The 2012 Jane Bagley Lehman Award Ceremony: A Successful Event and Two Phenomenal Awardees

In November 2012, Tides Foundation awarded the Jane Bagley Lehman Award for Excellence in Public Advocacy to Brenda Dardar- Robichaux and Marylee Orr, for their innovative approaches to social change in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Jane Bagley Lehman Award for Excellence in Public Advocacy is named after Jane Bagley Lehman, one of the founders of Tides and the Chair of the Board until her death in 1988.

The 2012 JBL Award Ceremony took place at Fairgrinds Coffeehouse in New Orleans on November 28, 2012. Casey Budeselich, Director of Client Services at Tides, Drummond Pike, Advisor to the JBL Fund at Tides, Rosa King, Client Specialist at Tides, and Wade Rathke, owner of Fairgrinds Coffeehouse, former Tides board member and advisor to the JBL Fund, were present at the ceremony. The nonprofit community of New Orleans attended, as well as family and friends of the two awardees and finalists. “It was great fun and a great honor to have the Tides' JBL awards presented in New Orleans for the 2nd time in the last 6 years,” said Mr. Rathke, “We were honored to host them at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, which plays an important role in the local nonprofit community now. We wish disasters like Katrina and the BP oil spill were not what brought Tides to town, but whatever the reason, Tides is always welcome and makes a difference here!”

Of the evening, Marylee Orr said, “It was so wonderful to be in a room full of such remarkable people. I am very humbled to have received this award. Jane Bagley was a woman of great courage and vision. To receive something that has her name associated with it is fantastic. Very humbling and very inspiring! To be recognized by Tides by receiving the JBL award helps encourage me to do even more work with and for communities.”

Mrs. Dardar- Robichaux and Mrs. Orr embody the true spirit of what it means to be an activist for your community and to work together to accomplish change. Mrs. Orr is the founding member of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network/LEAN and has served as its Executive Director for the past 26 years. Mrs. Dardar-Robichaux is deeply connected to the Houma tribe and has made their survival her life's work. She began serving on the Tribal Council of the United Houma Nation in 1992. Despite adversity, Mrs. Orr and LEAN, as well as Mrs. Dardar- Robichaux have urged BP to be accountable for the toxic exposure that has caused health impacts for the local community members. “My father is a fisherman and I worked with him through the claims process,” said Mrs. Dardar- Robichaux. “My Dad told me that getting on the boat is like Christmas everyday and it is heartbreaking to know that he hasn’t experienced Christmas since the spill.” Mrs. Dardar- Robichaux continued to state that this is part of what motivates her work for justice.

Social activists are not nearly honored enough for the work they do in their communities, but Tides Foundation has strived to fill that gap. The two awardees are phenomenal women who epitomize the very essence of what Theodore Roosevelt meant of “daring greatly” in his speech “Citizen In A Republic.” * They have devoted themselves to worthy causes they believe in and strive to deliver social justice on a daily basis.

Mr. Rathke commented, “One of the wonderful things about Jane Lehman's vision was the realization, shared by the Tides board, that so many effective organizers and advocates impacting public policy in ways great and small, labor in the vineyards unrecognized and certainly unrewarded. The Tides Foundation JBL Award stands tall and alone in its ability to act importantly in our field.” Overall, it was very inspiring to meet the awardees who have such a deep commitment to their communities. I was glad that Tides Foundation was able to recognize their efforts on behalf of the people that they serve in the Gulf Coast.

* 1. Speech delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on April 23,1910