE: April 18, 1937 - June 19, 2008
Don White long time Southern California activist, Charter Founder and lifetime member of United Teachers of Los Angeles passed away suddenly at his home in Los Angles, CA on June 19, 2008 he was 70 years old. He will be missed by, not only his family, but literally hundreds of friends and associates of the many organizations in which he was so passionately involved over the past three decades.
Born and raised in Mount Vernon, Washington on April 18, 1937, Don White’s life was a reflection of the last 60 years of the progressive movement in the United States. His leadership abilities became evident during his high school years. He was president of his sophomore class and then president of the Mount Vernon High School Student Body. He graduated from the College of the Pacific studying political science and attended post graduate classes at American University in Washington DC.
From the time that he was a college student in the late 1950's, fighting against the injustice surrounding the House of Representatives' Un-American Activities Committee, Don remained engaged in the struggle for peace and justice for humanity.
After becoming disenchanted with the political scene in Washington DC, he moved to Los Angeles California in 1963 where he taught history at Irving Junior High School. He was deeply committed to issues of equity in educational opportunity, especially for children in the inner cities. Don participated in every teacher’s union strike from 1963 until his retirement in 1997.
In 1976, Don traveled to Guatemala to do relief work following a devastating earthquake there. He called that month-long journey "an epiphany, a life changing experience" which remained a vibrant part of his political psyche that resulted in his friendship and faithful service to Central America. During the war in EI Salvador, Don made 14 trips to that country and to Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. He often traveled to El Salvador to bring direct material aid and on fact-finding missions there, often at risk to his own safety. Don was a member of the Echo Park Chapter of the Committee in Solidarity with the people of EI Salvador, CISPES, since joining the group shortly after its founding convention in 1980.
As an organizer, Board Member and leader of CISPES in Los Angeles, Don coordinated and addressed countless rallies, demonstrations, fund-raisers, teach-in's, delegations, material aid drives, congressional visits, civil disobedience actions demanding an end to U.S. intervention in EI Salvador and Central America. For years he organized and/or participated in protests demanding closure of the US based School of the Americas, known for training members of the military from Latin American countries in methods of torture.
Don White was an organizer of scores of citywide coalitions addressing numerous progressive causes including peace in the Middle East, the treatment of immigrants, police brutality, women’s rights and more. He played a crucial part in the early sanctuary movement, where local churches gave refuge to undocumented immigrants from Central and Latin America, and up until the time of his death he spoke out about human suffering and separation of families as a result of US government immigration raids in Southern California and elsewhere.
He was part of the coalition that following a news story broken by the San Jose Mercury newspaper, mobilized against the CIA bringing in crack cocaine to South Los Angeles. And, as a "Legal Observer" working with the National Lawyers Guild, he could be seen wearing the fluorescent Green Hat worn by the NLG Legal Observers at virtually every major - and minor - demonstration in Los Angeles.
Don was a founding member of the Southern California Fair Trade Network, which organized for the 1999 World Trade Organization protests held in Seattle, Washington referred to as “The Battle in Seattle” which has been hailed as ushering in a new era of activism in the United States and internationally. He was one of the lead organizers in protests referred to as “D2K” which were held during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. Several of the D2K protests were the largest Los Angles had seen for some time, and several law suits were filed and won against Los Angeles Police Department for their actions both in the lead up to and during the protests.
He served on the Boards of the Coalition in Solidarity with the people of EI Salvador, the Office of the Americas and Americans for Democratic Action, as well as being the first chair of the Local Station Board of Los Angeles listener-sponsored radio station KPFK, 90.7 fm. He also served several terms on Pacifica Radio's National Board. He was a key supporter of the Pacifica Foundation and KPFK, and was involved in a lengthy community led struggle to democratize the Foundation and the station. Don volunteered during KPFK fund drives, most recently several days before his death, and he helped to bring new talent to the station.
Don White was also a lead organizer and coordinator in countless mass demonstrations for peace and pro-immigrant rallies in Los Angeles. He helped organize the 3-day LA Social Forum to be held the weekend of June 27th, 2008. He was active in the Ad Hoc Working Group on Haiti where he was a constant presence at the weekly vigils calling for the safe return of Haitian Human Rights Activist Lovinsky Pierre Antoine. He stood with anti-war veterans as well as anti-war active duty soldiers. He firmly supported and helped to fundraise for Augustine Aguayo for Iraq Veterans Against the War and for the team that produced the film Arlington West. And at the time of his death he was organizing among other activities, for the visit to Los Angeles of Mauricio Funes, the FMNL candidate for President of El Salvador.
As a dynamic speaker, he was a fixture of the progressive movement, often serving as Master of Ceremonies or moderator at events sponsored by a wide range of organizations and coalitions. He was regularly the guy who made the pitch for money at demonstrations as well as social and political events -- because he put people at ease, could make them laugh, and made them want to give and be a part of something much larger than themselves. As a result, Don raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for scores of progressive and humanitarian organizations.
For his 70th birthday, a birthday party invitation went out from actor and activist Martin Sheen, and the party was not only a celebration but also a fundraiser for the local peace movement.
Don leaves behind, his brother Dennis and sister-in-law Harriet White, their children Denise Smith and Lori White, their grandchildren Haley Smith, Rachel LaCasse and Campbell, sister-in-law Lucrecia (Bobbi) Way, nephews George and Gary Way and their families and many friends in the Pacific Northwest, in California, across the US as well as in El Salvador. In the style of the activist community to whom Don was so committed, a meeting of friends, family and community based organizations has been organized to plan his public memorial. Several on-air tributes have been paid to Don White on Pacifica Radio’s KPFK.
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