When Ellen Somekawa asked for volunteers to help her research a defense contractor who had been recruiting on the University of Minnesota campus, Eric Joselyn’s hand shot in the air.
“I’ll do it!” said Joselyn, then a college freshman.
Somekawa wanted him to dig through papers and microfilm reels in the basement of the campus library to inform the work of a campus anti-nuclear organization called Northern Sun Alliance. The group wanted to protest the defense contractor, in part, because of its Trident nuclear submarine.
“She drafted me for the grunge sub-basement task of factual research so we could then mount a broader mass campaign against their presence,” he said.
Somekawa, now 58, and Joselyn, 54, have spent much of their adult lives immersed in campaigns for social justice.
After coming to Philadelphia and earning her master’s degree in urban history from the University of Pennsylvania, Somekawa worked with Jessie Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition campaign. Joselyn too has been politically active over the years, speaking out against apartheid and the Iraq war.
It comes as no surprise that these multi-talented activists would support the Notebook.
In fact, Joselyn was one of the co-founders of the publication 20 years ago. Both he and his partner Somekawa have been long-time donors – and members since the creation of the membership program in 2009.
In the early 1990s, Joselyn worked with Paul Socolar, now the Notebook’s editor and publisher, in an organization called E-Quality, a local parent-teacher alliance that sought systemwide student-centered reform. At that time, Socolar suggested starting an education publication.
“The content he envisioned really complemented the other work we’d been doing,” Joselyn said. “It made sense [given] the broad-based motion in the city.”
In addition to being a mainstay of the working group that launched the publication, Joselyn, who studied art at the University of Minnesota, also produced the logos and began creating the editorial cartoons that have graced every print edition since the debut issue in 1994.
Joselyn is an award-winning artist and an art teacher at the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School – a K-8 school in Chinatown that Somekawa helped to found and that both of their children have attended. He said he has referred people at his school to articles in the Notebook and has clipped stories to distribute to colleagues.
The Notebook allows parents to become better informed, Joselyn said.
“Parents in my school know how the broader system is working, [so] I feel it’s a better school” because of the Notebook.
Joselyn reads the paper once it hits the streets, and Somekawa checks the website daily to find out what’s going on in education in the city. She said it not only gives her the news of the day, but also allows her to read opinions on different topics.
“When I want to find out what’s going on in the education system – or some controversy – I read it in the Notebook,” said Somekawa, who has been the executive director of Asian Americans United since 1996.
Somekawa says the Notebook is a vital tool for those who take an active interest in public education.
“It provides important information and perspectives that you can’t get from other places.”