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LOCAL News :: Civil & Human Rights

In Memorium: Michael de Beer, social justice community organizer

Michael de Beer died on Sunday, August 6th, 2006 while on a kayaking trip in New Hampshire. He was the lead organizer for Richmonders Involved in Strengthening Communities (RISC). Memorial services info will be shared as we receive it.
I have taken the liberty of sharing the following message from the Richmond Peace Education Center listserv. Please feel free to add to this story in the form of a comment and use this as an online memorial to Michael de Beer. - JG



I'm deeply saddened to share the news that Michael de Beer, the staff director of Richmonders Involved in Strengthening Communities (RISC) died
unexpectedly yesterday.

In the 9 or so months since Mike arrived to Richmond, he organized a broad multifaith movement for social justice that succeeded in securing commitments from city council members and the sheriff in support of a living wage for city contractors and funding for drug rehabilitation for prisoners. Mike was RPEC's neighbor in the Berryman Center, and a personal friend.

This is a terrible loss to those who knew him, and a loss to the city as well. Mike was a wonderful person and a phenomenal community organizer who
centered his organizing work around careful listening and methodical consensus building. He will be truly missed. I will send information about a memorial service when I hear more.

Adria Scharf
Richmond Peace Education Center

Some additional info from the web:

Before coming to Richmond:

Michael de Beer is an alumni of the Direct Action and Research Training Center (DART). The following is from DART's alumni profiles:

Michael de Beer graduated from Amherst College in 1996 with an interdisciplinary degree in History, Philosophy, and Sociology. After school, he spent several years working with Non-Governmental Organizations in South Africa and England, as well as, directed staff for a non-profit technology organization in San Francisco, California. While working at his last position, Michael became union steward and chief contract negotiator. Through his union activities, he was introduced to the concept of organizing for power and began looking for a career in the field. This led him to seek positions within both union and community organizing. Ultimately, he decided to pursue community organizing with the DART network because he saw the strength in working with religious congregations due to their shared values for justice and equality. When reflecting on Michael’s own values, he writes, “I get very angry at systems of racism, sexism, and vilification of the poor. This comes out of my growing up in a family that worked against apartheid; my uncles were either imprisoned or expelled from South Africa, and my parents left before such could befall them and their children. I can see my values and anger in the choices I have made in my life – what I have done, what I have not done. They are how I chose my college major, why I travel and work in ‘dangerous’ places, why I devote many hours each week to political action and service, and my very identity as a person who is about working for social justice.?


In recent months, Michael has helped Richmond make significant strides toward a responsible procurement policy for city contract jobs and increased services for those leaving the Richmond City jail. Please see the stories that follow:

RISC pressures city council to commit to Passing Living Wage by Oct 1st

A Modest Proposal: RISC has appealed to city council to pass a living wage ordinance.

Temporary Savings: A coalition is urging the city to pay day laborers more — but no one knows how much that will cost.

Since Michael's arrival in Richmond, one area discussion board has been very active with regard to the living wage issue (the board goes back three years)

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