Filled with joy and determination

Fermin Valle remembers the life of Michigan activist Vincent Andrew.

Vincent Andrew (Fermin Valle | SW)Vincent Andrew (Fermin Valle | SW)

IT'S BEEN a month since we've lost him, but he shines bright like a rainbow in our memories. Vincent Andrew, 22, of Grand Rapids, Mich. (formerly of Grand Haven, Mich.) passed away unexpectedly on November 16 of unknown causes.

There was no doubt that Vince was a revolutionary socialist and committed to the fight for a better world. His twitter account read, "Activist and Socialist in all areas of social justice. Radical. Gay. Whole. Smiling. Laughing. Loving Life and Living Love. Je t'aime." This was exactly the kind of person Vince was, and at every moment that he organized to fight for a better world, he did it with a smile and a heart filled with love.

Everyone remembers Vince as someone who was always filled with joy, determination, love and passion. He became radicalized around environmental work and came to understand that the struggle to save the environment also meant a struggle against the entire profit-driven capitalist system.

He was active as a student at Grand Valley State University helping to build a socialist student group and a radical environmental student group. He helped organize students to attend the International Socialist Organization's annual Socialism conference in 2010, 2011 and 2012--where hopefully some readers will have gotten to know him.

He was successful in bringing Chris Williams, author of Ecology and Socialism, twice to his campus, and he consistently argued for a more grassroots radical approach to environmentalism that targeted the capitalist system as the root cause of environmental destruction.

Vince was an intern at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council with the Sierra Club, working on Michigan's Proposal 3 ballot initiative that aimed at implementing clean-energy alternatives. He spent countless hours talking with literally thousands of Michiganders to support Prop 3, but he always understood that his work to reform the system was linked up to a broader struggle for revolutionary social transformation.

The very last posts he made on Facebook highlighted his support for the Palestinian people defending themselves against the recent escalation of Israel's crimes, and his unwavering support for striking Wal-Mart workers on Black Friday. He was also active in organizing a solidarity rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., to support the historic Chicago teachers' strike. One of Vince's recent organizing efforts involved helping to bring Sherry Wolf, author of Sexuality and Socialism, to campus to speak on Israel's apartheid state.

Vince understood that the struggle for socialism was impossible without a struggle against all forms of oppression. He loved highlighting that "No one is free while others are oppressed."

He also wrote a report to SocialistWorker.org about a counterprotest he was involved in defending a women's right to choose against the right-wing bigots whose actions are turning back the clock on women's rights. He helped organize the Grand Rapids Slutwalk, and during one summer he spent in Washington, D.C., he joined socialists and other activists at Slutwalk there in demonstrating against victim-blaming and sexual violence.

He was also committed to the struggle for LGBT rights and against the racism that pervades U.S. society and had been involved in a local campaign called "Until Love is Equal" that aimed to reverse the decision by Holland, Mich., city council members to reject adding sexual orientation to the city's anti-discrimination ordinance.

Vince, like many of us, was horrified by the execution of Troy Davis, and I remember him constantly looking for outlets to discuss the barbarity of the racist and unjust criminal "justice" system.

In trying to make sense of the unknown cause of death, his mother said that she felt like Vince was so committed to his organizing efforts that it potentially weighed down on his immune system and led to his passing. At the heart of Vince's efforts was the struggle for socialism, a society organized around human need and not corporate profits that destroy the earth and its inhabitants.

I wrote about Vince soon after his passing: "Everyone who knew you, Vincent Andrew, knew what an amazing person you were. You were always filled with joy and love for your friends, family and humanity. We all love you and will always love you. You've made an impact on the lives of people, certainly on me, and to the struggle for a better world. You will be missed."

As we continue our organizing efforts, Vince lives on in our work. We will continue the fight against exploitation and oppression, and we will remember Vince.

We love you, buddy.