A native of Chicago, Stephen Bradberry currently serves as the Lead Organizer of the New Orleans chapter of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families working together for social justice and stronger communities. On November 16th Bradberry will be presented with the 2005 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
Immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit, Bradberry spearheaded a project sending out hundreds of text messages to New Orleans ACORN members with cell phones helping members to find assistance and connecting them with ACORN members in cities like Houston who opened their homes to flood victims.
In the aftermath of Katrina, Bradberry has become a voice for the displaced poor of New Orleans. Stephen has begun organizing the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association, uniting survivors to have a real say in how their communities are rebuilt. He is working to assure New Orleans poor have a right to return to their city, the means to take care of themselves, access to housing and credit, and that their concerns are treated with fairness and dignity in the rebuilding process.
Bradberry's advocacy has focused on addressing the everyday problems affecting the low income communities of New Orleans. He has fought to protect the economic, political, and social rights of these often forgotten citizens through public interest campaigns targeted at promoting a living wage, preventing lead poisoning in children, giving parents a say in local schools, preventing predatory lending, and increasing voter participation.
Bradberry is often praised for his ability to bring diverse groups together for the good of the community. In 2002, Bradberry united the varied interests of community organizations, faith based institutions, academia, and labor into a collaborative known as Community Labor United to improve the conditions of low-income workers in New Orleans through one of our nation's only successful livable wage campaigns. Their efforts resulted in sixty-three percent of New Orleans' voters backing a wage hike that affected 75,000 workers. The campaign produced a city ordinance in New Orleans increasing the minimum wage only to later be overturned by the Louisiana legislature.
Bradberry also established Urbanheart, a city-wide education collaborative in New Orleans to provide a greater voice for parents and community residents in the decision making process for local schools. The organization operates in five public schools, using arts and organizing as key components of after-school work. Each of the five sites is managed by a site team comprising students, parents, staff and neighborhood residents and organizations. These sites send representatives to the citywide UrbanHeart board, which assists with community organizing and ensuring local, grassroots, collective governance.
Bradberry has also worked to address public health issues in New Orleans low income neighborhoods. Recognizing the health risks of lead paint for children in New Orleans poorer neighborhoods, Stephen successfully designed and pushed for a ban of dry sanding of lead-based paint in the city. He also worked with Center for Disease Control on informing the public of lead paints' dangers.
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