Note: Thank you very much to the Red Bandana Fund for awarding me the Red Bandana Award for my work this year.
The Seventh Annual Red Bandana Awards ceremony was held on June 9 at the Providence Fire Fighters Union Hall. Awards were given to:
- Camilo Viveiros is currently the Director of the George Wiley Center, a Rhode Island non-profit organization founded by past Red Bandana Award recipient Henry Shelton, advocating for the rights and needs of the poor.
- Bella Robinson is the director of Coyote RI, which advocates for policies to promote the health and safety of people involved in the sex industry. In spite of the stigma often attached to her constituents, Bella has fearlessly spoken out for people many would like to ignore, finding a safe harbor for them and addressing their needs.
- Steve Ahlquist (this author) is an independent journalist, currently the editor-in-chief of Uprise RI, who has dedicated his life to reporting on issues of peace, the environment, and social and economic justice in the Rhode Island area, writing about news and events that other mainstream outlets often do not cover.
Below are the presentations, and the words f acceptance from the awardees.
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Here’s the acceptance speech I gave:
“I first need to thank my wife, Katherine, the most remarkable and amazing person I have ever met, someone I am blessed to have shared most of my life with and who I love with all my heart.
“I also need to thank my children, who are so supportive of the work I do, so patient with my ridiculous schedule, a schedule I almost never know more than a day or two in advance.
“I need to thank the people who support my work financially, making this work less than a purely monastic pursuit and sparing me from a life of abject poverty.
“Finally I need to thank the communities of Rhode Island who have trusted me to tell their stories and share in their struggles, victories and defeats.
“In Bruce Lee’s breakout film Enter the Dragon, the great martial arts star is instructing a student in how to use emotion to apprehend the divine. “It’s like a finger pointing a way to the moon,” says Lee. “Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!”
“When I do my job correctly, I feel like I am that finger. While I am so honored and proud to receive this award, I want to implore everyone here to realize that I am not the point of what I do.
“The communities I serve and the people who trust me are not the communities of privilege and power.
“Those who wield privilege and power do not trust me. To them I am a finger, but not one pointing to the moon.
“They don’t like that very much.
“In my work I try to capture and amplify the voices of people who are too often marginalized, too easily ignored.
“For the communities I serve I hope to be and index finger, pointing towards heavenly glory, the promise of a better tomorrow. It is my honor to give their voices an outlet, that their words and actions might inspire others, and better yet, inspire the change we need in the world, to make it better.”
These awards are given out every year, and the awards committee is always looking for new honorees. If you would like to contact the Red Bandana Fund, please send an email to RedBandanaFund@gmail.com or contact them on Facebook.
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