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 a researcher at Economic Roundtable, a public benefit organization engaged in economic, ecological, and social impact research for the greater good. Formerly, she was the national research director at Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and the senior researcher at Race Forward (formerly known as the Applied Research Center). Her writing has been featured in Colorlines, In These Times, and Yes magazine.
Yvonne serves on the General Executive Board of the Industrial Workers of the World. She is a core member of the Solidarity Research Center, a worker-owned collective that realizes a better world through deep inquiry, frameshift, and creative intervention. Yvonne 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. She is based in Los Angeles, California.
Yvonne considers herself part of the post-Seattle generation, global justice activists both inspired, yet critical, of the mobilization against the World Trade Organization 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. Later attempts to establish counterinstitutions include the Occupy Oakland Research Group, Research Justice Community, and, most recently, Solidarity Research Network.
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.