Yvonne Yen Liu has played at being many things in life. Her first job was at an ice cream shop in Flushing, New York at age 13. She shared the night shift with a colleague. To pass the time, they would make sundaes, such as marshmallow covered pecan and strawberry cheesecake with fudge sprinkles, for the other to eat. To this day, Yvonne detests ice cream. She also played at being a microserf at an obnoxious dot com, a barker at the Coney Island Sideshows by the Seashore, and an online rabble rouser for groups like United for Peace and Justice.
Today, Yvonne is the research director at the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, an organization fighting for better wages and working conditions for low-wage restaurant workers. Formerly, she was the senior researcher at the Applied Research Center, publisher of Colorlines.com. She has been published in Colorlines.com, Yes Magazine, In These Times, and Racialicious.
Yvonne serves on the board of the Center for Story-Based Strategy and is a member of the Research Justice Collective. She has a BA in cultural anthropology from Columbia University and a MA degree in sociology from the CUNY Graduate Center, where she pursued a PhD. Yvonne is based in Oakland, California.
Yvonne considers herself part of the post-Seattle generation, global justice activists both inspired, yet critical, of the mobilization against the WTO in 1999. Aside from being raised as a red diaper baby, she was politicized by the nascent Reclaim the Streets movement, lured into the first action by the promise of a mobile sound system and party. Radicalized by the experience, Yvonne volunteered with Blackout Books, which introduced her to the Situationists and autonomist politics.
After September 11th, Yvonne engaged deeply with the antiwar movement, cofounding People for Peace at Columbia University with other students and faculty (only an offshoot group, Students for an Orwellian Society, exists as an archive). She helped to mobilize over 10,000 students and youth against the World Economic Forum, which met in New York in 2002, ostensibly in solidarity with the city’s tragedy. A counter-summit she organized drew over 2000 attendees, as well as the ire of the university administrators.
Like many in the post-Seattle milieu, Yvonne found herself profoundly unsatisfied by the mobilization model of protest, which converged multitudes always against and never for something. In response, she cofounded NYC Summer, a youth of color organizing school, to create a different model for dissent.
Yvonne is still searching for that perfect blend of militant, transformational politics and praxis, with the organic leadership of those most impacted, like peanut butter and dark chocolate (an ice cream flavor Yvonne actually tolerates). Send any leads her way. Meanwhile, take a look-see at her writing, check out when she talks, and take delight in the shiny baubles she finds to share, like memes or random musings.