Beautiful friend and comrade Rose Braz died on May 2, 2017 after a three-year battle with brain cancer. She was 55.
Rose grew up in Concord, California with her brother Joe and parents Ray and Rosalie Braz. The first of her working-class Portuguese-American family to attend college, earning a degree from UC Berkeley in 1983, she was a dynamic and impassioned activist from early adulthood until her death.
Rose worked her way through college while counseling draft resisters and smashing patriarchy with the Women’s Liberation Front. After graduating, she was a leader of the Campaign against Apartheid, where she participated in the blockading of a South African cargo ship in San Francisco and in the 1986 Shantytown protest outside the UC Chancellor’s office that led to the university’s total divestment from companies doing business in South Africa.
In 1987, Rose travelled throughout southern Africa and taught English at a Zimbabwean school serving disabled ex-combatants and refugees. There she oversaw the creation of the school library and the publication of the school’s first magazine, “Progress.” Twenty years later, copies were still on the counter in the library.
At law school in Berkeley, she led a campaign to diversify the school’s largely white, male faculty. She interned at the East Bay Community Law Center and the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva. After graduating in 1992, Rose worked as a criminal defense attorney, defending political protestors, among others, and advocating for the release of political prisoners.
Rose co-founded Critical Resistance, and was a key leader in the national movement to abolish the prison industrial complex, fighting prison construction and forging enduring alliances among anti-prison and environmental and social justice organizations.
Angela Davis said, “The international abolitionist movement owes a greater debt to Rose Braz than can ever be adequately acknowledged. Rose has always modeled the dedication, compassion, and humility that distinguish our very best social justice leaders. I consider myself one of the many who have been profoundly inspired by her example. Wherever there is struggle, resistance, and dreams of a better future, Rose’s spirit and legacy will be secure.”
From 2009 until her death, Rose was the Climate Campaign Director for the Center for Biological Diversity. There, she founded the Center’s grassroots climate organizing program and launched several national climate and anti-fracking coalitions. She ran the Clean Air Cities campaign, which spurred nearly 100 cities to pass resolutions to use the Clean Air Act to slash greenhouse pollution. In 2013, she co-founded Californians Against Fracking, a statewide coalition working to ban fracking in California, that passed fracking bans in six California counties.
Beyond all of these bold and bright contributions, Rose was kind, generous, warm, fun and wildly unpretentious. Her smile was contagious and her power and critical insight never stopped her from connecting with all kinds of people.
Rose and her adoring partner Brent Plater lovingly cared for two rescue dogs, Charlotte and, later, Frosty, famous for their endearingly quirky personalities.
The movement has lost a powerful force – and so have those of us who were lucky enough to have known her. The only solace to be had is the knowledge that she is part of our hearts and her example will continue to inform our work towards a better world.
Donations in Rose’s honor can be made to the Wild Equity Institute.