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Dear wonderful friends & familia-
It is with great honor & respect & even some humility that I share with you that I have been named the NEA's 2017 
Social Justice Activist of the Year
Words cannot begin to express the pride & the inspiration I feel from receiving this extraordinary distinction (& as most of you know, I am rarely at a loss for words; usually I have a veritable plethora & then some!).  That this group of teachers, students & union members believe in me & in the things that I do; that so many people across the country voted to bestow upon me this such very prestigious award; that so many folks, so many of you- my friends, my family, my colleagues, my union, absolute strangers- believe in me & what I have accomplished (& furthermore, what I can continue to achieve!) is staggering to me. Truly.  But I fully realize that this is not only a validation & a benediction of what I have done but indeed a call to arms for what I will do. …

Robt Seda-Schreiber is Woke!


personal statement from Robt Seda-Schreiber

Woke moment #1 (1969): In utero- marching against the war; rallying for peace. My first lesson in peaceful resistance & moral outrage, held by my mother, both figuratively & literally. I may be ensconced in embryonic fluid, safe & warm, but, already, boots on the ground.

Woke moment #4 (1979): I am in backseat as we ride up the Turnpike; my parents tell me that my beloved Uncle Les is gay.  He couldn’t come out until now because his father, my Poppy, wouldn’t have understood. Now sadly my Poppy is dead but my Uncle can finally be who he has always been.

Woke moment #7 (1982): All of thirteen, faced with a threatened beatdown from Mace L., standing up & saying out of nowhere (& everywhere) that I am a pacifist, in front of what feels like the entire school. Mace hits me repeatedly. In the face. Calls me a faggot & leaves; I feel like I won the fight (I am in the minority in this opinion).

Woke moment #13 (1985): Taking the beautiful Joslyn to prom. My mom asks what she looks like; I describe her without mentioning she’s African-American. Race doesn’t matter to me, until it does: Some kid shouts out on the dance floor, “Where did you rent that (expletive/too-ugly-a-word-for-any-decent-human-to-ever-use deleted)?”

Woke moment #18 (1988): High school girlfriend has a pregnancy scare. The only place we can go, the only place to go, is Planned Parenthood. In the waiting room, I see the faces of so many women who need this service so much more than we do, for health reasons; for financial reasons- for them, it is a matter of life & death.

Woke moment #19 (1988): Defending an abortion clinic, in the early rise of dawn, shepherding women to & fro the door. I see the fear in their faces & the hate in their attackers’. You can have your opinions, but our bodies are our own.

Woke moment #27 (1992): Donating over $10,000 to Hyacinth AIDS Foundation raised by Creatures of Awareness Theatre Co., a group I founded to entertain & enlighten, realizing it is of small help & there is so much yet to do.

Woke moment #32 (1994): Teaching @ University of California, Berkeley, I receive call from alma mater middle school with an offer to teach. Living on the beach, making very nice salary, the sun always shining; nonetheless, I am on the next plane home, knowing community is more important than status, money or even good weather.

Woke moment #37 (1996): I meet my lovely bride, Cyndi, Boricua & oh-so-proud, who tells me of her dream to become a Public Defender, to help her people in Trenton, the neglected & the abused. I am shocked & shamed at my lack of experience & my lack of knowledge of a community of people who are so strong & so brave in the face of such utter hopelessness. I cannot wait to live my life with this woman learning más y más.

Woke moment #41 (2001): After 9/11, I see opportunity for our nation to truly come together twisted & squandered by jingoism & opportunism, I counter with an original school play my students write & perform monologues about everyday Americans they see as inspiration. It is called “Heroes: Post 9/11”; it goes on to win numerous awards & accolades. These kids are heroes, if just for one day.

Woke moment #48 (2005): As a Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholar & a guest of the Japanese government, I see a culture & a people through the eyes of schoolchildren, artists, a survivor of Nagasaki, diplomats, & government officials, but most importantly, a garbage collector, with whose family I stay for a week, with whom I learn more & experience greater things than my time in the neon of Tokyo or the nirvana of Kyoto.

Woke moment #’s 56 & 62 (2008 & 2012): Donating my art for years to various charities, causes, & groups, I create work for the Obama campaign. In 2008, it is celebrated in a book by Spike Lee; In 2012, a second piece is circulated throughout the world, plastered Guerilla style from Chicago to Cali to Provincetown to DC to Mexico to Japan & then virtually as well, Tweeted out by LL Cool J, becoming one of the top trending images of election night.

Woke moment #64 (2013): I help to start nation’s first middle school Gay Straight Alliance, with incredible resistance from the community & fellow teachers. Homophobia is couched & hidden in supposed concern. I volunteer without pay two years to prove group’s worth. From seven original members, we are now over fifty strong; inspiring numerous other GSA’s, many of which I personally help to get off the ground. Ironically, the real long-term goal of the GSA is to make itself obsolete; its message of acceptance one day becoming the norm.  So close yet so far.

Woke moment #66 (2015): I meet Vincent V., a student at neighboring school district, who because of his otherness is bullied to the extent that he must be home-schooled. I become his advocate & his family’s partner in a protracted legal battle with his district, resulting in him being bussed & indeed attending our school at that district’s expense. Whilst at our school, Vincent flourishes: finally able to realize who he is & who she has always been. Vincent becomes Vee, our school’s first transgender student & she allows us the honor of helping her with that transition. Vee’s bravery & self-realization is a gift to our entire school & our greater community & to me personally: a concrete example of the power of the GSA’s outreach, an abstract made very concrete. A life saved; a life realized.

Woke moment #69 (2017): Devastated & heartbroken by current events & the state of our union, my wife & I March on Washington, whilst my mother & father, who first showed me the path, rally in Trenton. For the first time since the election, surrounded by thousands upon thousands of like-minded & full-hearted people,

I feel safe & warm, & still... Boots on the ground.

I am thrilled & honored to be the NEA Social Justice of the Year!