Bob Fitrakis at the awards dinner

   The Free Press celerated 45 years  with over 100 supporters on October 19 at the Florentine Restaurant. Six local activists were honored at the dinner in a lively ceremony emceed by Editor Bob Fitrakis filled with positive messages about effective organizing and activism in Ohio.
   The Free Press is now “Ohio’s oldest locally-owned news source,” since the Wolfe family recently sold the Columbus Dispatch. This October marks our 45th anniversary, and the paper has re-shaped political debate in Ohio’s capitol city since 1970.
   The Free Press began as an underground anti-war campus newspaper in reaction to the Kent State shootings. In the 70s and 80s, the Free Press was a champion of equal rights for all people, as the only news organization covering gay, lesbian and transgender issues including gay marriage. The Free Press supported marijuana legalization since its inception, condemning both the initial drug war by Richard Nixon and the renewed “zero tolerance” anti-drug campaign by Ronald Reagan. The paper also pointed out the dangers and the racist nature of Bill Clinton’s policies regarding crack cocaine in the 1990s. The Freep has broken major stories in the 21st century regarding election tampering, Columbus Police and their secret “Chronic Complainer” list, and attacks upon the social justice movement.
   In a city that has named itself after a genocidal killer/imperialist conquistador, it is important for us to select our own real heroes. That’s why the Free Press gives out the annual “Libby” award for community activism. Libby Gregory was a former 70s and 80s era Free Press Editor and tireless activist for environmental, peace and women's issues. She was also an entrepreneur -- starting the first vegetarian restaurant in Columbus, the King Avenue Coffee House; Tradewinds (one-time home of the Free Press); and Byzantium, the premier bead store. She was tragically killed in a 1991 plane crash. We honor her memory by giving one or more Libby awards each year to honor our present heroes, promote alternative paths and to give birth to a better world.

Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio Debs-Thomas-Harrington Award

   Before there was Bernie Sanders, there were Democratic Socialist heroes who have inspired generations with their ground-breaking work in the peace, labor, and social justice movements in our country. The legendary labor leader Eugene Victor Debs received a million votes as a Socialist candidate for U.S. President – all while he was incarcerated for opposing World War I. At a peace rally in Canton, Ohio, he was arrested for pronouncing that it’s the rich men who declare the wars, while it’s the poor men who fight and die in them.
   Norman Thomas, a Presbyterian minister from Marion, Ohio, ran six times for President as a Socialist from 1928 to 1948. Both Debs and Thomas were champions of the working class. Debs was instrumental in creating the American Railway Union that embraced all workers on the railroad lines. Thomas organized in the 1930s with the Southern Sharecroppers Union.
   Michael Harrington was the author of “The Other America: Poverty in the United States” (1962) and architect of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” He was a founder of the Democratic Socialists Organizing Committee, later merging with the New American Movement, to form the Democratic Socialists of America.
   The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) work through grassroots social justice movements and the electoral system to democratize the means of production and distribution. DSA is a national organization with a long-standing local chapter in Columbus that fights for peace, justice and worker’s rights. Their monthly meetings are every second Thursday and are listed in the Columbus Free Press calendar. The local Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio give Debs-Thomas-Harrington Awards to individuals who embody the principles and practices of these great men.

The Bill Moss Award for an Outstanding African American Activist

  Bill Moss, called “Barry Gordy of Columbus” by Entertainment Weekly, was the iconic “Boss with the Red Hot Sauce” as a disc jockey on WVKO Radio for many years in Columbus. Bill, the founder and owner of Capsoul Records, resisted attempts by Columbus’ Bank One to steal his record company back in the 1970s. In order to create a political movement to oppose Columbus’ “Titans,” he turned to politics.
  Repeatedly elected to the Columbus School Board, he became the most successful independent candidate in our city’s modern history – usually running without major corporate party endorsement. Bill functioned as a fiscal watchdog to stop corruption in the Columbus School system. He was an author, writing the book “Enough is Enough” that challenged the way white-owned corporations control and repress minority schoolchildren. He also ran for Mayor in 1995.
   Bill and his former schoolteacher wife Ruth were the lead plaintiffs in the internationally famous lawsuit to overturn the results of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, in the case called “Moss v. Bush.” At the time of his death in August 2005, Bill was involved in trying to make our voting system transparent and open for all people. The Free Press honors his legacy with the Bill Moss Award for an Outstanding African American Activist, awarded to someone who carries on his spirit and dedication to bettering Columbus.

2015 Awardees

Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio
Debs-Thomas-Harrington Award
Fadhel Kaboub

  Fadhel Kaboub is Associate Professor of economics at Denison University and President of the Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. His research focuses on the Political Economy of the Middle East and the fiscal and monetary policy dimensions of job creation programs.         
   Fadhel is a passionate teacher who believes in the power of education and critical analysis in producing transformative social change. He firmly believes that life with dignity for all can only be achieved in a society that guarantees the right to decent jobs with a living wage for all members of the community. A follower of the late economist, Hyman P. Minsky, Fadhel believes the so-called “War on Poverty” has failed because it was trying to fight the poor, rather than the root causes of poverty. Fadhel argues that the United States, with its sovereign monetary system, can afford to end poverty, ensure full employment and price stability, provide universal healthcare, and ameliorate ecological conditions at a fraction of the costs that society endures under the neoliberal system of blatant economic inequality, radical austerity, privatized healthcare, rampant prison-industrial complex, and anti-democratic public policy making.
   Fadhel has lectured extensively in the Central Ohio community and has offered several workshops on the war on poverty, community development, monetary sovereignty, and job creation. Fadhel is the director of the Denison Volunteer Dollars program, a service-learning initiative that has produced more than 3,000 hours of community service work by his Denison students since the program was initiated in 2008.
   Fadhel is a widely published author and some of his recent media commentaries on employment, development, finance, and the Middle East economies have appeared in the Financial Times, Al-Ahram Weekly, Radio France Internationale, National Public Radio, New Inquiry, BBC Mundo, Carta Maior, Diwan TV, Saudi Gazette, Le Quotidien, and La Presse.
   Fadhel earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Tunis, and his Master’s and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
   Fadhel lives in Granville with his wife Rana Odeh and their two sons Amir (23 mo.) and Amjad (1.5 mo.). He tweets regularly from @FadhelKaboub and @BinzagrInfo.

Bill Moss Award for an Outstanding African American Activist
Torin Jacobs

   Torin Jacobs is from Columbus, Ohio, and has attended Columbus City Schools, Columbus State Community College and Ohio University, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Education. During his college career he was heavily engaged in organizing. He helped to restart the Black Student Union at Columbus State Community College during his time there, organizing events and a food drive for Faith Mission. During his stay at Ohio University, he worked with the Student Union in protesting cuts to custodial staff and faculty. He organized poetry and art shows on campus and a fundraiser for a women’s shelter. 
   Torin studied abroad in Cape Coast, Ghana for his student teaching internship.  He taught social studies to middle school aged children and lived with a host family for four months. Currently he teaches 10th, 11th and 12th grade social studies at Briggs High School. 
   Recently, Torin became interested in the list of demands presented at several of the “Black Lives Matter” protests. One demand in particular stood out, the call for a civilian review board (CRB) of the Columbus Police. Like many people, he didn’t know too much about what a CRB was and what it could do to limit the instances of police misconduct. Torin started to do research on CRBs and it became clear that just any CRB would not be good enough to introduce in Columbus. He felt the right kind of board would have to be in place to actually create meaningful change.
   Torin did not see a movement to build a CRB succeed by just letting politicians to do it, so he decided the best proactive step was to build a model that came from the people,and put it into action. He started going to meetings hosted by the local “Effective Steps Towards Resistance” group and from there was able to make connections. He took on a leadership role in the movement to get a Civilian Review Board initiative on the 2016 ballot in Columbus. Torin has been dedicated to going to events, collecting signatures, training petitioners, and educating the public about the importance of citizen oversight of the Columbus Police.

Free Press “Libby” Award for Community Activism
Kenny Schweickart

  Over 20 years ago at Columbus State Community College, Kenny Schweickart started the For a Better Ohio student organization for the legalization of marijuana and hemp. He continued the organization when he moved on to the Ohio State University. He is best known for being an organizer of the annual Hempfest on the OSU campus, an annual festival that continues today. Kenny is also well known for holding three-day “Cannabis campouts” with music, speakers and booths.       
   After the Free Press went out of print in 1995, Kenny spearheaded the return of the newspaper in 1998. He brought the publication back into print with its “hemp manifesto” issue. For several years, Kenny served on the Board of the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism, the nonprofit organization that publishes the Free Press. He coordinated a sponsorship arrangement with Rainbow Farm to fund the paper through their hemp festivals, allowing us to continue speaking truth to power.
   In the late 90s, Cannabis Kenny and his Merry Pranksters painted a school bus a’la Ken Kesey and barnstormed Ohio promoting the legalization marijuana and industrial hemp. Along the way many local people posed with the now-legendary school bus.
   Kenny was also essential during the Clinton administration in organizing to stop their planned attack on Iraq and helped hundreds of activists get inside St. John’s Arena to confront then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, then-Secretary of Defense Richard Cohen and National Security Advisor Sandy Berger.
   Kenny’s progressive activism through the years has included registering voters, organizing demonstrations, conferences, festivals, and spearheading ballot initiatives. Although he is best known for his drug policy reform efforts, he also has experience with the presidential candidate campaigns of John Kerry and Barack Obama, and once winning an underdog primary for State Representative.

Free Press “Libby” Award for Community Activism
Julie Weatherington-Rice

   Libby Gregory, namesake of the Free Press “Libby” award, had a knack for choosing people to fill certain roles. She chose Julie to take care of the earth. Julie first met Libby in the fall of 1967, when they were both interested in the budding environmental movement. For Earth Week 1970, Libby organized activities at Ohio State and for the City of Columbus while Julie coordinated speakers, films and activities at the Public Library in Barberton, Ohio. PPG Industries had a factory there making chlorine gas out of salt they mined under the town of Norton.
   Julie’s commitment to environmentalism has remained throughout her life. She earned a BS in Earth Science Education – “because girls could not be scientists then, only teachers” – and completed her MS in Geology and Mineralogy in 1978. She earned a PhD in Soil Science with a minor in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from OSU and became an Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Food, Agricultural & Biological Engineering. She is the Senior Scientist at Bennett & Williams Environmental Consultants Inc., an engineering company noted for their work with public water supplies and public service.  
   At a job with MORPC, Julie co-wrote the first Ohio NatureWorks Grant and organized what was to become the Franklin County Greenways Program. The goal was to preserve and protect the stream banks of the rivers and creeks in the county, creating no-mow prairie and forested buffer strips. Today, 75 percent or more of the rivers and creeks in Franklin County are protected on one or both sides.
   She has worked on regional source water protection projects, Superfund clean-ups, Public Water Supply Source Water Protection delineations and management plans, and served on the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force trying to solve the problems with blue-green algae.
   In 2011, Julie began revisiting the problems with uncontrolled drilling of the new horizontal shale oil and gas wells in Ohio. She has researched, lectured, written and testified in the Ohio House and Senate, pointing out the potential catastrophes that can and have occurred by taking away local authority to protect Ohio's communities. Julie was just awarded the Ohio Section American Water Works Association Technical Presentation award for 2014 for her ongoing lecture “ALEC and the Oil and Gas Industry vs. Source Water Protection and Home Rule in Ohio.”

Free Press “Libby” Award for Community Activism
Pranav Jani

   Pranav Jani is Associate Professor of English at Ohio State, specializing in postcolonial studies and U.S. ethnic studies. He holds a PhD from Brown University.He has published a book on Indian writing in English, called Decentering Rushdie: Cosmopolitanism and the Indian English Novel in English (2010), and articles on Marxism and Eurocentrism, imperialism and race, Indian revolutionaries of the 1920s, gender and sexuality in Indian-American film and literature, Arundhati Roy’s fiction, and the 1857 Revolt in British India. Pranav’s writing has also appeared in International Socialist Review, MR Zine, and Socialist Worker.
Pranav’s teaching interests include postcolonial/world literature, history, and politics, especially South Asia, Africa, Ireland, and the Arab world, and his research interests are in postcolonial theory: Marxism and postmodernism, imperialism, nationalism, and human rights in the postcolonial world.
   Pranav has been an activist and organizer with the International Socialist Organization since 1995, mostly in branches on the East Coast before coming to Columbus in 2004. He was a presenter at a conference held in tribute to the late Columbia University professor Edward Said and participated in a massive “immigrant rights” rally in 2006.  
   Besides building socialist organizations, his work has involved being a member of many groups and coalitions, including the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, coalitions against various wars (Haiti, Serbia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan), organizations for equal marriage and for reproductive rights, and Palestine solidarity groups. Pranav is a part of many local activist events, was active in the Occupy movements on the OSU campus and Ohio Statehouse, and most recently has become involved in the streets in the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
   Pranav is an avid writer on social media, often with relevant historical references to current events and profound insights. We found a statement that reveals his philosophy: “We will build across generations and identities, and we will keep the legacies of past movements alive in the present.”

Free Press “Libby” Award for Community Activism Chuck Lynd

   Chuck grew up in Ironton, Ohio and watched the forces of economic globalization destroy the downtown main street businesses and our local industries, reducing the local population by 40%. He has been trying to fight back against those forces for the last 50 years. Chuck has a BA in philosophy from Antioch College and a MAT in teaching social studies from Reed College in Oregon. 
   In the 60s, Chuck joined the Student Peace Union and demonstrated for Unilateral Disarmament during the Cuban missile crisis. He also participated in civil rights demonstrations in Phoenix, Arizona in 1963, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, and has organized demonstrations against consumerism in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Columbus, Ohio. More recently, he has participated in demonstrations to protest the Iraq Wars, fracking, and the Keystone XL pipeline
   Chuck served as the volunteer manager of bookstore at First Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbus. He managed "the Other Side Coffeehouse" at the church for four years, making the venue available to folk singers, poets, and local artists. He also served on the first Simply Living Board in 1992 with Marilyn Welker and has volunteered for 23 years. He helped start the Clintonville Community Market with Edward Bain in 1997, managed the bookstore at the Co-op for about 12 years, and organized many educational events, shown dozens of documentary films, managed many fund raising events.
   Chuck started the Support Our Local Economy (SOLE) Coalition with Simply Living, Local Matters, SBB, ECDI, Kemba, and local independent business owners. He created the Think Columbus First website to educate the public about the benefits of "Buying Local" as a strategy to rebuild the local economy and revitalize local communities and neighborhoods. Chuck also gives presentations and workshops at many venues to explain the importance of re-localization as an antidote to the negative impacts of economic globalization and the consumer culture. He has been instrumental in the past, organizing several of the Free Press free movie showings.