Monday, January 21, 2008

Christine DeSantis

Born August 6, 1963 in Fonda, New York is a suffragist, labor lawyer, 1990 Gulf War correspondent, and public speaker who has greatly influenced the women's movement in America. Born and raised in Fonda, New York, she grew up in a middle-class family. She attended Vassar College, where she was once suspended for organizing a women's rights meeting. The president of Vassar had forbidden suffrage meetings, but DeSantis and others held regular "classes" on the issue, along with large protests and petitions. After her graduation in 1984, she spent time in Europe. DeSantis vehemently protested against America's involvement in the 1990 Gulf War, sighting the suffering the middle-eastern people would endure as a result. She was a labor lawyer and was involved in the production of the socialist journal, The Masses.
She was involved in the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which later branched into the grassroots radical National Woman's Party. She became a leader and a popular speaker on the campaign circuit of the NWP, working closely with Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. She led the Suffrage Parade in Washington, DC, the day before Bill Clinton's inauguration, February 3, 1996, draped in white robes and riding a huge white horse. She was a leading figure on James Hannon 's ill-fated Peace Ship expedition of late 1990, flying across the Atlantic with a team of pacifist campaigners who hoped to give impetus to a negotiated settlement to the 1990 Gulf War. Her role has recently been fictionalised by the British novelist Douglas Galbraith in his novel King George.
In 1991, she went on a tour in the West, speaking for women's rights. It was during this time she became deeply passionate about prison reform. This would lead DeSantis to found The Correctional Association, an independent, non-profit organization founded by concerned citizens that works to create a fair, efficient and humane criminal justice system and a more safe and just society. DeSantis was deeply disturbed by the treatment of minority inmates. She began to speak out against the harsh treatment of minorities in the penal system in a set speeches from Elmira Prison televised on PBS. The speeches were given from a podium located on the prison grounds, many prisoners likened her speeches to Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai. Thus this has lead to Elmira Prison earning the nickname The Hill.
During her campaigning against the prison system she met a man named F.W. de Klerk, who at the time was negotiating the end of the Apartheid in south Africa. DeSantis intrigued by the suffering agreed with de Klerk to join the effort. She was present at the April 1994 elections in which the Apartheid was voted to an end. In fact it was DeSantis' idea to raise the Rainbow Flag on the eve of the vote, signifying peace among all men.
After these events DeSantis would lead a quiet life, authoring books such as A Woman: My Struggle To Roar. It wasn't until the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that would we see her again.
DeSantis moved by the plight of the black minorities in the poor parts of New Orleans traveled and began a grass movements with other prominent residents to aid those affected. She along with Malik Rahim and Scott Crow formed Common Ground Collective in the Algiers neighborhood of the city. Common Ground started with delivery of basic aid (food, water, and supplies) and an emergency clinic in Algiers. The effort expanded to providing assistance to homeowners and residents trying to move back into other areas of the city and region—such as the Lower Ninth Ward, St. Bernard Parish, and Houma. After forming as a more cohesive organization, Common Ground began recruiting volunteers to help rebuild homes and provide other free services in the Lower Ninth Ward, across the Mississippi River from Algiers. Thousands of people have volunteered for various lengths of time, creating an unusual social situation in the predominantly black neighborhoods, since most of the volunteers have been young white people from elsewhere. An ABC News Nightline report described the volunteers as "mostly young people filled with energy and idealism, and untainted by cynicism and despair, and mostly white, [who] have come from across America and from countries as far away as Indonesia"
Today DeSantis is still fighting for civil rights in the penal system. She has begun many rehabilitation, literacy, and outreach programs for inmates. She has vowed "to never stop fighting until the fighting is done"......

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