Oakland Local

 

IMG_4061Monica Anderson said she was shocked to hear she was selected for the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame.

“I believe everyone should have their own definition of success. I define my personal success my own way,” she said in an interview. “But I would have thought the [ACWHF selection committee] would have had a pretty different definition—fame or power or something.”

Unlike most of the inductees, Monica is 22, with most of her career ahead of her. “For me, just surviving past eighteen was a success.”

Monica did a lot more than merely survive. She pulled herself out of a nightmare adolescence that began with being kidnapped by seven men at age fifteen and then bouncing for years between juvenile hall and a pimp, the person that was both her biggest threat and only security in the world. With the help of a counselor at MISSSEY, Monica “figured out that [she] wasn’t alone.”

She joined Youth Radio and made a radio documentary about sex trafficking in Oakland that won the Peabody Award. She now works at Youth Radio as the Development and Media Education Assistant. She is also working on pre-reqs in preparation for law school. “I want to be a public defender,” she said, “but I’m also learning all about the development side of running a nonprofit because I plan on founding my own at some point.”

Right now, she sees herself as a mentor to her students. “I just tell them they get to decide what being successful means to them. That was what I needed to hear.”
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Alba Witkin has a lifetime track record of service to the public good and the cause of human rights. As a young college graduate, she worked with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group, to help Japanese youth get from WWII internment camps to U.S. colleges. In in the early 1940s, counter to the gender conventions of the time, Witkin pursued a master’s degree in Public Personnel Administration from Stanford and a career in Public Administration.

Proving early to be an effective leader, Witkin moved from project to project to commission to post for the next few decades. She was elected to the Sacramento School Board and then held elective and appointive offices with many organizations including the Governor’s Conference on Juvenile Delinquency, the City/County Human Relations Commission, the Blue Ribbon Committee for the Revision of the County Charter, the Sacramento Civil Service Board, Sacramento League of Women Voters, the Sacramento YWCA, the Community Welfare Council, and the Sacramento Peace Center. In 1964, Alba was appointed to the California Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

With an unwavering optimism and belief in well-organized social structures, Witkin always applied her radicalism to institutional reform.

In 1982, Witkin and her husband established the Bernard E. & Alba Witkin Charitable Trust. The foundation was funded by royalties from Bernard’s extensive legal publications and led by Witkin’s vision for bolstering nonprofit work. Their generosity kept music alive in the Berkeley public school system, helped provide affordable housing and food for the needy, supported gender and refugee studies in higher education, funded mental health services, and supported projects for peace, social justice, and human rights.

“I have observed that men often receive the first attention or receive priority for things that they want to do,” she noted, “and I have always felt that women should have equal rights. However, in my work, I have felt that it is best to focus on human rights, for all people.” Perhaps because gender oppression thrives on the insecurity wrought in the absence of human rights.

Alba Witkin is long overdue for recognition. This year she was inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame. The award ceremony is on March 29th.

The 2014 Women’s Hall of Fame will honor the 2014 inductees at an awards ceremony and luncheon on Saturday, March 29 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Event tickets will be available soon.

For more information, call (510) 272-3882 or email WHOF.sponosors@acgov.org.

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