Change U Facilitators
Jeff Smith has been involved in community organizing and social justice work for 30 years. He lived in housing collective for nearly three decades that practiced simple living, hospitality and was part of the Central American Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s and 90s.
Jeff has done human rights work in Latin American countries that were experiencing war and repression and has produced several documentaries and written a book about his experiences there. He has been involved in numerous social justice campaigns in West Michigan, such as anti-war organizing, anti-racism, pro-feminist men's activism, justice for immigrants and refugees as well as environmental justice work.
Jeff has been doing media and popular education work for nearly 25 years, most of it through the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID), which does media monitoring, Indy news, Media Literacy and workshops on how to use media as an organizing tool.
For the past two years, GRIID has been working on "A People's History of Grand Rapids Project" which began by documenting the history of the LGBT community and resulted in a film which was released in 2011. For the last ten years, GRIID has been offering popular education classes on topics ranging from "A History of US Social Movements" to "Confronting White Privilege."
Small Group Facilitators:
Bill began his career in social justice organizing in high school where he found his passion in LGBT Liberation and hit the ground running. Since moving on to University and beyond he has come to realize that the liberation of one is dependent on the liberation of all and has broadened his focus to include organizing for the emancipation and affirmation of all oppressed/marginalized peoples, as well as for the end of environmental and social degradation under capitalism. With a keen interest in exploring new and sustainable ways of living and acting in community, Bill is dedicated to and has been active in direct-action oriented social justice organizing on both university and community-based platforms. Having participated in both Change U 1.0 and 2.0, Bill is very excited to engage and grow with a new group of inspired and brilliant organizers!
Brett is an artist and educator in his twelfth year as part of Grand Valley's Art & Design faculty. Since participating in both Change U 1.0 and 2.0 Brett has been meeting with a small cohort of other Change U "graduates" in order to work through and confront an array of justice issues, from fracking to marriage inequality. While Brett recognizes the intersectionality of all justice issues, Brett is particularly concerned with the rights of non-human animals and the destructive myth of human privilege. Brett sees the animals rights movement as analogous to the historic struggles of other oppressed groups who have suffered imbalance of power, violent subjugation, exploitation and abuse.
Brett's work as an activist happens primarily through the channels of curating, exhibiting my own art and hosting visits from other creative activists.
For example, in recent months Brett has brought the Beehive Design Collective to the Grand Valley campus to speak about mountain-top removal, curated an exhibition of awareness-raising art around animal welfare for Calvin College's Wake Up Weekend, and lectured on his own exhibition, drawings that explore the fate of several endangered species, at Muskegon Community College.
Karis Granberg-Michaelson believes that beauty will save the world; beauty and cross-issue organizing. She is is a graduate of both Change U 1.0 and 2.0 and is excited to continue the movement making magic. She majored in English with Creative Writing Emphasis at Hope College, a skill she put into good use when she co-authored the Hope is Ready petition to remove Hope College’s Institutional Statement on Homosexuality. She now serves on the board of Holland is Ready, working on legislative advocacy and community organizing for LGBTQ rights, safety and inclusion in Holland, MI. She also serves on the board of Room for All, a nonprofit advocating the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons within the Reformed Church in America. Karis loves to write, paint, play music and wonder about possibilities. Her writing has been published inGeez Magazine and Perspectives.
Fermin Valle recently graduated from GVSU with a B.S. in Biomedical Science. He was born and raised in the southwest side of Chicago in a Mexican immigrant neighborhood. It was the struggle for immigrant rights that first politicized him. He got a start with social justice work organizing primarily in the streets of Chicago around political, social and economic issues.
During his time at Grand Valley he was committed to the struggle for LGBT rights. He organized a group of students to attend the National Equality March in 2009. He participated in Change U 1.0 and 2.0, the LGBT Center’s Pipeline leadership program, and helped initiate the Gender Neutral Housing Coalition at GVSU.
Fermin is both a reader and contributor to SocialistWorker.org. He has a boyfriend Ben that makes him smile everyday.
Elle has been involved in organizing around LGBT issues since high school, and when she came to Grand Valley she became very involved in feminism. Through her involvement with such programs as LGBT Resource Center Ambassadors, Pipeline, and Change U 1.0 and 2.0 Elle learned much about organizing for social justice and utilizing her voice to effect real change for the benefit of marginalized communities. Elle has continued to work with different groups and community members in Grand Rapids and West Michigan on such diverse causes as LGBT rights, education, environmental justice, anti-racism, anti-sexism, and more.
Page last modified January 15, 2013