January 18, 2004 the Backbone Campaign awarded Rep. Jim McDermott the very first Backbone Award in honor of his pre-war fact finding trip to Iraq. The presentation was made by Bill Moyer, a co-founder of the BAckbone Campaign. This original, handcrafted award was created by Vashon Island sculptor Hans Nelsen. Subsequent awards were partially cast from a mold made from this trophy.
This presentation turned a somber room into a celebratory space, affirming the connection between representative and constituents. Rituals of praise have strategic value for building our movement.
The Backbone Campaign gave 14 Backbone Awards to progressive national elected and appointed officials for standing up to the Bush Administration. We also gave a number of beautiful inlaid wooden Spine Award plaques to local officials and movement leaders for courageous stands for progressive causes. The Spine Awards were made by woodworker and activist Jason Sawatzki.
As Backbone's emphasis shifted increasingly to movement building and support of community-based efforts we haven't been doing Backbone Award or Spine Award presentations, but these tool may still have a future if deemed a strategic use of our limited energy.
An Oscar-like statue created by sculptors Hans and Eric Nelsen and reserved for elected officials working at the national level of politics.
A wooden plaque with spine inlay, created by activist and woodworker Jason Sawatzki, for local and state politicians, activists, and citizens who champion progressive causes.
The Backbone Campaign provides creative tools to the progressive movement to spark the strategic political engagement of progressives through a media-savvy, culturally rich, and inclusive activist art project. A key part of this project is to honor courageous, progressive elected officials and citizen activists by presenting them with Backbone Awards and Spine Awards . In so doing, we affirm the relationship between representatives and constituents, and the importance of courageous, principled actions taken at politically lonely moments. Our intention is to reward those who rise to the challenge at this crucial historical moment, in support of a broad movement aligned with the principles and positions articulated in our Progressive Platform .
Generally, Backbone and Spine Awards will be considered for individuals when their recognition is deemed to advance the goals stated above and who meet one, but preferably both of the following criteria:
The proposed recipient has demonstrated a record of consistent and active support for progressive principles and positions in a variety of issue areas.
The proposed recipient has publicly displayed moral courage by standing in support of a particular progressive principle at a politically lonely moment.
"No more pre-emptive, illegal war, based on false information. No more God-is-on-our-side religious nonsense to justify this immoral, illegal war." ~ Mayor Rocky Anderson, Salt Lake City Aug. 30, 2006
"However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint..our country is in a state of mourning... Let us think through the implications of our actions today so that this does not spiral out of control... 'As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.'" ~ Rep. Barbara Lee, Congress, Sept. 14, 2001
On Wednesday, October 10 the Backbone Campaign honored two outstanding leaders for their courageous progressives stands, one at an extremely lonely moment, and the other from a very unexpected place. The Backbone Campaign in conjunction with the Progressive Democrats of America presented the Backbone Award to Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Ca) and the Spine Award to Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson at Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C.
The Spine Award recognizes Mayor Anderson for his outstanding progressive leadership. It was presented by PDA Executive Director Tim Carpenter and Backbone Campaign DC activist and blogger (democracycellproject.net) Karen Bradley. The inscription reads:
To the Honorable Ross C. "Rocky" Anderson In Gratitude for Surprising the Nation with Your Bold & Pioneering Progressive Leadership for Peace, Accountability, Equality, and Ecological Stewardship from an Unexpected Corner of the Country.
Mayor Anderson came to the attention of many of us in August of 2006, startling us with his Tell the Truth "welcome" speech when Bush and Co. visited Salt Lake City. Besides the excerpt quoted above, Rocky called out a litany of offenses, to which the audience responded "Tell the Truth!" His criticism extended to an "unquestioning news media," and a "complacent, complicit Congress." Mayor Anderson's progressive leadership spans the policy spectrum and the Spine Award is but one of many that he has received for his great leadership. See below for other striking achievements.
Anderson thanked the entire progressive community for its work, and requested a Backbone Campaign T-shirt! On the night of the awards, Karen Bradley asked Anderson about working as a progressive in a conservative state. He said Salt Lake City is basically progressive and that most of his hate mail comes from other places in Utah.
Representative Barbara Lee is no stranger to hate mail. She gained national attention for her stand in 2001 as the only member of Congress to vote "no" on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Like Anderson, most of the response she received from her constituents was positive, but individuals from outside that area made death threats to her and her family resulting in Capitol Hill Police providing round the clock bodyguards. Backbone Awards are given to federal elected officials who take a strong progressive stand at "politically lonely moments." What could be braver than her sole vote that September day six years ago? (watch video below)
The Backbone Campaign has been attempting to work out logistics to present this award for years. We are delighted that this week, with the help of PDA, we succeeded. The inscription on her Backbone Award reads:
To the Honorable and Courageous Rep. Barbara Lee, In Gratitude for Her Prophetic and Often Lonely Leadership for Humanity, Justice & Peace. "Let us not become the evil that we deplore."
Rep. Lee has continued to be a leader for peace, justice and humanity as Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and long time member of the Congressional Black Caucus. She supports legislation creating a Department of Peace. Lee has authored numerous bills to reign in and end the occupation of Iraq including legislation for no permanent bases and only funding withdrawal. She fought to bar the administration from another illegal attack, this time against Iran. Whether it be HIV, housing, foreign aid, education, immigration, accountability or peace Rep. Barbara Lee is consistently out in front, often the go to person for submitting progressive legislation. Read more about Rep. Lee and her legislative initiatives below.
Rep. Lee was joined by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) at the Busboys and Poets PDA event. Each emphasized the importance of the other, how as a team they were able to be so much more effective as the conscience of the House than either could alone. When Karen Bradley presented Lee with her Backbone award, Lee grinned and laughed in pleasure at being so honored, as evidenced in this photo.
The Backbone Campaign is as always thrilled to work with the wonderful folks at Progressive Democrats of America. Thanks also to Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets for providing the food for the evening, and more important, for providing a venue for the progressive community to meet. We couldn't provide these resources without our great artists, Jason Sawatzki of Seattle, WA who created the Spine Award, and Hans and Eric Nelsen of Vashon Island, WA creators of the Backbone Award.
Above all we thank our volunteers, contributors and members of the Lumbar Club. We can't do this work without you. An effort like this costs the Backbone Campaign approximately $500 in time and expenses. We invite you to become a member of the Lumbar Club and provide the sustaining support it takes to keep showing up the way the Backbone Campaign does.
If video does not appear on your browser click here and see more below.
More on Rocky Anderson:
After taking office in 2000 Anderson committed Salt Lake City to abide by the Kyoto Protocols and by 2005 SLC had far exceeded them. To date, SLC has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 31% from 2001 levels in municipal operations.
In November 2005 the city's Green Program, perhaps the most comprehensive environmental program in the U.S., won the World Leadership Award for the Environment.
As a proponent of transit-oriented urban housing and walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, Anderson signed a Complete Streets executive order, requiring the city to accommodate needs of bicyclists and pedestrians in road construction projects.
Anderson also advocates for the rights and interests of minority communities in Salt Lake City. He created Family To Family, which makes it possible for SLC families to offer financial and emotional assistance to SLC undocumented employees caught in immigration raids.
Upon taking office, he signed an executive order implementing full-fledged affirmative action in City hiring, resulting in historic levels of ethnic minority hiring and retention in City government. The city now employs 34% more ethnic minorities, with a 90% increase in administrative positions held by people of color since 1999.
Anderson has received awards from the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Association of Hispanic Publications for the above as well as his leadership in proposing comprehensive immigration reform and challenging English-only legislation.
Anderson also signed executive orders extending benefits to domestic partners of city employees and banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, creed or race.
Lee is the main proponent of H.R. 176, the Shirley A. Chisholm United States-Caribbean Educational Exchange Act which proposes to educate students from Caribbean countries through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) by providing teacher training and increased community involvement in school activities.
Rep. Barbara Lee introduced the African Health Capacity Investment Act of 2007 in the House of Representatives. The bill would authorize $600 million over three years to train new doctors and nurses in Africa and give them incentives to stay in their home countries to fight the AIDS pandemic and other pressing health issues.
Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey this week introduced the Common Sense Budget Act, a measure that cuts government waste and reallocates the savings to returning veterans' healthcare, public schools, health insurance for children, job training, energy independence, and deficit reduction.
For more information on Representative Lee's legislative initiatives download this.
She is a consistent leader of the peace movement in and outside Congress.