Better Know a Leader
Leadership is an on-going work and practice that happens everywhere. We feel it is important to build our awareness of those who take up their work as leaders to create positive social change.
Our Center’s “Better Know a Leader” is a social media series that focuses on educating our anteater community about leaders outside of UCI who are doing incredible work, but may not always be given the recognition for doing so.
Coretta Scott King
Most people may be familiar with American minister and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., but most people might not even have heard of Coretta Scott King, his wife and one of the most influential human rights activists and leaders!
In addition to being a mother of four children, she incorporated her passion/specialty in music into her work, such as by performing in Freedom Concerts, a poetry and musical performance that raised funds to support an organization called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that her husband served for as the first president. She took significant measures to continue her husband’s legacy after his assassination and impacted the lives of many with her words and actions. Mrs. King not only supported her husband in his works, but also took initiative to achieve her own goals in life and made history.
Read more about Mrs. King at The King's Center website.
On the tragic day of September 11 when 2996 innocent lives were stolen, the heroic acts of a man named Rick Rescorla was able to prevent nearly 2700 others from suffering the same fate.
A former military and police officer, Rescorla was already known as a hero earlier in his life due to his contribution during the Vietnam War. In his later years, he went on to work as the head of security for the Morgan Stanley in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Due to a prior 1993 terrorist attack, Rescorla was not only frustrated at how poorly the building evacuations were, he was also believed that the World Trade Center would once again suffer from the same tragedy. Taking matters into his own hands, he developed an emergency evacuation plan that he required the Morgan Stanley employees to practice over and over. Thus, by the time they had received news of the first plane hit, Rescorla immediately began his evacuation process before the second plane struck the South Tower. Because of his instinct and belief that he knew he was right, almost all but 13 of the Morgan Stanley employees were able to safely escape the building before it collapsed. Unfortunately, Rescorla was not one of them. Last seen near the 10th floor, he was still trying to make his way up to help the last of his colleagues escape. His body was later never found. Although not commonly talked about, to the thousands that he had saved, he was a hero that they owed their lives to.
Read more about Rick Rescola at the America Matters website.
Rosa Parks may be known as the “first lady of civil rights” for not giving up her seat during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, but Claudette Colvin was actually arrested for the same offense nine months prior to her!
As a child, Colvin experienced segregation first-hand as early as four years old and took the bus regularly since her parents did not own a car. One day, the bus driver asked her and another pregnant black women to move out of their seat for a white woman that was left standing, and the two of them refused. The driver called the police on them, and Colvin was arrested and charged for “disturbing the peace,” “violating segregation laws,” and “assault.” She kept quiet about case and was left under the shadows of Rosa Parks, but her mom discouraged her from speaking up about it. She was one of the main contributors of the Browder vs. Gayle court case that eventually led to the ruling of bus segregation as unconstitutional. Despite the fact that Colvin was not recognized right away for her actions, she says that she does not regret them and is proud of the movement she sparked.
Read more about Claudette Colvin on Wikipedia.
As a behind-the-scenes civil rights hero, Ella Baker was an important figure in history. By the late 1930s, Baker joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as their field secretary and then later, director.
Inspired by the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, Baker co-founded In Friendship, an organization that raises money for the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Two years later, she worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and coordinate reform efforts in the South. She later left in 1960 to help college activist groups organize the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It became one of the most influential organizations in American civil rights history due to its commitment in effecting change through Freedom Rides and the emphasis it put on African American voting rights. Because of her influence, Baker earned the nickname “Fundi,” which, in Swahili, refers to a person who teaches a craft to the next generation. She continued to be a respected and influential leader all the way until her death on her 83rd birthday.
Born as Ludmya Bourdeau, Mia Love was raised as the youngest child of three and the daughter of poor Haitian immigrants.
Born in Yuma, Arizona, César Estrada Chávez immigrated to California with his family in 1938, constantly looking for ways to escape their cycle of poverty.
A laborer and farmhand, Filipino-American immigrant Larry Itliong was an avid believer in workers’ rights. Unable to stand the mistreatment and poor pay of his fellow Filipino immigrants, he joined strikes and helped set up labor unions.
Pedro Zamora, born on March 1, 1972, was an immigrant from Havana, Cuba. He is known as the first openly gay and HIV-positive person to appear on television.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, is well known for his works across the world. Contributing greatly during the Vietnam War, he traveled to the U.S and Europe to call for an end to hostilities in Vietnam and spread messages of peace and brotherhood.
Kurt Chew-Een Lee
Kurt Chew-Een Lee was born in California in 1926 to two Chinese immigrants. He was a brave Korean War hero and the first non-white Asian American to join the U.S Marine Corps.
Kim Coco Iwamoto
Former commissioner of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, Kim Coco Iwamoto is a well-known Japanese-American Hawaiian politician and trans woman.