Vera P. Michelson
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Michelson, Vera P. ALBANY Vera P. Michelson, known to all of us affectionately as "Mike," passed away on March 9, 2019, surrounded by her brother David Michelson, his wife Carmen and "Mike's" team of loving and attentive friends after a short and fast-moving bout of cancer. Mike was born in Northampton, Mass. in 1945. She was predeceased by her parents, Eva Dembinsky Michelson and Dr. Harry Michelson. Mike is survived by her brother David Michelson, his wife Carmen; niece Melinda Tessier and her husband Michael; nephews, John Michelson and his wife Heidi, and David Michelson and his wife Sarah; several great-nieces and nephews; as well as her large extended family and her many, many friends. Mike was a superb lifetime activist and organizer; she was a warrior for racial and social justice starting in high school when she organized a protest when the Mayor of Northampton took down the United Nations' flag from City Hall. Mike graduated from Russell Sage College and then received a M.S. in education from the University at Albany. She started work with the Rensselaer County Community Action Program. Thereafter Mike worked for the State of New York for many years at O.D. Heck. She was president of her C.S.E.A. Local #445 and one of the activists that organized in support of the union's 1977 strike vote. At the time of her retirement in 2004, Mike was the affirmative action officer at this agency and had been instrumental in organizing its Foster Grandparents program. In the '60s and '70s, Mike was a supporter of the Brothers, a local militant civil rights group. She was also one of two organizers that helped create a Welfare Rights Organization in Rensselaer and started a teen center. Mike was also one of the founding community members of the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health Center. Mike helped organize the Capital District Coalition Against Apartheid and Racism (CDCAAR) in 1981 to oppose the U.S. tour of the South African Springbok rugby team and became a nationally and internationally known figure in the anti-apartheid movement. On the eve of the national demonstration in Albany to protest the playing of a rugby game, with the shunned South African team, Mike and three others were arrested in a pre-dawn raid on her apartment by the F.B.I. and other police agencies. The arrest was based on false information from a discredited informant that the demonstration was going to be violent. The charges were eventually dismissed. As co-chair of CDCAAR for many years, Mike led efforts to isolate the apartheid regime by organizing demonstrations and local participation in numerous cultural boycotts. She also promoted the divestment of New York State of public pension funds from corporations that supported apartheid. During this period, Mike testified at several U.N. conferences and attended an African National Congress Conference in Lusaka, Zambia. She traveled to South Africa, Namibia, and Mozambique in conjunction with her anti-apartheid work and her support of Southern Africa liberation struggles. In the late 1980's Mike also participated in the Mandela Friendship Brigade to Cuba. Mike led CDCAAR's efforts to organize against local police brutality, often collaborating with the Albany NAACP and the Center for Law and Justice. Mike served as a board member of the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region for eight years where she focused on board development, a fundraising plan for large donors, and organized several jazz-themed fundraising events. Mike was a member of the Capital District Working Families Party and very involved in a series of local elections including being one of the first volunteers in Mark Mishler's campaign for Albany County District Attorney in 2000. In 2005, Mike was the volunteer coordinator for Barbara Smith's first campaign for Common Council. She also worked on Corey Ellis's campaign for Common Council and Kathy Sheehan's campaigns for Mayor. Mike volunteered for President Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns and travelled to swing states to do door-to-door canvassing. Mike was involved in a series of organizations committed to police accountability and criminal justice reform. She served as a volunteer on the District Attorney's Community Accountability Board, was a member of the Gun Violence Implementation Team Advisory Council, and together with Dr. Alice Green and others was instrumental in the City of Albany finally hiring a police chief committed to community policing in 2010. Mike's most recent projects included working as a founding member and secretary of ROOTS (Re-Entry Opportunities and Orientation Toward Success), an organization established by ex-offenders and supporters to mentor persons who were formerly incarcerated. She was centrally involved in supporting the SNUG anti-gun violence initiative as an advocate and as a mentor to the SNUG team. Mike worked to bring L.E.A. D. (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) to Albany. Mike was also a volunteer administrator for Urban Grief, a community-based project which provides support to families and community members traumatized by violence. Mike received many awards for her social justice work including the YWCA's Tribute to Women (1987), NY Civil Liberties Union (2015), Jefferson Award (2016), Citizen Action Jim Perry Progressive Leadership Award (2018) and recognition from the Social Justice Center (1990). Mike was known for her marvelously unique sense of humor which lasted to the end. In her spare time Mike was a jazz aficionado, movie buff, godmother, devoted auntie to countless children and a loving, generous, and wise friend to so many. Mike's family and friends wish to acknowledge and thank the staff of the Albany Medical Center Hospital, St. Peter's Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and the Hospice Inn at St. Peter's Hospital for the loving care and attention they provided her over the past two months. There will be a celebration of Mike's life at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Urban Grief, 350 Henry Johnson Blvd., Suite # 324 #41, Albany, NY, 12204 or at or to R.O.O.T.S., Inc., P.O. Box 6568, Albany, NY 12206.

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Published in Albany Times Union on Mar. 10, 2019.
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33 entries
April 6, 2019
We are all better people for having known Mike! I'm am so sad that I will never see her again (in this life). My thoughts and prayers are with the family.
Louis Clarke
March 30, 2019
What a wonderful woman. This world should have more like her.
jane dean
March 29, 2019
A Champion for the Underdogs~~~
Ed Kuta
March 21, 2019
Dear David and family,
I was overwhelmed with sadness reading of Mike's passing - and regret for not contacting her in recent years. We met in junior high school and the last time we saw each other was at a high school reunion around 10 years ago. She spoke then of her political activism in the Obama campaign which was clearly just a small part of her resume. As I've taken in the news of her death and the magnitude of her wide ranging gifts of service and dedication to those less fortunate, I'm reminded of her taking me under her wing from time to time as an advocate and friend in high school. Her kindness influenced my life in ways she never knew. What a shining example of courage and selfless generosity. My heart goes out to you, her family, and the many people closest to her.
Susan Loud
March 19, 2019
I love you and miss you Auntie Mike. You've been in my life since I can remember back in the late sixties. From listening to my Dad playing Jazz in Arbor Hill, to Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Wilmington DE, Philadelphia, South Carolina and Albany, NY... you've always been in my life and will forever remain there. Love Henry
Henry Wilson
March 16, 2019
In loving memory of a wonderful person. We will love you and miss you always.
Bonnie Oliver
March 16, 2019
Dear David, Carmen & family~
Oh, the places she went!
Surely Dr. Seuss wrote that book about Mike! She was always a force to be reckoned with. Everyone who knew Mike knew if there was an injustice she was on it immediately. She didn't wait for someone else to start the ball rolling--she got it rolling. She was born to be an activist. She had no choice, it was in her blood. I've known Mike since junior high school and even then she was always at work trying to improve life for the common good. One always expects a person with so much vitality, unbounded energy, and goodness to go on forever so this is a very sad time. She was a true friend to so many and will be missed by all. It will be very difficult to fill the void left by Mike's passing.
Thinking of you, David & family, and wishing you peace.
Marianne Foster
March 15, 2019
May your light continue to shine on us guide us and eluminate the World as you have.
With Great Respect
Lala Ngoxolo Auntie Mike Ezulwini sobonana futhi zonke insizi seziphele Nya!
Love and Light
Dorothy Vereen
March 14, 2019
Mike my love and precious memories of you will never fade.
Your contributions to us all will remain.
Eloise Plenty-Whethers
March 14, 2019
Thank you for your smile, courage, dedication and commitment to our community. Rest in Peace!
Maria Perez
March 13, 2019
shirley lumpkin
March 12, 2019
My heart is heavy to learn of the passing of my friend Mike. She will be missed by the community that she served so well. I will miss my long-time close friend.

Mike and I met in 1968 when we worked together at Rensselaer County Neighborhood Youth Corps in Troy. We have remained friends for fifty years. I feel blessed to have the treasured memories that came with all the years. So when the tears are gone, I am grateful that I can hold on to the memories.

Thank you Mike for enriching my life through our friendship.
Rest In Peace and Love,
Bettye Zeringue
March 12, 2019
I'm speechless, all I have is my Tears, not out of sadness, but out of having the honor of knowing such a great woman for many years. Aunty Mike was so special, a fighter. She had a great big heart, and she will be greatly missed.
Carmen Hall
March 12, 2019
Mike was a real special and dynamic woman. I met her in 1980, while we were both living in Central Towers. She was a real advocate against injustice, racism, violence and dedicated her life with helping others. She was give much and used it to make a difference. During evenings, I remember her helping residents find employment. While working tirelessly as an advocate, Mike loved art and music. She could have lived anywhere, but chose to live in Arbor Hill, among the people she helped. That is a true testament of her commitment. Just a special person, who when you saw her, she left you with a feeling of positive love. I can honestly say that her friendship made my life better and I'm glad to have known her. Thank you Mike.
March 12, 2019
Wow earth has lost great person and heaven gained an angel.... She will live on in the memories of all the people she touched... SIP sweet lady SIP.
Maxine, Al Williams
March 11, 2019
Mike was the personal embodiment of the often quoted 2000 year-old saying by Hillel the Elder: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And, if I am for myself alone, then what am I? And, if not now, when?
Leo and Martha Levy
March 11, 2019
Mike, the shining light in my dark tunnel. You meant the world to many. You brightened my day many times. Your words of encouragement and support meant so much . Your believing in me when many didn't made me believe in myself even more. You were an incredible woman my Albany "Tena Marie" I will forever be greatful and miss you forever........❤❤❤❤
Sam Coleman
March 11, 2019
Dearest Mike- you were an inspiration to everyone who worked for peace and justice, and you were never afraid to take stands against racism, police brutality and inequity. You loved people and were deeply committed to your community. Whatever I am writing seems inadequate compared to your energy, your compassion, your embrace of music, dance and everyone you met along the way. We will miss your terribly and there will be no replacing you. It was an honor to work with you. I send a message of love to your family and to everyone who loved you.
Mabel Leon
March 11, 2019
My Condolences to the Family.
Joyce Patterson
March 11, 2019
My condolences to the family of Vera. She was a true solider for humanity. I worked with her years ago in the early days of the AIDS Council. She was smart and brave and her kindness was overflowing. May she Rest in Peace.
Felicia Nelson
March 11, 2019
Thank you for being my counsel, my guide and my friend Mike. I am missing you already. May you rest in peace.

March 11, 2019
Mike is one of a kind. A warm, engaging, dedicated engine for justice. You will be greatly missed.
Marty Rosenbaum
March 11, 2019
My Heart Is Completely Broken! You left us too soon Mikey... every time I attempt to write something I remember our beautiful times together, like recently riding up to Saratoga to see Janet Jackson, having the best conversations about our communities, reminiscing on old jazz groups, I can't help but our world is shattered because you are no longer with us, I know how much you loved the crusaders, David sand born, George duke or as you say, ( The Dukie Stick)... the Laws Family, Ronnie, Hubert, and Eloise laws... yes! You loved your jazz, I remember all the lunch date we had at the gateway diner, Mikey I will never forget you, you created a special space in my heart and it will be there until we meet again... you will be remembered for all the great work you did in our communities and many other communities around the country❤❤❤❤❤I love you Mikey.

Your friend Willie J. White
Willie White
March 10, 2019
I light this candle in remembrance of you Mikey. I will forever be grateful to Review. Lisa Good your dear and loving friend, and sister who bless me to be connected to you. I say I will miss you dearly Bless your soul. Sharon.
Sharon Reid
March 10, 2019
Mike, my friend my neighbor, I'm going to miss when you call me Dr. Plant.lolll
I know you so many years and the last few years we got closer. I have so much I want to write and I'm stuck. Mike you know me well, I love you and I already miss you so much. One of the greatest person I know and love. R. I. P. No more suffering now you in peace.
Daisy Rivera
March 10, 2019
Love you always Aunt Mike. RIP.
Mike Tessier
March 10, 2019
Mike, You fought hard in everything you've accomplished so it's okay to rest now. I will always remembered the times we had together.
shirley lumpkin
March 10, 2019
The light of so many lives burn brightly
Karen Peaslee
March 10, 2019
What a great woman and activist "Mike" was. I'll never forget how much good she did in Albany.
March 10, 2019
Goodbye my dear friend. After our tears, you will long be remembered with a smile.
Paul Bullock
March 10, 2019
Condolences and Prayers to the family and friends. Mike was a close adopted friend into family of my Aunt Blanch & Cousin Talitha. I remember her sweet smile and Loving kindness. RIP Mike you will be greatly Loved and Missed. Peaches Campbell
Blanch Campbell
March 10, 2019
"There is no end of things of the heart."
Li Po
Your lifelong commitment to racial justice will always be an inspiration and your loving friendship, dear Mike, will always be a presence in my life.
Eileen Kawola
March 10, 2019
I will forever keep you in my heart Mikey.
Julia Ayala
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