Portrait of a Protest

Taking globalization personally: Nine New Yorkers say what moved them to march on the IMF

Charlie Eaton
Age 19
Resides New York University freshman
Occupation Actor

Raised a Methodist in a well-to-do suburb of San Francisco, Charlie Eaton "got indoctrinated" by a Marxist high-school history teacher, who explained how patterns of inequality have progressed over time. In those years, Eaton would ride his bike 15 minutes to impoverished East Oakland, where he could "relate the history of inequality throughout the world to where I live." He traveled twice to Chiapas, Mexico, to visit the Zapatista rebels—first to meet with sympathizers and to educate himself, then to do human rights observation work. "When the [Mexican] government makes incursions into the community, if a pasty white American like myself is there, it's less likely to conduct atrocities."

"The people united cannot be divided": D.C. protesters form a human chain.
"The people united cannot be divided": D.C. protesters form a human chain.

Arriving in New York for college, Eaton immediately began ratcheting up the level of campus activism around NYU's labor issues: He organized with the No Sweatshop coalition, which convinced NYU to join the Worker Rights Consortium, and helped graduate assistants in their quest to gain the right to elect a union next month. "This is radical campus democracy," says Eaton. "Instances of local empowerment like this, or like Seattle and D.C., bring more people into the movement."

Aaron Snaggs
Age 18
Resides South Jamaica, Queens
Occupation student at Jamaica High School

Four weeks ago Paper Tiger Television, a volunteer video collective, put out a call for a teenage video producer, and Aaron Snaggs signed on. He had never heard of the IMF until someone there gave him a flier about the protests in D.C. "Then I tried to figure out what the I, the M, and the F means."

On Christmas Eve, 1995, Snaggs and his family came to the U.S. from Trinidad because his father believed there'd be more opportunities in New York, but as his interest in the issues surrounding the D.C. protest has deepened, Snaggs has concluded that "you have to learn your past to see where you're going." He recalls listening to his great-grandfather tell about the Yoruban tribe in Cameroon, where his ancestor, a king, sold slaves to the Brits and Scots. "He didn't know what he was sending them to, and when he found out he couldn't change what he had done."

Snaggs wants to return to Trinidad to film the famous carnival at Mardi Gras—but not until he's finished making a video documenting the protest in D.C. "You have to have proof to spread ideas," he says, "and this video will be the proof." Although at first he found it strange to see teenagers organizing—"They usually think adults don't listen"—Snaggs hopes that more will get involved, because "you never know who made the sneakers on your feet."

Lilianne Heyzer-Fan
Age 22
Resides Manhattan
Occupation New School senior

She grew up with development issues "in her consciousness" but "my activism really began during the Asian economic crisis—30 years of development collapsed in literally a few months," says Lilianne Heyzer-Fan. A native of Malaysia, Heyzer-Fan has lived in New York since 1995, when her mother, an executive director at the United Nations Development Fund for Women, brought her and her twin sister here for school. She still visits Malaysia, and she's now seen the instability and insecurity of an economic crisis firsthand. The government imposed sweeping austerity measures; where once she saw thriving local, independent industries, now there are "foreign corporations everywhere."

Heyzer-Fan didn't go to Seattle, but found it so inspiring that she joined in organizing Students for Solidarity and Empowerment, which now has representatives at half a dozen colleges. The group meets semiweekly to hash out their visions for a better world and to critique any demonstrations or direct action that they've been involved with. "This is such a learning experience for all of us," she says. "Whatever background you're coming from, you realize this movement is creating an alternative. For once you feel you're an agent of change." She plans to go to Malaysia this summer to figure out what kind of grassroots work needs to be done. "Development and economic growth are not the same as real human development," she says. "Human development means an expansion of choices, freedom of education, hunger, and the ability to shape one's own future."

Reverend Elizabeth Braddon
Age 51
Resides Brooklyn
Occupation pastor, Park Slope United Methodist Church

Ever since she was ordained 25 years ago, Reverend Elizabeth Braddon has been involved in issues of peace, nuclear power, and social justice. Indeed, seeing church people playing key roles in the civil rights movement was crucial to her decision to become a minister. "I believe the combination of faith and urgency for justice keeps us moving along," the Long Island native says—whether it comes from the Black church in the South or from Latin America's radical priests, who made the gospel a challenge to economic injustice.

What has changed most for her over the years, says Braddon, is that "I've become more global in my consciousness." Park Slope United Methodist now has a sister church in Managua, Nicaragua; Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua's former president, came to New York to speak with the congregation in 1986, and last October a few congregants went to visit his country. "We saw everything from the poorest of the poor sniffing glue to the well-stocked dinner tables of Nicaraguan assembly members."

« Previous Page
Next Page »