The Berkeley community came together in April to celebrate the life of Luanne Rogers, who died peacefully this month. The outpouring of love and appreciation at that event was a testament to Luanne’s full participation in and powerful effect on nourishing our community’s spirit and challenging us to make a difference.
A woman who truly hungered and thirsted for justice’s sake, she was a longtime leader in progressive politics and a founder and leading light of Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA). A powerful singer, she not only made music but also made it happen, as an inspired and hard-working board member and former president of the Berkeley Opera. An accountant for the Berkeley Unified School District’s special education programs, she advocated for stronger accountability (including an auditor) for the school district.
It is Luanne the peacemaker and political strategist who is most on my mind today. As many of her friends have said recently, Luanne was not one to speak unkindly of others. She did, however, firmly and straightforwardly “speak truth to power” when it was called for. As political advisor to several of our local electeds for many years, Luanne was valuable not because she told us how to get elected but because she had a lot to say about how we ought to act once we got there. And that meant learning to stand up for what is right without demeaning or disrespecting those who disagree with us.
Luanne’s legacy includes leadership contributions to the lefty Berkeley Citizens’ Action (BCA) as well as the good government League of Women Voters and the diverse faith-based BOCA. Her ability to bring out the best in people who may not have agreed with her or with each other is one of her lasting gifts to us.
Some of us have made plans to carry on Luanne’s work in a variety of ways … from becoming sustaining members of the Berkeley Opera or getting more involved with BOCA or the League, to perhaps finding a way to follow up on some of Luanne’s ideas about school district systems.
For all of us opinionated, informed and active community members, I’d like to hope that a little of Luanne’s vigorous diplomacy could linger on in how we work together. With dedicated hard work, a little less sarcasm and a lot more bridge building, we can pay it forward for our community.
A memorial service for Luanne Rogers will be held Saturday June 28, 11 a.m., at Trinity United Methodist Church, 2362 Bancroft Way (at Dana Street).