Elena Herrada 

A story Elena Herrada tells about her grandfather reveals something about her as well. There’s a twinkle in her eye when she describes the family patriarch — who fought alongside Emiliano Zapata — showing up at her graduation from Wayne State University wearing “full revolutionary regalia,” including bandoliers strapped across his chest and shouting “viva Herrada” as she received her diploma.

That same firebrand blood courses through Elena, a union organizer and social activist. She co-founded the Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit in an attempt to push a hard-hitting progressive agenda, and co-produced a documentary about the forced repatriation of Mexican immigrants during the Great Depression. Given that history, it seems natural that her personal “Best of Detroit” list is topped by a group called the Brush Park Warriors. “They are people who have been fighting incredible pressure tactics by the city, holding their ground in Brush Park as they try to hold back demolition of houses there and are suing the city in an attempt to get relocation money.”

A columnist for the Michigan Citizen newspaper, Herrada also lists the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization as a group worthy of “Best Of” recognition for its efforts to combat the shutoff of water, heat and other utilities being endured by the state’s poor. And then there’s the oral history project she was involved in: “Los Repatriados: Exiles from the Promised Land.” The way she sees it, the documentary falls under the classification of “best attempt to uncover the past in order to help keep history from repeating itself.”

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