STATE FARM'S HEAD ON A PLATTER
What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ana Maria Bio

Ana Maria Rosato was born and raised in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. “The Bay” as locals call it, is one of three tiny Gulf Coast beach towns comprising Hurricane Katrina’s ground zero on August 29, 2005. The Bay is a bedroom community located an hour east of New Orleans, the city where her parents were born and raised and where many relatives went through Katrina.

From the coast of Mississippi to the heartland of Nashville, Tennessee, from the nation’s capitol to Silicon Valley, California, Ana Maria has been politically active on the local, state, and national levels.

Ana Maria embodies the blending of a Gulf Coast upbringing with strong influences from New Orleans' culture.

Her grandparents emigrated from Italy to New Orleans at the turn of the 20th Century. In the early 1950's, Ana Maria's parents moved from the Crescent City to the Bay, a New Orleans bedroom community along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

At the tender age of 18, Ana Maria had already experienced the pain that outright sex discrimination inflicts on its prey, but also demonstrated the first signs of her willingness to forthrightly challenge the status quo, much as she is doing now.

Coming from a long line of musicians in her family, Ana Maria attended the University of Southern Mississippi to major in music. Having been the drum major and student conductor of her high school band, Ana Maria set her sights on becoming the drum major of the 400 plus Southern Pride Marching Band, which she had long admired.

When she asked about try outs, she was told that the music department was perfectly happy with the drum major it had—a male, of course. In lieu of trying out for drum major, the department offered her a try out for flag girl.

After 18 months of going up and down the bureaucratic chain of command inside of the College of Fine Arts, Ana Maria finally went to the Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Charlie Mormon. Dr. Mormon, a gruff speaking man from Boston. Dr. Mormon peered across his desk at the diminutive firebrand of a student requesting the university's compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments which prohibited sex discrimination in an academic institution.

Dr. Mormon barked at her. "Do you have an attorney?!" Ana Maria replied. “‘What does it matter if I have an attorney?" Dr. Mormon then barked louder, "Do you have an attorney?!" to which Ana Maria replied, "Of course I have an attorney.”

Dr. Mormon got on his intercom and shouted an order at some administrator to get in his office that second. When the man showed up, Dr. Mormon ordered the music department to hold tryouts. Inside a matter of weeks, three students tried out for drum major in March 1979.

In 1979, Title IX still had legal teeth. Fear of losing federal monies throughout the university—not just in the specific program of a department—along with a great deal of bad publicity was what forced the university to open up its drum major tryouts. Though she “came in fourth out of the three” as Ana Maria likes to say, she opened up doors which a number of young women have since been able to walk though.

“The one who busts down the doors of injustice may not always be the one who gets to walk through it,” she explains. “Everyday, I walk through doors that women and men of all backgrounds had previously busted down so that I have opportunities that I have today: education, money, property, credit, birth control, abortion, freedom of religion to name but a few. I felt like a trailblazer in my small little way, but it taught me to never take injustice lying down, because it can be defeated and justice can prevail creating a more just society for everyone.”

Over the last several decades, USM has had a number of female drum majors. These young women have gotten the scholarship, professional recognition, and the networking opportunities attendant with the position.

“By far, this experience shaped me as no other in my life has.” Ana Maria said. “My passion for music gave way to my passion for justice. That passion still flows through my veins to this very day.”

While still in college Ana Maria cut her political teeth organizing around the Equal Rights Amendment for the National Organization for Women (NOW) in Mississippi. The founding president of the NOW chapter in Hattiesburg, Miss., she organized a statewide rally, walk-a-thon, and media campaign to push for passage of the constitutional amendment which would have guaranteed equality under the law without regard to sex. Although unsuccessful, the battle for women's equality still continues to this day with Democrats having introduced similar legislation in 2007.

With her change in direction away from music firmly in place, Ana Maria received her bachelor and master degrees in political science from the University of Southern Mississippi. Since earning her master’s degree in 1985, Ana Maria has worked in government, political, and corporate high tech arenas from Washington, DC, to San Francisco, California.

Her focus has always been on issues of justice, which is why she gravitated towards working for progressive organizations. Ana Maria’s professional background has included Tennessee Planned Parenthood, Tennessee National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, the Democratic National Committee, and the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. She has also worked as a management auditor for the State of Tennessee and the city of San Francisco. Additionally, she spent six years in high tech.

In the Spring of 2007, Ana Maria left San Jose, California—the capitol of Silicon Valley where she has lived for five years—to travel to her hometown of Bay St. Louis. She helped her family renovate her mother’s home, which after decades of dodging any damage during major weather events, had some wind and flooding issues as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

Leveraging her insider/outsider perspective to the place she calls home, Ana Maria decided to blog, A.M. in the Morning!, to help others understand how difficult daily life remains in the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast region. Angered at politicians who've abandoned her hometown and the media which has obviously chosen to ignore the plight of those living in the Katrina-ravaged region, A.M. in the Morning! became a passionate and well-thought out effort to pull the media’s coat, even embarrass them if she had to.

“I want the Anderson Coopers and Brian Williams’ of the world to show the same passion now as they did when Katrina first hit,” she said.

The first-hand accounts were written in a scathing style redolent of the region's famous cuisine -- hot, strong and spicy. Nobody escapes my wrath whether they are the callous insurance industry, the bumbling leadership of FEMA, do-nothing politicians, or incompetent government contractors. By shining a spotlight on the ongoing plight of the Gulf Coast Ana Maria hoped to be a cog in the wheel that spurs action.

Through her progressive political blog and podcast, Ana Maria often provided pragmatic, easy, effective, and targeted political action readers could take to bring political pressure to bear so that her beloved hometown region can once again thrive.

You can email Ana Maria at AMintheMorning@gmail.com.

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