FOR RELEASE DECEMBER 5, 2008***
Berkeley, CA –
Julissa Bisono, a 25-year old
Workplace Justice Organizer for Make the Road New York, has won the 2008 Mario
Savio Young Activist Award, sharing a $6,000 prize with her organization. Honorable mention and $500 prizes were given
to 22-year old Macias Ramos of Los Angeles, for
his work on behalf of undocumented students, and to 23-year old Melody
Gonzalez, for her work with migrant workers through the Student/Farmworker Alliance
was cited for her efforts to organize low-income immigrant workers to combat illegal wage and poor working
conditions in the restaurant and nightclub industries. Several years ago, Bisono
helped to found Workers United, a group of Latino immigrant workers. As a result of Bisono’s work, the group’s
membership has grown to over a hundred. The group has successfully used
community organizing and legal advocacy to win hundreds of thousands of dollars
of unpaid back wages for workers whose employers failed to pay the minimum wage
or overtime wages as required by the law.
Mario Savio Young Activist Award is named for the leader of the Free Speech
Movement at the University of California at Berkeley,
in 1964. It is given each year to a
young person with "a deep commitment to human rights and social justice
and a proven ability to transform this commitment into effective action."
has been working for social justice
since the age of 15," said Lynne Hollander Savio, chairperson of the Mario
Savio Memorial Lecture fund, a private group which gives the award. "She is a fiery advocate on behalf of her
group members and is able to inspire them to fight for themselves and help them
develop the skills to do so."
award was presented last night at the annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture in
the Berkeley Community Theater. The
keynote speaker was Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. speaking on "Our Environmental
Destiny." Mario Savio, who died
nine years ago at age 54, came to public notice in 1964, when students at Berkeley rebelled against
restrictions on political activity at the University. Their protest drew nationwide attention and
stirred activism by college students across the country. Savio’s words to his fellow students sparked
a non-violent sit-in and the largest mass arrest in U.S. history up till that time.
comes a time," he said, "when the operation of the machine becomes so
odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even
passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon
the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who
run it, the people who own it, that unless you’re free the machine will be
prevented from working at all."
condemned by University administrators and public opinion at the time, the Free Speech Movement has been
recognized for some years as having made a positive contribution to university
life. Upon Savio’s death, a plaque was
installed naming the steps of Sproul Hall where he made his speeches as the
Mario Savio Steps. The Free Speech
Movement café, commemorating the protest, was opened in the undergraduate
library in 1998 and has become a popular campus gathering place. The yearly lecture series which bears his
name is co-sponsored by many departments at the university, and has presented
such well-known speakers as journalist Seymour Hersh, teacher and author Cornel
West, and historian Howard Zinn.