The two coordinators of the Ear to the Ground process and authors of this report are NTanya Lee & Steve Williams:
With a family history of activism and childhood roots in the Black working class of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, NTanya has spent thirty years working for social justice. Politicized by her experience of poverty, public assistance programs, and her mother’s resistance to the daily blows of oppression, NTanya spent her teenage years organizing her peers against Ronald Reagan’s military aggression and attacks on poor families. She organized for racial and gender justice as a college student, and started the first LGBT student of color organization on campus. In the early ‘90s she was active in grassroots, racial justice school reform campaigns, and was a member of Black AIDS Mobilization. In both New York and Michigan, she organized progressive alliances between working-class Black and Latino community organizations and white-led LGBT groups to fight a wave of anti-gay initiatives pushed by the Religious Right. For eleven years she worked with Coleman Advocates as a youth organizer and then Executive Director to build the power of Black and Latino families to win education, housing and budget justice in San Francisco, California. Coleman Advocates is a founding member of San Francisco Rising, an electoral and movement-building alliance of base-building organizations rooted in the city’s poor and working class communities of color. NTanya and her partner Ayoka are raising their five-year-old in the Bay Area.
Born at the close of the 1960s to African American parents who left their southern homelands to try to make it in the North, Steve Williams grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan; Atlanta, Georgia; and West Chester, Pennsylvania during the reign of Ronald Reagan. Steve became politicized in college around racial justice and the anti-war movement of the early 1990s. His experiences organizing against poverty and homelessness with the Philadelphia Union of the Homeless and the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness were formative to Steve’s development as an organizer and activist, along with trips to South Africa and Cuba. In 1997, Steve co-founded POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights), a community-based organization of low-income and working class tenants, transit riders and workers. He served as Executive Director at POWER for 14 years.. In addition to his professional organizing experiences, Steve has been an active volunteer in various local, national and international social movements through his involvement with the World Social Forum process, Grassroots Global Justice, the Right to the City, San Francisco Rising and Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM). Steve lives in San Francisco with his partner, Mei-ying, and their three-year-old son, Amil.