In Loving Memory
1937 - 2008
In Loving Memory
It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of a wonderful member of the KPFK and Pacifica Family. Always cheerful, and incredibly generous, Don White will be sorely missed. We will be presenting special tributes to Don on the Air, check the [ Programming Highlights ] for the latest details.
DON WHITE, 71, died on June 19th, 2008
Don White long time Southern California activist, Charter Founder and lifetime member of United Teachers of Los Angeles passed away suddenly at his home in Los Angles, CA on June 19, 2008. He will be missed by, not only his family, but literally hundreds of friends and associates of the many organizations in which he was so passionately involved over the past three decades.
Born and raised in Mount Vernon, Washington on April 18, 1937, Don White’s life was a reflection of the last 60 years of the progressive movement in the United States. His leadership abilities became evident during his high school years. He was president of his sophomore class and then president of the Mount Vernon High School Student Body. He graduated from the College of the Pacific studying political science and attended post graduate classes at American University in Washington DC.
From the time that he was a college student in the late 1950's, fighting against the injustice surrounding the House of Representatives' Un-American Activities Committee, Don remained engaged in the struggle for peace and justice for humanity.
After becoming disenchanted with the political scene in Washington DC, he moved to Los Angeles California in 1963 where he taught history at Irving Junior High School. He was deeply committed to issues of equity in educational opportunity, especially for children in the inner cities. Don participated in every teacher’s union strike from 1963 until his retirement in 1997.
In 1976, Don traveled to Guatemala to do relief work following a devastating earthquake there. He called that month-long journey "an epiphany, a life changing experience" which remained a vibrant part of his political psyche that resulted in his friendship and faithful service to Central America. During the war in EI Salvador, Don made 14 trips to that country and to Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. He often traveled to El Salvador to bring direct material aid and on fact-finding missions there, often at risk to his own safety. Don was a member of the Echo Park Chapter of the Committee in Solidarity with the people of EI Salvador, CISPES, since joining the group shortly after its founding convention in 1980.
As an organizer, Board Member and leader of CISPES in Los Angeles, Don coordinated and addressed countless rallies, demonstrations, fund-raisers, teach-in's, delegations, material aid drives, congressional visits, civil disobedience actions demanding an end to U.S. intervention in EI Salvador and Central America. For years he organized and/or participated in protests demanding closure of the US based School of the Americas, known for training members of the military from Latin American countries in methods of torture.
Don White was an organizer of scores of citywide coalitions addressing numerous progressive causes including peace in the Middle East, the treatment of immigrants, police brutality, women’s rights and more. He played a crucial part in the early sanctuary movement, where local churches gave refuge to undocumented immigrants from Central and Latin America, and up until the time of his death he spoke out about human suffering and separation of families as a result of US government immigration raids in Southern California and elsewhere.
He was part of the coalition that following a news story broken by the San Jose Mercury newspaper, mobilized against the CIA bringing in crack cocaine to South Los Angeles. And, as a "Legal Observer" working with the National Lawyers Guild, he could be seen wearing the fluorescent Green Hat worn by the NLG Legal Observers at virtually every major - and minor - demonstration in Los Angeles.
Don was a founding member of the Southern California Fair Trade Network, which organized for the 1999 World Trade Organization protests held in Seattle, Washington referred to as “The Battle in Seattle” which has been hailed as ushering in a new era of activism in the United States and internationally. He was one of the lead organizers in protests referred to as “D2K” which were held during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. Several of the D2K protests were the largest Los Angles had seen for some time, and several law suits were filed and won against Los Angeles Police Department for their actions both in the lead up to and during the protests.
He served on the Boards of the Coalition in Solidarity with the people of EI Salvador, the Office of the Americas and Americans for Democratic Action, as well as being the first chair of the Local Station Board of Los Angeles listener-sponsored radio station KPFK, 90.7 fm. He also served several terms on Pacifica Radio's National Board. He was a key supporter of the Pacifica Foundation and KPFK, and was involved in a lengthy community led struggle to democratize the Foundation and the station. Don volunteered during KPFK fund drives, most recently several days before his death, and he helped to bring new talent to the station.
Don White was also a lead organizer and coordinator in countless mass demonstrations for peace and pro-immigrant rallies in Los Angeles. He helped organize the 3-day LA Social Forum to be held the weekend of June 27th, 2008. He was active in the Ad Hoc Working Group on Haiti where he was a constant presence at the weekly vigils calling for the safe return of Haitian Human Rights Activist Lovinsky Pierre Antoine. He stood with anti-war veterans as well as anti-war active duty soldiers. He firmly supported and helped to fundraise for Augustine Aguayo for Iraq Veterans Against the War and for the team that produced the film Arlington West. And at the time of his death he was organizing among other activities, for the visit to Los Angeles of Mauricio Funes, the FMNL candidate for President of El Salvador.
As a dynamic speaker, he was a fixture of the progressive movement, often serving as Master of Ceremonies or moderator at events sponsored by a wide range of organizations and coalitions. He was regularly the guy who made the pitch for money at demonstrations as well as social and political events -- because he put people at ease, could make them laugh, and made them want to give and be a part of something much larger than themselves. As a result, Don raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for scores of progressive and humanitarian organizations.
For his 70th birthday, a birthday party invitation went out from actor and activist Martin Sheen, and the party was not only a celebration but also a fundraiser for the local peace movement.
Don leaves behind, his brother Dennis and sister-in-law Harriet White, their children Denise Smith and Lori White, their grandchildren Haley Smith, Rachel LaCasse and Campbell, sister-in-law Lucrecia (Bobbi) Way, nephews George and Gary Way and their families and many friends in the Pacific Northwest, in California, across the US as well as in El Salvador. In the style of the activist community to whom Don was so committed, a meeting of friends, family and community based organizations has been organized to plan his public memorial. Several on-air tributes have been paid to Don White on Pacifica Radio’s KPFK.
Contributors to this biography include: Jan Goodman; Blase and Theresa Bonpane; Dennis White; Lydia Brazon and Margaret Prescod.
An Evening to Celebrate the Life of Our
Compañero Don White
Sunday, August 10th ~ 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Immanuel Presbyterian Church
(Corner of Berendo Street, 2 blocks west of Vermont Ave.)
THE PROGRAM WILL INCLUDE:
ORGANIZIED BY: El Comité de Companeros de Don 'Blanco'
Immanuel Presbyterian Church
3300 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90010
(@Berendo Street, 2 blocks west of Vermont Ave.)
PARKING: Available across the street at the United Teachers Los Angeles Union Hall
PUBLIC TRANSIT: Vermont & Wilshire Red Line Stop
Below are some statements, reactions and photos
We will continue to post and expand our tribute to Don White.
Photos Courtesy of Sonali Kolhatkar, Margaret Prescod and Nalini Lasiewicz
June 22, 2008
Dear Staff, Listeners, Programmers and Members of the LSB:
It is with a truly heavy heart that I must tell you of the death of my friend, and the friend of all the world, Don White. Don passed away suddenly; we are not exactly sure when. Indeed, as of this writing we do not have any more details.
It will not be possible to fully describe here the degree of loss, both personal and political, that Don's death represents. To describe his contribution to KPFK and Pacifica alone, would fill a volume.
Don was simply a one-man progressive movement for peace and for social, economic and political justice. To say that he will be missed, is trite beyond words.
When we know more and have had a chance to digest this tragic news a bit, we will be back to you with more, including what I am sure will be an announcement of a memorial service for Don.
Until then, let me simply end with a paraphrase of Don's sign-off on his answering machine...
"justice for all and peace in Iraq and El Salvador, and peace every where in the world..."
With deep regrets,
interim General Manager
Our Beloved Don White Died Yesterday - PRESENTE
You Are the Most Loved & Respected Person in the Peace & Justice Movement, here in Los Angeles.
Your commitment to peace & social justice causes of all kinds, your kindness, your heart, your knowledge, your wit, your humor, your understanding, your patience, your selflessness, your caring for others, and your never-ending ability to work with those of us trying to make the world a better place - always helping to bring solidarity and togetherness. You did it all with a smile on your face and with love in your heart for everyone. There will be a special memorial service for you very soon. We will need to have it in a very big place so that all of your many friends can come to remember you and to honor you for the friend you were to so many of us.
DON WHITE...PRESENTE! PRESENTE! PRESENTE!
Yes, Don, you were present, you always were present and we think you are still present.
You were present to assist in the formation of Medical Aid to El Salvador.
You were present in the formation of CISPES
At great personal risk, you brought the good news of CISPES to El Salvador in the midst of a bloody conflict. And you constantly returned to El Salvador during the worst moments of that war.
And you were (are) present in the needs of the millions of refugees in the United States.
You clearly and forcefully denounced the police state tactics of the ICE raids. You were always there to oppose the rape and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
We treasure our days with you in Los Angeles, Central America and also in various jail cells.
Your life was lived to the last moment in full force and bountiful.
For the communication of truth, justice and peace you served as a force of nature as a board member for the Office of the Americas, the Pacifica National Board and the KPFK Local Board.
How can any person do so much?
In Spanish this is called "entrega total" (total dedication). It is the virtue of a revolutionary. Don, you were (are) the moral revolution called for by Dr. Martin Luther King. You were never in an ideological trap but you were flush with the spiritual values that will revolutionize the world. This is the moral revolution fostered by love, joy, justice, peace, courage, endurance and compassion. These profound spiritual qualities were the very pillars of your magnificent life.
"By their fruits you shall know them."
Adios companero Blanco!
La lucha misma es la victoria, (The struggle itself is the victory).
Theresa and Blase Bonpane
Last Sunday my friend Emma called me and said, “Look there’s this nasty rumor going around that Don White was found dead in his apartment.” I was shocked but didn’t believe it for a second. I called Don’s home and heard his answering machine message. I didn’t leave a message. I called around to several friends who knew Don better than I and found that it was true. Our dear friend Don White, whom I had just seen one week earlier, answering phones in KPFK’s phone room, was apparently dead.
The shock was too deep to bear alone. I awoke my sleeping husband, who also knew Don. We hugged and cried together, unable to believe it. We had known Don White since our early days of activism in LA, when we had just moved to the city and were looking for ways to get involved. There was Don, on the streets, in the meeting halls, behind the scenes, and out in front fundraising. He was everywhere, he was always smiling, and yet involved in the serious work. He never complained about anyone or anything. He was a peace maker, a warrior, a worker and a leader. He was my companero. He was my friend. And he was the friend of thousands of you out there. Each one of you who knew Don White has a story to tell about him. In my effort to process my grief, I poured myself into the work of putting together today’s memorial program for Don.
– Sonali Kolhatkar
We so treasure you Don, and all the work you do to make this a friendlier planet for everyone, everything. If cloning were EVER a good idea, we would start with you.
Love and Hugs,
Sally Marr & Peter Dudar
Nine days ago, Don White and about ten others of us sat in a KPFK committee meeting at the Peace Center. Don did what he’s become known for over the past few decades–listening, and absorbing, what everyone else had to say, then adding his remarks which were always tactful and often trimmed with wit. Then Don did something else we’ve all become accustomed to – he excused himself and left to attend another meeting seeking justice for the oppressed. His participation in any activity that made things better for those who didn’t have it so good was as natural to him as breathing in and breathing out.
Don White is dead, but Don White will live on in our memories and in the good works he has inspired us to continue.
It is with a heavy heart that I write that Don White has left us. This is one of the saddest days ever -- for all who knew Don and all that benefited from his commitment to people and the planet. He was a mentor, an example of who we can be for others, a shining example of what it means to be the best human that you can be. He was a dear friend to me and a partner in many causes.
Don White gave me faith in humanity. He was one of the greatest human beings that ever lived and most certainly the kindest, most compassionate, generous and gracious person I've ever met. He embodied the quote, "Be the change you wish to see in the world" (Gandhi). I am devastated by his having left the building. But I know that I am a better person for having known Don White, as is everyone with whom he made contact and even millions who never had the privilege of meeting this saint of a man.
I miss you already, Don. Rest in Peace, my friend. You'll always be my chair & I'll always be your vice (chair)!
Don was a very special person and staunch ally of all those "voices of struggle, voices of change" that the SWANA Collective features on Radio Intifada. He will be sorely missed by all of us struggling for peace and social justice. Shukran,Don.
Don White. . . PRESENTE
Sherna Gluck for SWANA (South and West Asia and North Africa) Collective
I and so many others are stunned and deeply saddened. Still in shock. I saw don pretty much every week doing activist work he and the women's group with whom I am active do together, including at weekly vigils on haiti. Indeed we were to have a mtg in a few days, to plan a visit to the bolivian consulate that don had set up for us, and to meet up again at the la social forum next weekend.
I have known and worked with don in one capacity or another since the 1980's. It is so very hard to grasp and absorb, yet in a weird way I understand how quickly and easily things like this can happen. Some of you may recall my very serious illness last year, you may not have known that I was just hours away from death, but I came back, and don was so very concerned and kind, tracking me down and writing about his deep concern.
His voice of reason and balance will be missed dearly. I know of few people who were so dedicated to social change than don, it was his whole life, he worked tirelessly and always with great humor, love and compassion. He will be mourned by thousands in socal, and by many more in el salvador. Don white presente! Will write more as will others, also he will be remembered on my show and others on kpfk. What a loss!!!!
I was shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Don White.
I've only got to know Don White while serving on the KPFK local station board over the past two years. Don was always appropriate. He was always kind spoken and he always had a funny story to tell, and he had a wonderful sense of humor.
I had great respect for his wisdom and knowledge.
Don Whites passing will be a loss for all of us, but his spirit will live on, through the example he set as a person who worked for justice for all people, and a world that works for everyone, His legacy to all of us, is how we can live our lives as compassionate, loving human beings.
I will truly miss him,
Don White was the ideal ally -- passionate, committed, informed, responsible, accountable, humane, energetic, energizing, fair, and tireless. To him the work - not ego or personal agenda -- was boss. Like so many others, I thank him, admire him and miss him.
The Arab American Press Guild extends its condolences to all activists who are mourning the sudden loss of Don White. I first met him in 1986 when I was regional director of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee. I immediately admired Don for his enthusiasm and tireless efforts to acheive justice for all people who are denied it.
Don's primary interest was for the persecuted people in Central America but he always used his organizing abilities and speech-making talents to improve our demonstrations against the brutal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people.
It will be difficult to find such a dedicated champion in the struggle against the oppression and economic exploitation of most people in the Third World. A case in point was how sorely we missed Don's input June 25 when 16 of us testified before the Los Angeles City Council against Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's expensive junket to Israel to hire Israeli security experts to oversee security at our port and LAX.
Don was an example all of us will long remember.
Samir Twair, President
Arab American Press Guild
On Sojourner Truth, Margaret Prescod had a discussion about Don White with those who knew him best.
Original Air Date: Tuesday June 24, 7-8 am (PST)
Activists throughout Southern California are stunned and grieved by the sudden death of Don White, well known Southern California activist and KPFK Local Station Board member. Don White contributed more than most to the movements for peace and justice, including his work with CISPES which is the Committee in Support of the People of El Salvador, Office of the Americas, numerous peace, anti-war, anti-intervention, pro-immigrants rights groups and coalitions, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Haiti, mass protests and more. He is being mourned and will be missed by thousands throughout Southern California, and thousands more in El Salvador.
When Don died, he was in the midst of organizing for the upcoming LA Social Forum, we will hear from one of the Forum organizers to learn more about the workshops and other activities planned for first Los Angeles Social Forum.
Listen to an archive of this program:
Uprising aired an hour-long tribute to Don White on Wednesday June 25th from 8-9 am
with archived interviews of Don on Uprising reporting on the elections in El Salvador, and the protests against CAFTA. Also reactions from his close friends and allies in a variety of movements locally and nationally, and phone calls from listeners.
Listen to an archive of this program: Play Podcast:
On the Insighters with Maria Armoudian. Maria was joined by Naomi Klein, Tom Hayden and Father Roy Bourgoise. Father Roy joined Blase and Maria speaking about Don White.
Listen to an Archive of this show- Play stream: Play Podcast: