Karen Topakian has been the Executive Director of the Agape Foundation Fund for Nonviolent Social Change since 1993. A member organization of the Peace and Security Funders Group, the Agape Foundation directs its philanthropy primarily toward grassroots organizations throughout the western United States. Its funding focuses on groups that promote leftwing visions of peacemaking, human rights, economic and social justice, and environmental activism. The foundation’s overall objectives are firmly rooted in socialist values – as evidenced by its declaration that: “We are committed to true human security through equitably redistributing resources.”
Topakian is the former Director of the University of Rhode Island’s Women’s Center, and was a Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner for Greenpeace International, on whose board she currently sits. Possessing a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute, she has been a juror for the San Francisco International Film Festival. She has also served on the steering committee for National Philanthropy Day in recent years.
Topakian views the United States as a nation rife with bigotry and injustice against people of Middle Eastern extraction, as evidenced by her analysis of Americans’ response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Imagine that you’ve come to this country to provide a better life for your family,” she says. “You’ve worked hard and played by the rules. But suddenly after September 11, 2001, your life and that of your family members [are] turned upside down. Now you are suspected of all kinds of nefarious acts just because of the religion you practice, the country where you were born, or the kind of company that you keep. That is what happened to members of the Arab community in the U.S. A new organization of Arab Americans has formed to organize their community. Now they need funds to defend their civil rights.”
Opposing the U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, Topakian traces the origins of those conflicts to America’s allegedly unquenchable lust for oil, which she blames, in turn, for harming the natural environment. “Imagine a world with less air pollution, fewer car accidents, less dependence on fossil fuels,” she says. “A world where walking and biking aren’t dangerous activities. . . . Getting people out of their cars and into healthier, more human-powered transportation is one way to combat the U.S.’s addiction to oil and the wars that result.”
Topakian is a supporter of a Berkeley, California tax-resistance movement whose participants have expressed their opposition to the Bush administration’s military spending hikes by withholding portions of their income taxes from the U.S. government.