A passionate fighter for justice

March 5, 2009

Alessandro Tinonga pays tribute to Devin Cohee, a dedicated activist and socialist.

OUR COMRADE Devin Cohee died tragically in Santa Cruz, Calif., on February 28. She was a loving friend, a driven activist and an unyielding revolutionary. Her passing is a mighty loss to the antiwar and socialist movements.

Devin was a true revolutionary in the way that she identified all oppressed and exploited peoples' struggles as her own.

She proudly expressed her sexuality in the face of gendered bigotry. She organized against the racist death penalty as if every inmate was a member of her family. Every march for immigrant rights left her with a strained voice after hours of yelling on the bullhorn. She never shied away from defending the right of the Palestinian people to resist.

Devin's biggest passion was ending U.S. imperialism. She protested the first Gulf War as a child with her father, and got involved in Students Against War (SAW) at the University of California-Santa Cruz as soon as she arrived at college. During her time in SAW, she helped organize a kiss-in against military recruiters, a march that kicked them out and several teach-ins.

Devin Cohee leading chants at the May Day, 2006, immigrant rights march
Devin Cohee leading chants at the May Day, 2006, immigrant rights march (Alessandro Tinonga | SW)

Early this year, she helped found the Santa Cruz chapter of the Campus Antiwar Network. Devin worked very hard to bring antiwar vets to speak on campus and build bridges with Arab and Muslim students to build the movement.

Devin was, above all, an unapologetic and committed socialist. Almost as soon as she joined the antiwar movement, Devin joined the Santa Cruz branch of the International Socialist Organization. In no time, she led with her keen intellect. She was open to talking politics with anyone, she made theory accessible to everyone, and she utilized her sass and smile to make activism fun.

Sometimes, Devin's political energy and enthusiasm was unexplainable. She would stay up all night at the annual Socialism conferences, arguing politics with comrades and strangers, then using a few spare moments, she'd touch up her makeup, grab a cup of coffee and head to the first sessions of the morning, as sharp as a tack.

Unfortunately, she didn't fulfill her personal goal of being named one of the top 10 security threats to the state of California by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

What you can do

There will be a wake for Devin in Santa Cruz on Friday, March 6, at the Zami Co-op (807 Laurel St.), starting at 4 p.m.

Messages of sympathy and solidarity may be sent to Devin's parents at 25 Via Athena, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656.

In the past few years, Devin had faced incredible hardship. In 2006, she was hospitalized after a car wreck that killed her friend, Audrey Castellanos, and injured both her and her friend Jacquie. From an early age, she was diagnosed with arthritis, which caused her severe pain that she tried to treat with many different medications, all of which caused awful side effects. Even when she was in pain, she still went on long marches, paper sales and picket lines.

Devin would sometimes--half-joking and half-serious--declare that capitalism was killing her. It may be reckless to say that universal health care and free college tuition would have saved Devin's life, but she would be the first to point out that such things are necessary and must be won. Then, she would wrap up by calling for workers' power.

Our struggles won't be the same without her. Devin has and will continue to inspire her friends, allies and comrades to carry on the fights to which she devoted her life.

Comrade, we will miss you, but we will never forget you. Devin Cohee: Presente!