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Vivian Stromberg

Vivian Stromberg Kisalaya (c) Elizabeth Rappaport

Leer nuestro tributo en Español, aquí

Vivian -- a bold, visionary, risk-taking, loving friend and leader -- has died, and we have lost an inimitable force for social justice and for the rights of women and families everywhere.

For decades, Vivian was relentless in her pursuit of human rights and justice for all. She grew up in Brooklyn, NY and dedicated herself to local and global struggles for women’s rights, civil rights, nuclear disarmament and peace. Vivian understood that these are one struggle, to be waged with ferocity and with joy.

In 1983, she was a key founder of MADRE and helped lead our work in solidarity with communities in Nicaragua facing the worst violence of the US-backed Contra wars. Taking on the role of Executive Director in the early 1990s, she grew and deepened our work in solidarity with women in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

Through it all, Vivian’s wisdom, booming voice, and keen strategy kept us rooted in the priorities of grassroots women organizing in communities worldwide. She mobilized with women to bring their voices to spaces of power, knocking down barriers and insisting that all issues are women’s issues. Vivian demanded that women be heard.

As we recall her pioneering work, we recommit to carrying it forward. Vivian spearheaded a groundbreaking campaign called Milk and Medicines, joining women activists from the Americas and the Middle East to drive a convoy of trucks bringing life-saving aid to Iraqi hospitals threatened by US sanctions. She launched a campaign of Mother Courage national speaking tours, bringing the voices of women war survivors to propel a message of peace. She organized million-dollar shipments of medicines to Cuba and condemned the US embargo that threw up barriers to basic health care. She was a staunch ally to Indigenous women organizers, amplifying their vision of individual and collective human rights at the United Nations and in their villages.

She placed herself squarely in the struggle alongside grassroots women and families confronting war, disaster, economic injustice and imperialism. Every day and in her every action, she embodied a fearless, clear, forward-looking vision of a world where every person is guaranteed their human rights. She taught us all to set our own course, to raise our voices and speak uncomfortable truths to power. Loudly.

She swept us all up in her love and laughter, her irreverent humor and the spontaneity that marked every interaction with her. We will each hold these memories with us, and her lasting lesson of how to live a life in full, with joy and tremendous purpose.

Vivian Stromberg, presente!

Read more heartfelt tributes here

Read the New York Times' obituary dedicated to Vivian's life, here

Photo credit: Elizabeth Rappaport