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Jon Kest, Legendary Organizer for Social & Economic Justice, Dies at 57

Published: December 6, 2012

Publication: Common Dreams

By Craig Brown

Jon Kest, a long-time community organizer and advocate for social and economic justice, died Wednesday night. Kest was was diagnosed with liver cancer this summer.

Kest was the executive director of New York Communities for Change. Kest was a former chief organizer for the local ACORN chapter in New Orleans, and also former director of New York ACORN. He was the younger brother of former ACORN National Executive Director, Steve Kest. In 2011, Jon organized Occupy the Boardroom!

He was a leading official in the Working Families Party, a New York City third party.

Kest’s daughter, Jessie Streich-Kest, 24, was struck and killed by a falling tree in Brooklyn while walking her dog with her bestfriend, Jacob Vogelman, during Hurricane Sandy.

Kest is survived by his wife, Fran Streich, their son, Jake Streich-Kest and his parents and siblings. A funeral service will be held 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the United Federation of Teachers headquarters, 52 Broadway in Manhattan, where Streich works. Donations in Jon’s memory can be made to New York Communities for Change.

Tributes to Kest are all over the social media today:

Arthur Z. Schwartz of Advocates for Justice wrote on his Facebook page:

“Jon Kest, one of America’s great community organizers, died this evening, after a valiant battle with liver cancer. In his 30 plus years with ACORN and then NY Communities for Change, Jon trained hundreds of organizers and community leaders, was responsible for scores of campaigns which helped empower poor and working people, and knew better than anyone how to leverage the power of organized communities into political power. Jon generally stayed behind the scenes, juggling a dozen campaigns simultaneously. he never asked more of people than he gave himself, but his energy and spirit and foresight was tough to match. From behind the scenes he could call Congress Members, Senators, Mayors, Council Speakers, Attorneys General, and even the White House, and have his call taken and respected. Up to his last day he was on top of organizing campaigns, the most recent being last week’s fast food workers strike in New York. I am proud that we were friends. He was unique.”

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