The board of the Markham-Nathan Fund for Social Justice:
Heather Abel, Héctor Figarella, Elliot Fratkin, Jim Levey, Sabine Merz, Marty Nathan, Mary Siano, Gary Tartakov, Jon Weissman.
George Markham (1909-2009)
George Markham (1909-2009) was a tireless advocate for workers rights, economic justice, social change, and single payer health care. As a legislative agent for the Massachusetts CIO in 1946, George was instrumental in the passage of the Fair Employment Practices Act and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Shortly after moving to Northampton in 1971, he organized the Northampton Elder Americans, and founded and was the first chair of the local CPPAX chapter. He has served on the Democratic City Committee and was Democrat of the Year. Never afraid to take on the “powers that be” George challenged, argued, demonstrated and demanded for what was right. He was a journalist, intellectual, professor, gardener, chef, writer, and an unyielding, uncompromising activist for justice. He was married to Arky Markham for 40 years.
Rose “Arky” Markham (1915-2018)
Rose “Arky” Markham (1915-2018) devoted her life to the cause of social justice, anti-war and anti-racism work, and single payer health care. She was a founding member of the Franklin/Hampshire Health Care Coalition and an active member of MassCare, an organization whose sole mission is the enactment of single payer health care. Arky and George were leaders in efforts to get legislative appropriation of $50,000 to study the feasibility of a state single payer system. In 1982 Arky was a founding member of Social Workers for Peace and Justice which advocates for single payer health care and political freedom in Latin American countries. She was an early and strong opponent of the war in Vietnam (her first date with George was at a demonstration against the war). Arky was also a founding member of Pioneer Valley Coalition Against Secrecy and Torture and a founder and early board member of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. Arky was active in anti-war vigils, lobbying, leafleting, organizing, presentations and educational programs. She was married to George for 40 years.
Mike Nathan, MD (1947-1979)
Mike Nathan, MD (1947-1979) was born in Chicago of working class immigrant parents and grew up in Washington, DC. He first became active against the Vietnam War in high school and was a leader of the student support of Black housekeepers at Duke University and participated in a takeover of the University President’s house in 1969 to demand their union’s recognition. As a pediatrician he treated children in the community health center in the heart of Durham, NC’s African-American Community and raised medical supplies for the Zimbabwean liberation movement fighting against apartheid in what was then Rhodesia. He also led a support movement for African-American laundry workers who contracted tuberculosis while working at Durham County General Hospital. He was murdered while attending an anti-KuKluxKlan march in Greensboro, NC, on November 3, 1979. Forty Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazis drove into the gathering and shot and killed Mike and his friends Sandi Smith, Cesar Cauce, Bill Sampson and Jim Waller. All had been active in unionization efforts in the area and a civil rights suit 1985 found Klansmen, Nazis and Greensboro Police liable for Mike’s death.
Marty Nathan, MD (1951-2021)
Marty Nathan, MD was a physician residing in Northampton. Before her retirement she worked at Brightwood Health Center in Springfield. After the death of her first husband, Michael, Marty and other survivors successfully sued Klansmen, Nazis and Greensboro Police and, with the judgment won in this case, Marty helped initiate and for 15 years directed the Greensboro Justice Fund as a funding organization. Over the next twenty years the GJF raised and gave away $500,000 as grants to small groups fighting for civil rights and social justice in the US South. Marty lived in the Northampton area since 1995, and was a founder, with her friend Arky Markham, of the Northampton Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Pioneer Valley Coalition Against Secrecy and Torture and the Pioneer Valley Coalition to Prevent War on Iran. She was on the steering committee of Climate Action Now and founding member of The Cliniquita Fund of the Pioneer Valley Project. She is survived by her husband Elliot Fratkin and her three children: Leah Nathan, Mulugetta and Masaye Fratkin.
Marty and Arky, with their friends, created the Markham-Nathan Fund for Social Justice in honor of their husbands. It serves grassroots social justice and peace groups in Western Massachusetts. They urge you to join them to support those groups that are working to build a better world.
Jon Weissman is a “labor community organizer” in Western Massachusetts and former Coordinator, Western Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, a coalition he helped found in 1993. Jobs With Justice builds local coalitions of labor, community, student, and faith-based organizations in the struggle for workers’ rights as human rights.
His activism began in the civil rights movement in high school in Northern Virginia.
Jon came into the Post Office in Springfield the week of the historic wildcat strike, March 1970. He retired from his job as a US Postal Service City Letter Carrier in 2002 after 32 years and stepped down as President of his union, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Western Mass. Branch 46, in January 2007, after 12 years. He immediately went to work as Coordinator, Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council (PVCLC), for 5 years and the Western Mass. Jobs with Justice Coordinator, where he continued through 2016. WMJwJ merged with Eastern Mass. JwJ in 2017 as Massachusetts Jobs With Justice.
Jon is a Trustee and Secretary, Warren J. Plaut Charitable Trust; Board Member, Markham-Nathan Fund; and a former Board Member, Rosenberg Fund for Children. In 2015, he stepped down after 20 years as Secretary-Treasurer of the PVCLC. He continued as a Trustee of the PVCLC as well as its long-time Street Heat Committee chair until it merged into the Western Mass. Area Labor Federation in 2019.
In “retirement,” he is the co-convener of Western Mass. Medicare for All and the Western Mass. Co-Chair of Mass-Care: the Massachusetts Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care.
Elliot Fratkin is a retired Professor of Anthropology and African Studies at Smith College. He has been a political activist since the 1960s when he took part in anti-war and pro-civil rights demonstrations, activities that continue into the present. He is married to Marty Nathan and is a founding member of the Markham-Nathan Fund with Marty Nathan, Hector Figarella, and Mary Siano.
Gary Michael Tartakov
Gary Michael Tartakov has been active in Human Rights campaigns for as long as he can remember. He came of age in the 1950s in the segregated suburbs of Los Angeles watching the struggle for Civil Rights for African Americans on the television news. He went to college in the late fifties and early 1960s as the Civil Rights campaigns of the previous decade turned seamlessly into the struggle against the United States’ war on Viet Nam. Doing history and cultural research in Asia in the 1960s and since he learned that much of the struggling for a living wage and against the wealthy who dominate the world internationally as well as nationally is a struggle we share with others around the globe. As the 1970s brought us all a new wave of the women’s movement, it brought him a recognition that this was less a matter of movements coming into being than an age-old, collective struggle for social and economic justice that is the most fulfilling, as well as the most frustrating, human endeavor available. As Angela and Carlie say, “what else can we do?”