"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
View Kathy Emery, PhD's LinkedIn profileView Kathy Emery, PhD's profile

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Where's the Outrage? For sure in Phoenix and Annaheim

Charles Blow in his weekly Saturday NYT op-ed piece asks, "Where's the Outrage."  He is worried that only 39 percent of Democrats are more than usually excited about voting in November in the context of repressive Voter-ID laws and Republican billionaires' donations to super pacs.

And the same paper as his op-ed piece, there are three articles clearly defining examples of where the outrage is:

1. A Bus Ride to Show the Cracks in Immigration

Like Nuns on the Bus (and echoing the Freedom Rides of 1961-3), thirty men and women (no papers, no fear) are leaving on Monday from Phoenix, AZ, on a bus. Their route is designed to travel through all those counties and cities that have passed laws intending to target undocumented immmigrants.  This is classic direct nonviolent action.  They are putting themselves at risk for arrest in order to:
  •  protest an unjust law
  • dramatize the injustice
  • educate a wider audience
  • generate sympathy from a wider audience
The Phoenix bus riders intend to arrive at the opening of the Democratic National Nominating Convention (Charlotte, NC, Sept 3). Their purpose in doing so echoes (for me, at least) lessons learned from the MFDP's challenge at the 1964 Democratic Convention. They understand that Republicans are primarily responsible for the failure of the Dream Act and other legislation providing a path to citizenship for immigrants, but also want to call the Democrats to account for their failures as well. 

 Until the killing of black men, black mothers' sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers' sons 

Happening during the same time as the Aurora shootings, the shooting deaths of Manuel Diaz and Rafael Brito, however, do not garner the sympathy of a wider audience (because of how the media reports it) -- they were shot by police who say they were gang members.  Here's the "top comment" (135 likes) on the Orange County Register's web page reporting of the events
John, they'll never get it. They are a community full of people who have no respect for their neighbors, any authority, or the law in general. They hold no one accountable and deceitfully and disengenuously use race as leverage in their arguments. They turn a blind eye to neighborhood violence perpetrated by gangs -- said bangers members of their own families. They riot and call it "protesting". They took a nice southern California community and turned it into the 3rd world.
Here's a video NOT posted on the Register's web page that begins to get at why the community might not want to cooperate with the police.  The comment also doesn't address the issues surrounding the history of urban unrest so clearly laid out in Janet Abu-Lughod's book, Race, Space, and Riots: in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles

It is the 8th shooting (5 fatal) by Annaheim police this year.  Over a thousand community members protested at the City Council hearing last Tuesday night.  Many were arrested in other related protest incidents.   

As the NYT reports:
In this largely working-class city of more than 340,000 people, the divisions are as varied as they are deep. While more than half of the city is Latino, only three Latinos have ever been elected to the City Council. But the rift is as much about class as it is about race.
For many activists, the blame lies with the City Council, whose members are primarily from eastern hills on the city’s edge, the wealthiest and least populated part of town. They complain that the Council has focused exclusively on development in the resort area at the expense of the city’s poor neighborhoods.
Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a lawsuit against the city of Anaheim claiming that the current City Council election system, with each candidate running at large rather in a particular neighborhood, underrepresents Latinos, who make up a third of all voters in the city. One study cited by the A.C.L.U. found that the wealthier area of Anaheim Hills has more parks, libraries, fire stations and community centers than any other part of the city.
This passage only begins to scratch the surface.  Urban "riots" have historically been manifestations of anger and outrage over the lack of living-wage jobs, distribution of public resources, and political power.  Study after study after study following "race riots" from 1919 to 1992, even those with "historical amnesia" echo these conclusions.

Historical evidence and rational thinking is not going to solve the problem.  Only organizing can do that.  Everything comes down to power.  The last time the urban underclass began to organize (SNCC and Black Panther), the U.S. government sent in assassination and counterinsurgency teams (Cointelpro) and the white left abandoned their responsibilities (See a Hard Rain Fell: SDS and Why It Failed).  In this context, urban organizers were unable to overcome internal difficulties and contradictions (e.g., egos, ideological disputes, strategic blunders) that plague any movement.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who was Hubert Harrison? And why we should care!

An important story (lessons we can learn from his experience) for many reasons, among them are Harrison's
  • influence on A Philip Randolph and Marcus Garvey (the need for black political and economic independence)
  • experience with socialists (they are white first and class second -- which dooms their success in the U.S.)
  • understanding of the importance of the arts (nourishes and reveals the soul -- crucial to the success of a movement)
  • internationalist perspective (necessary to understand the history of African Americans in the U.S.)
Why don't we know about Harrison?  He was black listed by Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Machine; and was to the left of Du Bois.  In other words, he was way ahead of his time, it seems.  He also died at age 44 of complications with appendicitis.  Tragic.

From the INTRODUCTION to Jeffrey Perry's book -- Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918
By late 1916, [Harrison's] experiences with white supremacy within the socialist and labor movements convinced him of the need for a "race-first" political perspective for Black Americans. The final steps in this direction were made through the frontier of art as Harrison wrote several theater reviews in which he described how the "Negro Theatre" revealed the "social mind" of the race and offered a glimpse of "the Negro’s soul as modified by his social environment." With his new "race-first" approach Harrison served over the next few years as the founder and intellectual guiding light of the "New Negro Manhood Movement," better known as the "New Negro Movement"—the race-conscious, internationalist, mass-based, autonomous, militantly assertive movement for "political equality, social justice, civic opportunity, and economic power," which laid the basis for the Garvey movement and contributed so significantly (especially with his book reviews and "poetry for the people") to the social and literary climate leading to the 1925 publication of Alain Locke’s well-known The New Negro. Harrison’s mass-based political movement, however, was qualitatively different from the more middle-class, arts-based, apolitical movement associated with Locke.

In 1917, as the "Great War" raged abroad, along with race riots, lynching, segregation, discrimination, and white-supremacist ideology at home, Harrison founded the Liberty League and The Voice. They were, respectively, the first organization and the first newspaper of the "New Negro Movement," and they were soon followed by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen’s Messenger, Cyril Briggs’s Crusader, and Marcus Garvey’s Negro World. The Liberty League was called into being, Harrison explained, by "the need for a more radical policy" than that of existing civil rights organizations such as the W. E. B. Du Bois–influenced National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He felt that the NAACP too often limited itself to paper protests and repeatedly stumbled over the problem of what to do "if these [‘white’] minds at which you are aiming remain unaffected" and refuse "to grant guarantees of life and liberty."

In contrast to the NAACP, the Liberty League was not dependent on white supporters, and it aimed beyond the "Talented Tenth" at "the common people" of the "Negro race." Its program emphasized internationalism, political independence, and class and race consciousness. In response to white supremacy, The Voice called for a "race first" approach, full equality, federal antilynching legislation, enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, labor organizing, support of socialist and anti-imperialist causes, political independence, and armed self-defense in the face of white-supremacist attacks. It stressed that new Black leadership would emerge from the masses, and it was "under [the Liberty League’s] banner [that] the West Indians and American Negroes first cooper­ated on anything like a large scale."

thanks Jeffrey!!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Emergency Labor Network calls for organizing the unemployed

I couldn't agree more with the ELN's analysis of the problem:
What will it take to address this jobs and housing emergency? Putting millions of workers back to work will require immediate action to create a public works jobs program comparable to the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930s.
There is no shortage of socially necessary jobs. Infrastructure is crumbling, energy systems need conversion to renewable sources, our education system needs reinforcement, and millions of people are without health care.
The fight for living-wage jobs, and the preservation of the social safety net, will only be won through large-scale organizing of the unemployed and underemployed. This organizing should have as its goal mass action to win immediate and long term relief. . . .

. . . .What is urgently needed is for the organized labor movement to throw all of its weight into organizing the unemployed in organizations controlled by the unemployed themselves, independent of political parties. This requires real grassroots organizing in the neighborhoods and towns where workers live. . . .

. . . The unions need to make low-wage and unemployed workers a part of the organized working class. Union halls should be open to mass meetings of the unemployed and unions’ resources should be made available to help unemployed organizations get off the ground, with programs demanding good paying jobs with benefits. This is a practical question for labor. The unemployed and low wage, part-time workers are victims of the current economic crisis, but are also fed a diet of anti-union propaganda. By organizing these workers, labor would be reinforcing a vulnerable economic and political flank. As this crisis worsens, the right-wing can exploit the politics of resentment to mobilize the unemployed as a battering ram to break the organizations of the working class. This is a real danger if the unemployed are left unorganized and if the struggles they wage do not receive labor’s all-out support...
But I don't think this strategy is useful:
It’s time for organized labor to break with the twin parties of Wall Street and build a party of our own — a labor party based on the unions.
ELN believes that the failure to recall Walker in Wisconsin was due to unions putting all their energy into the election instead of organizing a national general strike and creating a third party.  I disagree.  Our "winner-takes-all" political system dooms third party attempts.  If we had proportional representation, then a third party makes sense.  By all means, organize the unemployed around issues like a modern WPA (full employment and living wage for all).  But continue putting pressure on the Democrats to move back to the left while getting the independents to vote Democratic.

FOR EXAMPLE: The Southern Freedom Movement forced changes in Supreme Court Decisions; adminstrative policy; and legislation.  the new decisions, policies and laws then provided the issues around which further organizing could happen, to continue the movement.  There would have been no Freedom Rides without Morgan v Virginia and Boynton v Virginia, and it was the Freedom Riders that forced the ICC to change it's policy and enforcement procedures.

See Jeffrey Perry's response to ELN call.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gene Sharp turns down Mexican activists' request for help (sort of)

Study, planning, and thinking takes time. 
Defeat can come quickly. 
Success may come when it has been earned.

From Narco News (July 19, 2012)

Narco News' Publisher's note: ". . . [A] recent documentary about Sharp’s work, 'How to Start a Revolution,' that appears in Spanish on the Internet has suddenly jumped from a few thousand to more than 500,000 views, most of them from Mexico. . . . The online petition drive, with more than 800 signatures in a few days, asks AEI and Sharp to 'support our revolutionary movement.'"

Sharp's reply to the petition:
. . . I regret that you are unaware that both my personal policy, and that of the Albert Einstein Institution, prohibits our giving instructions for action in other countries and becoming participants in such conflicts. We cannot know the situation in-depth in such conflicts, and our instructions would very likely be in error. We therefore could unintentionally help to defeat the struggle to which we might be sympathetic.

At least equally seriously, in case of that movement being successful, the credit might wrongly be given us. The credit for successes is deserved by the brave participants in the nonviolent struggle, not outsiders. The participants will have earned the victory by their courage and disciplined struggle, despite casualties and suffering.  We believe that it would be an injustice for us to claim credit for
their victories.

Therefore, we do not tell people how to conduct their struggle.

We help in an other way. We share knowledge about the power and potential of nonviolent struggle. We share information of how people in political need can become competent to plan their own strategies for necessary struggles. See for my publication “Self-Liberation: A Guide to Strategic Planning for Action to End a Dictatorship or Other Oppression,” which is freely downloadable, along with all the required readings.

We refuse to tell people in conflicts what to do. We try to help those people to plan their own struggles competently. When they plan competently and struggle skillfully, they will deserve the victory and credit.

Study, planning, and thinking takes time. Defeat can come quickly. Success may come when it has been earned.


Gene Sharp

Saturday, July 21, 2012

James Lawson on Dream Act organizers

Key Words for Lawson below -- systematically stragetizing.  never stop disciplined and sustain action over time.

I am not clear in this article what "things" Lawson has "rethought" because of meeting with and learning about this movement.  He seems, instead, to be using the details of this story to reinforce the arguments he made in the Force More Powerful documentary, When We Were Warriors, about the Nashville Sit-Ins he directed in 1960

 From Narco News  

By the Rev. Jim Lawson
Remarks at the Fletcher Summer Institute

July 11, 2012
There’s a wonderful example going on right now in the United States. And it’s making me rethink some things about strategy and action. That’s the Dream Act students...

Various people in our country have been urging that executive order [two year moratorium] for three years. And always they were told: “we do not have the power.” When The Dream Act started organizing 5 years ago – only about 5 years ago – the base was in Los Angeles at UCLA, undocumented students who began to research and organize. Against the wish of the immigrant rights movement, they decided: “even if we don’t get the comprehensive reform, we’re going to get changes made on our status.” So they defied their elders on this issue. And they are organizing systematically. Now the press hasn’t reported the result of the strategizing for that Executive Order because they’ve done other things. They’ve had conferences at the White house and even with the President. They’ve had hunger strikes in Miami, in LA, and elsewhere. They had a group of undocumented students march from Miami to Washington a year and a half or two years ago. So they’ve had all of these demonstrations. None of these demonstrations have been large. Most are relatively small. ...

But here’s an illustration of a relatively small group of people organizing, ‘cause it’s tough. They could be picked up at any time as they go to work, go to school, graduate from high school, graduate from college… But it demonstrates there’s still much I can learn from strategizing and planning and how you put on a campaign.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The new poll tax = voter ID laws

An example of how "freedom must be a constant struggle" since the system is very flexible at adapting to new methods of maintaining the status quo.  Also and example of a potentially effective issue around which to organize.  Legal strategies MUST be reinforced with/ accompanied by nonviolent direct action in order to be effective  = LESSON from the Southern Freedom Movement!!!.

PHILADELPHIA — Four years ago as Viviette Applewhite, now 93, was making her way through her local Acme supermarket, her pocketbook hanging from her shoulder, a thief sliced the bag from its straps. A former hotel housekeeper, Ms. Applewhite, who never had a driver’s license, was suddenly without a Social Security card. Adopted and twice married, she had several name changes over the years, so obtaining new documents was complicated. As a result, with Pennsylvania now requiring a state-approved form of photo identification to vote, Ms. Applewhite, a supporter of President Obama, may be forced to sit out November’s election for the first time in decades. Incensed, and spurred on by liberal groups, Ms. Applewhite and others like her are suing the state in a closely watched case, one of a number of voter-identification suits across the country that could affect the participation of millions of voters in the presidential election. “They’re trying to stop black people from voting so Obama will not get re-elected,” Ms. Applewhite said as she sat in her modest one-bedroom apartment in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, reflecting a common sentiment among those who oppose the law. “That’s what this whole thing is about.” 

Thirty-three states have passed laws requiring identification for voting.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said last week of the Texas statute, “We call those poll taxes,” a reference to fees that were once used in some Southern states to prevent blacks from voting. He said that while 8 percent of whites do not have the type of documentation that would be required by the Texas election law, the percentage among blacks is triple that. 

In a report .....found that obtaining proper voter identification in the affected states was difficult. More than 10 million eligible voters live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office, and many of the offices maintain limited hours, the report said. Moreover, it said, despite pledges to make voter identification free, birth and marriage certificates, often needed for the process, cost $8 to $25, and many affected voters are poor. 

This month, the Pennsylvania Department of State estimated that 759,000 registered voters may be at risk of not having the required identification. It promised to send a letter to each one explaining what needed to be done.
“Obama won Pennsylvania in 2008 by 600,000 votes,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which is leading the challenge to the law.

Legal Battles Erupt Over Tough Voter ID Laws
Published: July 19, 2012

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Re: environmental movement in China

From NEW YORK TIMES July 4, 2012

Bolder Protests Against Pollution Win Project’s Defeat in China

HONG KONG — . . . . Large and sometimes violent demonstrations against the planned construction of one of the largest copper smelting complexes on earth prompted local officials in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province to.....  announced in a statement that the construction of the $1.6 billion complex had not only been suspended but also permanently canceled. . . . The police acted after a crowd estimated by local residents in the tens of thousands defied the police and assembled Tuesday evening to demand the release of dozens of students jailed in the protests on Sunday and Monday. 

. . . .  the protests were only the latest in a series of large, sometimes violent demonstrations that appear to be having some success in pushing China to impose more stringent safeguards on new manufacturing and mining projects. 

. . .  financial penalties are on the rise for Chinese companies and their owners who plan projects perceived as hazardous . . .
  • Last month, about 1,000 people protested to block a trash incinerator in Songjiang, near Shanghai, with no decision yet announced there on whether it will proceed. 
  • Last December, local officials announced that they would stop a coal-fired power plant in Haimen, near Hong Kong, after an estimated 30,000 people marched to block the construction. 
  • Last September, a solar energy company in Jiaxing, near Shanghai, was closed after demonstrations there that objected to chemicals used in the manufacturing process. 
  • And last August, local officials in Dalian, in northeastern China, said that a petrochemical plant would be closed and relocated after at least 12,000 people joined protests. 
. . . . But the success of the Shifang protests suggests that opponents may find it easier to prevent environmentally threatening projects from getting started than shutting down existing ones.. . .

. . . .  the protests appear to have resonated across the country. “Shifang” was the most-searched term on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging service, on Tuesday and again on Wednesday morning, before abruptly disappearing entirely from the list of frequently searched terms in a possible sign of censorship. Several posts praising the Shifang protests on Tuesday evening had been deleted by Wednesday morning, another sign of censorship. But more posts had replaced them. . . .

. . . .But the government has lately been closing down even legal rare earth refineries all over China for months at a time to require them to install new emissions control equipment, after years of tolerating heavy emissions of toxic and radioactive waste that have turned areas into moonscapes. 

Improving the environmental record of the rare earth industry may help China in a pending World Trade Organization case filed against it by the United States, the European Union and Japan. 

Multinational corporations are generally already building cleaner operations in China, partly for fear of offending Chinese ultranationalists if there is a pollution scare and partly from public pressure in their home markets. 

When Honda built a new auto assembly plant in Guangzhou several years ago, for example, the company included a wastewater management system that even went beyond the cleanup standards at many auto assembly plants in the United States. Honda executives reasoned at the time that China would someday toughen standards, and that it would be cheaper to build to strict standards from the start instead of retrofitting later.