"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, November 23, 2013

Activism: Then and Now (event at USF)

I was delighted to work with Victor Valle, a student at the University of San Francisco, in putting on this event.  I met Victor when I went to  Marilyn DeLaure's Rhetoric of Social Movement's class.  Marilyn was, briefly, a board member of the SF Freedom School.  She invites community groups to present options for community service during the first weeks of her course (as part of the community service requirement of her course).  After I presented, Victor contacted me to ask if he could work with "the SF Freedom School" to put on a panel that would include current day activists and a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement.  I suggested several current day activists of which two were able to participate -- Shanell Williams and Javier Reyes.  I ask Phil Hutchings, a former field secretary and program director of SNCC, veteran of the Venceramos Brigade and, currently, a senior organizer for Causa Justa/Just Cause and the Black Alliance for Immigration Reform.
presented to Professor

On November 14th, at the University Center at USF, around 30 people attended the event.  Victor had arranged for food to be served and moderated the panel.  Phil, Shanell and Javier took turns presenting.
    Victor moderated the presentations in such a way that he encouraged a spirited interaction among the panelists as they responded to each other's presentations. The questions from the audience also provoked discussion among the panelists.


    Phil, as part of his presentation, read the last three paragraphs from Julian Bond's essay, SNCC: What We Accomplished, published by Monthly Review in 2000.

    Throughout its brief history, SNCC insisted on group-centered leadership and community-based politics. It made clear the connection between economic power and racial oppression. It refused to define racism as a solely southern phenomenon, to describe racial inequality as caused by irrational prejudice alone, or to limit its struggle solely to guaranteeing legal equality. It challenged U.S. imperialism while mainstream civil rights organizations were silent or curried favor with President Lyndon Johnson, condemning SNCC’s linkage of domestic and international poverty and racism with overseas adventurism. SNCC refused to apply political tests to its membership or supporters, opposing the red-baiting that other organizations and leaders endorsed or condoned. And it created an atmosphere of expectation and anticipation among the people with whom it worked, trusting them to make decisions about their own lives. Thus SNCC widened the definition of politics beyond campaigns and elections; for SNCC, politics encompassed not only electoral races, but also organizing political parties, labor unions, producer cooperatives, and alternative schools.

    SNCC initially sought to transform southern politics by organizing and enfranchising blacks. One proof of its success was the increase in black elected officials in the southern states from seventy-two in 1965 to 388 in 1968. But SNCC also sought to amplify the ends of political participation by enlarging the issues of political debate to include the economic and foreign-policy concerns of American blacks. SNCC’s articulation and advocacy of Black Power redefined the relationship between black Americans and white power. No longer would political equity be considered a privilege; it had become a right.

    A final SNCC legacy is the destruction of the psychological shackles which had kept black southerners in physical and mental peonage; SNCC helped break those chains forever. It demonstrated that ordinary women and men, young and old, could perform extraordinary tasks.

    They did then and can do so again.

    Friday, July 19, 2013

    Music (Art) for Freedom -- how to grow a movement

    I have been trying to convince members of the SaveCCSF coalition to do more singing and less chanting....with a smidgen of success so far.  I think some of the obstacles have been the lack of song leaders as well as the lack of practice within a modern culture that doesn't sing much anymore.

    During each of the campaigns of the Southern Freedom Movement (e.g., Montgomery, Nashville, Albany, Greenwood, Birmingham),  momentum was fostered, sustained and increased at regular "mass meetings" in the evenings.  These meetings were part fundraisers, part strategy sessions, part information dissemination,  part faith building and part dress rehearsal.   The dress rehearsal part was regular singing, before, during and after the agendized meeting.

    The Southern Freedom Movement was a singing movement (and for good reason)

    Song leaders and even singing groups would begin the songs but the congregation would immediately join in and often offer lyrics to additional verses.  This was crucial learning and practice for the picket line or march or sit in the next day.

    From Voices of the Civil Rights Movement:

    DOG, DOG, Los Angeles, CA, August 1963, SNCC Freedom Singers led by Cordell Reagon.This satirical song, written by Movement activists James Bevel and Bernard LaFayette, was spread throughout the South by Movement organizers-especially Reagon, who here leads the original SNCC Freedom Singers. The song became a mainstay in the repertoire of both the first and second groups of freedom singers. Using rhythm and blues motifs, the song tells a parable of two boys who lived next door to each other but could not play together because of the color of their skin. Their homes were separated by a fence, but the dogs could slip under the fence to play.  
    NINETY-NINE AND A HALF (WON'T DO), Birmingham, AL , 1963 , Alabama Christian Movement Choir led by Carlton Reese "99½ Won't Do" is based on the gospel tune popularized by Mother Katie Bell Nubin, mother of Rosetta Tharpe, famed gospel singer of the 1940s and 1950s. Reese, who leads the singing, rearranged the song and inserted new Movement phrases.

    THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE , Selma, AL , October 1963 , Led by Betty Mae Fikes This rendition is led by Betty Mae Fikes with the Selma Youth Freedom Choir and is accompanied by piano. The song maintains enough of its traditional structure to allow for full participation by the congregation. The gospel influence is evident in Fikes's statement of the initiating line. One of the strongest song leaders to come out of the Movement, Fikes uses her unique and signature call to initiate each new verse halfway through the last line of the old verse. The gospel change in melody is picked up and maintained by the full congregation. Song leaders often localized songs by adding lyrics peculiar to their immediate situation. Many of these songs from Selma, Alabama, used names of local personalities. For example, Fikes sings "Tell Jim Clark" (sheriff of Selma) and "Tell Al Lingo" (Head of the Alabama State Troopers), calling their names as symbols of what the Selma Movement was fighting. Movement leaders were also named in the new lyrics. Spontaneous cheers and clapping greet Fikes's lines, recognition of her skill as a songleader and on-the-spot chronicler of the mood of the congregation.
     Below are some more recent hopeful examples of the use of song to build community, hope, maintain sanity, and express a vision for the future.


    Wednesday, July 3, 2013

    The Wizard of Oz Will Save Us?

    I watched Oz the Great and Powerful on the plane last weekend. After being appalled by Milas Kunis' horrible, nails-on-a-blackboard screeching after she turns into the green-hued Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton* must be turning over in her grave), my biggest complaint about the movie is the moral of the story -- only a charismatic showman can inspire a people to fight successfully against evil. (I don't want to even get into the grotesquely apparent sexism of an audience expected to be emotionally engaged in the process of three women's obsession with a doofus male.)

    Anyone, like myself, who is trying to persuade others of the power of the people, the power of nonviolent direct action, must be constantly annoyed at a dominant culture that continues to promote the myth that only a leader (who, in James Franco's role, doesn't even have to be "great") can make history. And this movie rubs your face in that myth.

    Just as Salmon Rushdie deconstructed the classic, 1939 Wizard of Oz, I wish someone would do the same with Oz the Great and Powerful. James Franco's (Oz's) motivation to avoid commitments of any kind makes as much sense in his movie as Judy Garland's desire to go home does in hers (As Rushdie points out, why would Dorothy want to go home to poverty and dysfunction when she had grown up into a independent, courageous woman with a loving community/family in Oz?)

    While this latest remake of Baum's original stories will never be a classic (i.e. not well done) and is, therefore, probably not worthy of further attention, it is, nevertheless, part of the larger pattern of hero worship that leaves little room for the truth as chronicled in more prosaic works such as Why Civil Resistance Works and A Force More Powerful and in more entertaining works like Bruce Hartford's science fiction story, The Gandhi Ring.

    The Truth? "History is a choice" (Bayard Rustin); good is more powerful than evil (Gandhi); and social movements take "intellectual rigor and collectivity" (Phil Hutchings).   Ordinary people like you and me, acting collectively, have been the engines of social justice throughout history, not great men like Oz, Iron Man, Obama, Winston Churchill, or even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    During the Freedom Movement of the 1960s, we did not protest simply to vent to our anger and alienation. We took action to change society. Our sit-ins, Freedom Rides, and mass marches were grounded in an analysis of political reality that led to the strategy and tactics of Nonviolent Resistance as a means of winning actual changes. As the Freedom Movement evolved, so too did our analysis of political power — an analysis that is relevant to this day. We understood that the injustices we opposed were deeper and more complex than just some bad people with racist ideas. Beneath the surface of segregation and denial of voting rights lay a "white power-structure" of wealthy individuals, powerful corporations, and influential politicians who derived significant economic and political benefits from systemic racism, and therefore they used their power to establish, extend, and maintain the Jim Crow system. Which meant that in order to change that system, we had to understand what political power is, where it comes from, how it is generated, and how it can be used to change society. (Bruce Hartford in Nonviolent Resistance and Political Power, 1968)

    * fun fact from the Wiki article: "In 1939, Hamilton played the role of the Wicked Witch of the West . . . creating not only her most famous role, but one of the screen's most memorable villains. Hamilton was cast after Gale Sondergaard, who was first considered for the role, albeit as a more glamorous witch with a musical scene, declined the role when the decision was made that the witch should appear ugly." My view is that only really, really, really good actors can pull off evil well. Why am I not surprised Alan Rickman never worried about appearing ugly as Snape or the Sherriff of Nottingham?

    Thursday, May 30, 2013

    Firefighters versus Police in Spain - a division within the regime?

    The picture of firefighters skirmishing with riot police in Spain made me think of the effectiveness of widespread and DIVERSE civil disobedience.  See where I made the connections below in boldface.

    Chenoweth and Stephan conclude in their study of nonviolent (v. violent) movements (Why Civil Resistance Works):
    In all cases, nonviolent campaigns have succeeded in generating mass mobilization, whereas violent campaigns have relied on smaller numbers.  People who sympathize with violent opposition movements often express reluctance to participate because of fear of regime reprisals.  Although participating in a nonviolent campaign is frequently quite dangerous, ordinary citizens perceive it to be safer than participating in a violent campaign.

    The diversity of participants has been as important  as the numbers of participants.  Some violent campapigns, like the Philippine insurgency, mobilized tens of thousands of members.  However, most of these participatnts were young men who rallied around the Marxist ideology, thus exluding those who found that ideology unattractive.  Perhaps more important from a strategic perspective, the reliance on a single opposition ideology cut the Marxist insurgents off from the opponent regime.  More diverse campaigns, which include multiple age groups, class, occupations , ideologies, and genders, are likelier to have links to members  of the regime, such that opportunities to create divisions  within the regime become more ubiquitous.

    . . . In the [Iranian Revolution, the first Intifada, and overthrow of Marcos] the nonviolent campaigns applied sufficient pressure to begin dividing the regime from its main pillars of support.  One of the most visible outcomes of this strategy was loyalty shifts among security forces, an outcome that would be difficult to imagine if the campaigns had been violent.  Once security forces refused to obey the regime, the state  was forced to capitulate to the campaign's demands......

    And this reminds me of a great movie, Children of the Revolution, in which Joe strategically focuses on recruiting the police as part of his successful revolutionary activity.  You can apparently watch this movie for free online.  I highly recommend it -- it has a Monty Python like satiric story line with a killer cast (Judy Davis, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, F. Murray Abraham).  It is funny and serious at the same time....much like Life of Brian as a good critique of leftist ideologues.

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013

    Peter Ackerman on Syria

    Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall are co-authors of A Force More Powerful, case studies (stories) of how people power prevails over violence and oppression.

    excerpts from A Tyrant's Worst Nightmare: People Power

    . . . . Conventional wisdom has said that oppressed people have two choices: either accept the status quo or mount a violent insurrection. My dream is that the day will come when people in all parts of the world will turn to civil resistance rather than rely on armed revolt. . .

    The Syrian example

    As an example, just consider the effects of the two phases of the Syrian conflict: First, a campaign of civil resistance was waged from March to September 2011, during which the Assad regime was weakened more than at any other time over the previous 40 years - and fewer than 3,000 people died from its repression.

    That campaign's success emboldened a large part of the Syrian military to defect, joining impatient activists to form the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Tragically, in the next phase of the conflict, civil resistance was marginalized because many falsely believed that "nonviolence doesn't work," and violence against the regime intensified.

    Now, with 70,000 more fatalities and no end in sight to a war of mutual destruction, Assad's opponents have proved just the opposite - that violent insurrection doesn't work. . .

    . . .  Armed struggles aim to kill anyone in power without discrimination, but effective civil resistance distinguishes between the relatively few power-holders in a society and the larger coterie (bureaucrats, military, business) who obey those in power.

    With tactics such as strikes, boycotts, and mass demonstrations, civil resistance spurs defections among those supporters and can force changes at the top. This strategy of dissolving an oppressor's capacity to use power is more likely to work against a well-armed dictatorship than a strategy of mutual annihilation.  Civil resistance is also more likely to produce a democratic outcome. . .

    Most analysts argue that certain structural conditions which a movement can't control - such as a ruler's willingness to use repression, the degree of digital freedom, or whether the society has a middle class - determine the outcome.

    My research and that of others have found that there is no correlation between such conditions and the outcomes of nonviolent conflicts. Just the opposite: a movement's choices - its strategy, messages, discipline, tactics, coalition-building, and other actions - are far more influential than the perceived initial impediments. . . .

    Since I wrote my doctoral dissertation on this subject 35 years ago, I've witnessed dozens of breakthroughs by home-grown, nonviolent movements organized by people who refused to tolerate repression any longer. Many times I've seen how an organized, disciplined movement can develop strategies of mass resistance to put intolerable pressure on brutal power-holders and dissolve their legitimacy.

    The international community must stop being mesmerized by the false choice of accommodating or attacking tyrants and should pay attention to history's verdict:

    The very people who are oppressed, if they know how to use civil resistance, can win their rights through their own initiative. The violence they have feared does not require violence to end it. The freedom they crave, they can have - if we help them obtain the knowledge of how to do so.

    Friday, May 24, 2013

    Citizen Journalists, Video and the Internet - A NEW PROJECT

    A new internet video project announced on the Global Voices Advocacy website:
    In recent years, few major catastrophes have taken place without being captured through video, pictures, or tweets by ordinary citizens. Citizen journalists have reported on everything from the civil war in Syria, to natural disasters such as the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, to incidents of police brutality at Occupy protests.

    This kind of raw documentation brings new complexity to the information landscape. It has created new avenues for news dissemination, and as more mainstream media outlets include citizen media in their reporting, it has changed and enhanced their coverage. However, there still is a gap between the mainstream media, with their large audiences, and these citizen journalists that must be bridged.

    The newly launched project Irrepressible Voices (IV) aims to fill this gap by creating a platform that will connect online activists, bloggers, and citizen journalists with the mainstream media as well as with policy and decision makers.
     This video is a one minute "call to action" by citizen journalists, asking people to upload videos of human rights abuses to their cite.

    WATCH SAMPLE VIDEO HERE about the Philippines.

    Monday, May 20, 2013

    Rebecca Solnit post on Tomdispatch - what comes after hope

    Tom introduces Rebecca's post by saying, "Rebecca Solnit... taught me how to hope in a world that seemed dismal indeed . . . . Like Studs [Terkel, Hope Dies Last], she taught me that acting, even while not knowing, is a powerful antidote to despair."

    Rebecca writes
    If you take the long view, you’ll see how startlingly, how unexpectedly but regularly things change. Not by magic, but by the incremental effect of countless acts of courage, love, and commitment, the small drops that wear away stones and carve new landscapes, and sometimes by torrents of popular will that change the world suddenly. To say that is not to say that it will all come out fine in the end regardless. I’m just telling you that everything is in motion, and sometimes we are ourselves that movement.

    Hope and history are sisters: one looks forward and one looks back, and they make the world spacious enough to move through freely. Obliviousness to the past and to the mutability of all things imprisons you in a shrunken present. Hopelessness often comes out of that amnesia, out of forgetting that everything is in motion, everything changes. We have a great deal of history of defeat, suffering, cruelty, and loss, and everyone should know it. But that’s not all we have.
    Not long ago, I ran into a guy who’d been involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement . . . . He offered a tailspin of a description of how Occupy was over and had failed. But I wonder: How could he possibly know?

    [What I know is that] Occupy began to say what needed to be said about greed and capitalism, exposing a brutality that had long been hushed up, revealing both the victims of debt and the rigged economy that created it. This country changed because those things were said out loud. . . . I know people personally whose lives were changed, and who are doing work they never imagined they would be involved in, and I’m friends with remarkable people who, but for Occupy, I would not know existed. . . . . there was great joy at the time , the joy of liberation and of solidarity, and joy is worth something in itself. In a sense, it’s worth everything, even if it’s always fleeting, though not always as scarce as we imagine.

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    Labor Chorus Performance May 16th 7 pm CCSF

    A Performance Piece performed by the Labor Heritage/Rockin’ Solidarity Chorus on

    Thursday May 16 at 7:00 pm. The location is City College of San Francisco, Creative Arts Building, Room 133. There will be a pot luck dinner served at 6:30. Admission is free.

    The Great Migration was the biggest under-reported story of the twentieth century. Over the span of six decades, around six million African-Americans left Jim Crow behind and started over in northern and western cities. In the process they transformed this country.

    The chorus tells the story in words and songs, including some reworkings of classics from Motown, a record label built by children of the migration. This presentation will be a slightly shorter version of the complete script which will be presented at Labor Fest on July 26. However, there will be a lot to enjoy and think about on Thursday. Please come .

    Sunday, April 21, 2013

    Flamenco Flash Mobs in Spain occupying Banks

    From the BBC
    Flamenco flash mobs - seemingly spontaneous dance and song performances - have been taking place in banks not just in Seville, but all over Andalusia, causing short, if amusing disruptions to the working day Some involve just one or two dancers, performing silently in front of bemused customers and clerks. Others can be made up of several dozen bailaores clicking their fingers and stomping their feet to recorded music. The flash mobs are staged by an anti-capitalist group known as Flo6x8 to express anger and frustration at the economic crisis

    . . . . Talk to many people involved in flamenco today and they will tell you that there is nothing political about the music. Yet look back at the history of flamenco, and a different picture emerges. Far from concentrating on love and passion - themes that one might expect from such an explosive art form - the lyrics sung in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries were largely about poverty, suffering and the hardship of everyday life.

    . . . . The Spanish government is clearly rattled - after a Flo6x8 video (see top of story) got over a million hits on YouTube they changed the law to make it much more difficult for the bank flash mobs to be carried out, and none has happened over the past year. Instead it has gone international. Flamenco flash mobs have been taking place, not only in Spain, but across Europe, in Milan, Rome and the UK, though it has become harmless fun, rather than a political act.

    The character & the will/ you have changed,my friend/ the character and the will/ since that you have money/ you have turned unbearable/ those are things of brand new rich man
    Don't you bustle me anymore, Rodrigo (RATO-wikipedia: ex economy minister, exbankia and FMI director) because thanks to your bad head, we'll finish as furtives. I've looked for 2 jobs to pay the mortgage. U get into troubles, u fire me/send me out to the street because there is no money
    ay bankia (x6) for u 6 lungs, for me not even a gill (x2). Am not gonna love u, not gonna want u, not even if u take my interest rate away, not even if you reduce my interest, is that i dont want u, Bankia i dont want u, no way! ay bankia bankia... 4 u 6 lungs, 4 me not even a gill

    Friday, April 19, 2013

    People Power in Nebraska saying NO to Keystone XL

     Mary Pipher wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times this week (April 17, 2013 -- Lighting a Spark on the High Plains) in which she talks about "ordinary heroes" combatting the Keystone XL pipeline.  She does a superb job in explaining how people power starts to grow.
    Newly minted activists organized potlucks, educational forums, music benefits, tractor pulls, poetry readings, flashlight rallies, wildflower drops in Capitol offices and pumpkin-carving protests. Grandmothers created the Apple Pie Brigade and arrived every Monday at the governor’s mansion with small gifts and letters opposing the project.
     She points to the potential radicalizing role that non-profits can play in creating "newly minted" activists (in spite of their participation in the nonprofit industrial complex)
    Groups like Audubon Nebraska, Bold Nebraska, the Farmers Union, the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club worked together to educate and activate our citizens. The League of Women Voters and college students joined to stop what we called the Keystone Extra-Leaky
    And how the importance of community as a foundation for an incipient social movement.
    How did this amazing set of alliances ever happen? In part, our unity came from our shared history and geography. Many of us are the relatives of homesteaders and modern farmers and ranchers. Whatever our politics, we all believe in the sanctity of home. In the Beef State, we understand the importance of water, especially today, when every county in Nebraska suffers drought conditions. . . .Many of our citizens had seen their parents or grandparents struggle to hold on to family land, and they weren’t about to give up their rights without a fight. . . . .
    Mike Miller has always argued that you opponents will inevitably hand you an issue around which to organize people.
    TransCanada made the mistake of bullying our fiercely independent farmers and ranchers. Landowners say the company threatened to take their land if they didn’t cooperate and warned them that later offers of money would be much smaller if they delayed. TransCanada also insisted, landowners say, that they sign papers agreeing not to talk to the press or anyone about their agreements.
    Many Civil Rights Veterans talk about the transformative effect their work in the movement had on them.  Here is Mary Pipher's take on that effect:
    Today, we still don’t know what will happen with this pipeline. But we do know what has happened to us. Our coalition allowed us to transform our feelings of sorrow, fear, anger and helplessness into something stronger and more durable. We became agents of our fates and joined together in what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called a “beloved community.” We became a state of ordinary heroes who decided that money couldn’t buy everything and that some things were sacred.
    And that Freedom is a constant struggle:
    The great global skirmishes of this century will be fought over food, energy, water and dirt. Our remote, conservative, flyover state seems like an odd place to make a stand for clean water and fertile land, but we will be at the heart of those battles. We are fighting not only for ourselves but for people all over the world. And we know that everywhere, in their particular places, people are fighting for us. The campaign to stop the Keystone XL is not over. It won’t be over until we give up, and we aren’t giving up.
    Mary Pipher, a psychologist, is the author of “The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture.”

    Friday, March 22, 2013

    social media and the dearth of stories of people power in movies

    From ICNC newsletter:

    By: Rebecca L. Stein, MERIP, March 20, 2013
    In the West Bank today, cameras are ubiquitous, as is the usage of social media as a means of online witnessing. Both are deemed nothing less than political necessities, the sine qua non of political claims in the networked court of public opinion. According to one Israeli soldier, "A commander or an officer sees a camera and becomes a diplomat, calculating every rubber bullet, every step. It's intolerable; we're left utterly exposed. The cameras are our kryptonite."
    By: Emily Achtenberg, North American Congress on Latin America, March 22, 2013
    The Academy Award-nominated film "NO" re-opens a window on a moment when Chileans used the ballot box to bring down the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet in a 1988 plebiscite. Genaro Arriagada, the Christian Democratic Party tactician who directed the "NO" campaign, says the movie ignores the reality of extensive organizing work by Chilean popular movements, unions, and political parties, over several years. Pinochet planned to foster violence, annul the plebiscite, and reassert dictatorial powers if he lost (which was only hinted at in the film. The self-coup plan was thwarted when the other members of the military junta refused to back Pinochet.

    Friday, March 15, 2013

    Video of CCSF Rally March 14th - We Are City College

    Hopefully, this is the beginning of a movement in SF and the Bay Area for fully funded schools that are centers of community energy, empowerment, health and spiritual growth.

    The organizers of the event probably benefited the most from this event (as it should be according to Bruce Hartford's Onion Theory).  They certainly developed better leadership skills; organizing skills; public speaking skills; media and outreach skills. (learning by doing!).  The problem continues to be defined in an ongoing organic fashion, through rallies and lots and lots of smaller meetings.

    We Are City College!

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

    Thursday, March 14th Rally at Civic Center

     [This could be the beginning of something new in SF]

    Coalition to Save City College of San Francisco 

    1 pm Walk Out at CCSF, Ocean Campus 
    2 pm March starting from CCSF, Mission Campus 
    4-6 pm Rally, Civic Center

    "City College of San Francisco (CCSF) is widely acknowledged to be one of the best community colleges in the country. The current crisis is largely the joint creation of two groups: first, the accreditation commission (ACCJC), an unaccountable body that has close ties to for-profit colleges and the student loan industry; and second, interim administrators who have no long-term commitment to the school. Both are abusing the accreditation process to downsize the college, funneling students into private and online schools that will saddle them with crushing debt. This is an attack on tens of thousands of Bay Area residents, particularly from low-income, people of color, and immigrant communities. We, the people of San Francisco, want to save our school and reverse the cuts to classes, programs, staff, and teachers. Join us on March 14 to call on the city’s elected officials to take immediate action. City Hall must ensure that Prop A funds are used for education — as the voters intended. We call on City Hall to fill any extra budget gap by advancing funds to the college. And we urge City Hall to call on the US Department of Education to stop the ACCJC’s unjustified “show cause” sanction against CCSF."

    Saturday, March 2, 2013

    Civil Rights Act of 1965 and Mississippi

    Do we still need the Voting Rights Act of 1965?  Yes, but we need more than that! Below are excerpts from an article from the NYTimes and some maps of various Mississippi election results. The Media and mainstream history focus on the laws and national leaders.  But it is the people who make change, ordinary people like you and me. Without us, there is no change.

    I would highly recommend watching the movie Freedom Song if you are interested in the history of the voting rights campaign in McComb -- a nice case study of the role of ordinary people in making change. While most commentators reporting on the recent Supreme Court's debate over the constitutionality of the 1965 Voting Rights Act have identified John Lewis as "coordinating SNCC in Mississippi," I would argue that Bob Moses was the actual coordinator in MS. He is portrayed by the character, Daniel Wall, in Freedom Song...which is amazingly historically accurate. McComb was a pillar in the foundation of the movement that broke apartheid in Mississippi and in the Deep South.

    From site:
    "In July, [1960] ... Bob Moses comes to Atlanta to work with SCLC. But there is little happening, and he begins helping Baker and Stembridge at the SNCC desk. Baker asks him to go down into Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana to recruit for a SNCC strategy conference scheduled for Atlanta in October. He leaves in August on a journey that will, in time, transform SNCC from a loose association of independent student groups to an organization of organizers fomenting social revolution in the Deep south. "
    NY TIMES: A Divide on Voting Rights in a Town Where Blood Spilled
    McCOMB, Miss. [PIKE COUNTY]—. . . . The McComb project, as it was called by civil rights workers in 1961, was one of the early battles in a long and bloody war for voting rights in the South, a crucible for future leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who drilled black residents to pass the constitutional literacy tests and in return for their civic engagement were shot at, jailed and beaten.  Most people here, whites and blacks, agree that that was a very bad time. They also, generally, agree that things are much better now.  But on the more specific question on the necessity of Section 5, which requires nine states, most of them Southern, to submit voting changes for federal approval, opinions begin to separate. And by and large, there is a relatively easy test here to tell what a person is likely to think, and it comes down to the person’s skin color. .. ...

    “I have to agree that it was very bad,” said Hollis Watkins, 72, a leader of the McComb project who sang spirituals to his fellow civil rights workers as they languished in jail in 1961.  “But based on where we are now, and understanding their way of camouflaging things, instead of it being very bad, it’s bad,” added Mr. Watkins, who is still active in civil rights work in Mississippi. ........ “Rather than the literary tests and poll taxes, the problems we have now are different,” Mr. Dowdy said. “There are long lines in certain neighborhoods, there are voter ID requirements. And those kinds of problems are not restricted to the Southern states.” . . . .

    With a black population of 37 percent, by far the largest in the country, Mississippi did not have a black representative in Congress until 1986. As recently as 1990, only 22 out of the 204 members of the Mississippi State Legislature were black. While no black statewide official has been elected, there are now a black congressman and 49 black state lawmakers.
     The McComb project seemed to fail at the time.  But it's success was in the learned lessons that were used in the voter education project of 1962-3 and then during Freedom Summer of 1964. 

    The maps that I put together below attempt to show a correlation among 1964 MS Freedom Democratic Party voter registration centers,  majority black counties and their gradual transformation into majority democratic voting counties today.  My theory is that the 1964 MFDP campaign resulted in grassroots community organizations and local leaders who were able to leverage the 1965 voting rights act to steadily register critical masses of black voters over the last sixty years.  Is the struggle over yet?  Hell no!  but fundamental progress has been made.  Freedom is a CONSTANT STRUGGLE---we cannot rest on the laurels of others.  By the way, Pike County (PI), where McComb is, went for Obama (it's on the bottom, bordering Louisiana) in 2012.  RED = Republican  BLUE = Democrat

    Friday, February 22, 2013

    Sit-In at City College! And so it begins?

     From: Save CCSF <>
    Date: Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 9:13 PM
    ......nearly fifty participants have held the space in the [Ocean Campus] admin building for a solid seven and a half hours, and will be holding the building until the morning!
    If people want to stop by for the night or just show their support and share their story about city college, feel free to come to the administration building, Conlan Hall, at the Ocean Campus.
    Students Demand that Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman:
    1. Call on the Board of Trustees to reverse all cuts to classes, services, staff and faculty. Stop downsizing the mission of CCSF and promote equity.
    2. Organize town hall forums at all campuses so that students can have their voices heard. 
    3. Make a public statement calling for Prop A funds to be used for education as voters intended. Call on City Hall to give CCSF a bridge loan until Prop A and Prop 30 funds become available. 
    4. Speak out against CCSF being put on “Show Cause” without prior sanction. Call on the Department of Education to take action to stop the ACCJC’s misuse of the accreditation process
    Invite your friends to the event:
    Contact us at if you would like to get involved in the movement! - #saveccsfnow -

    Thursday, February 21, 2013
    The chancellor's office says she will not meet protesters. We spoke with one of them a few minutes ago who told us they're deciding how long to stay in Conlan Hall.
    (Copyright ©2013 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

    Thursday, February 21, 2013

    Direct Action in Bangladesh

    From AlJazeera Feb 20, 2013
    (demonstrations ignited by the announcement of life sentence for Abdul Quader Mollah--instead of a death sentence).

    Dhaka, Bangladesh - Slogans, songs, poetry, and street theatre - the heady mix of culture and protest has given burgeoning demonstrations in downtown Dhaka a unique Bengali ambience. . . . protesters gathering in central Dhaka believe they are fighting for a return of liberalism and secularism - and death to alleged war criminals from decades past.

    A slogan in Bengali has been frequently shouted at the busy Shahbagh Square to annonce that the area is now the epicentre for change in Bangladesh: “Tomar aamar thikana, Shahbagher Mohona” or "your address, my address, Shahbagh Square". Tens of thousands have gathered here in recent days demanding reform, and protesters believe the scenes are reminiscent of the uprising in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that led to the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
    On February 5, one of Bangladesh’s two war crimes tribunals announced a life sentence for a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami group, Abdul Quader Mollah, who had been accused of mass murder and rape during the 1971 civil war.. . . .
    “We now want the death penalty for all war criminals. We want a ban on the politics of religious fundamentalism. We want a ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami,” says Imran H Sarker of the Bloggers and Online Activists Network, one of the leaders of the Shahbagh protest.
    True to her pre-election pledge, Hasina’s government constituted two war crimes tribunals under the 1973 law - one that began work in 2010 and the other two years later. Besides Mollah, eight other leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami and two of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are now on the dock, standing trial for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1971 war.
    “At last, the nation feels some justice is being done. Nobody here wants these war criminals to get away lightly,” says Shahriar Kabir, whose organisation Committee for the Elimination of the Killers and Collaborators of 1971 have pushed for the tribunals since the mid-1990s, after democracy was restored in Bangladesh.
    Lucky Akhtar, one of the main demonstration organisers, says there is more to the protests than just holding those to account for war crimes committed more than 40 years ago.  “The movement is led not by politicians but by those who feel concerned about Bangladesh’s future, those who want the country to return to the secular and liberal spirit of the Liberation War, those who believe in humanity, those who want Bangladesh to be distinctively its own self,” she says. . . .

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    Successful Direct Action in Pakistan

    From New York Times: (my emphasis  --  concrete demands made to people who can carry them out, with sit ins and symbolic demonstrations to force meetings and negotiations with people in power).

    The government announced a security operation against sectarian death squads in the western city of Quetta on Tuesday, four days after a sectarian bombing killed at least 89 people and led to unusually sharp criticism of the powerful military and its intelligence agencies.

    Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf vowed to target the extremists behind Saturday’s bombing.....

    On Tuesday evening, following talks with government officials, Hazara leaders called off countrywide protests that highlighted the failure of Pakistan’s civilian and military authorities to stem the rising tide of sectarian bloodshed.

    Grieving Hazaras, who had demonstrated in the streets of Quetta beside the coffins of bombing victims, agreed to abandon the symbolically powerful protest and bury their dead.

    But participants in the Quetta sit-in and other cities refused to end their protest, continuing to demand that soldiers be deployed in the city to provide protection to the Hazaras.
    Lashkar militants bomb and shoot Shiites, whom they believe to be Muslim heretics, across Pakistan, although in Baluchistan Province, which includes Quetta, they concentrate on Hazaras, who immigrated from Afghanistan over a century ago and whose members have distinctive Central Asian physical features.

    Mr. Ashraf fired the police chief of Baluchistan Province
    and replaced him with Mushtaq Sukhera, the former head of counterterrorism operations in Punjab Province. Unusually, though, the brunt of the criticism has focused on role of the military and its powerful intelligence agencies.
    Mr. Ashraf, meanwhile, sent a six-member delegation of lawmakers, led by Mr. Kaira, to hold talks with Hazara leaders in Quetta.

    In Lahore, a spokesman for the Majlis-e-Wahdat ul Muslimeen, a Shiite lobbying group, said the hand-over of Quetta from civilian to military control was a central demand of the protesters. “We want the army to maintain peace and stop the massacre of Shiites,” said the spokesman, Mazahar Shigri.

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    Community Cinema - Whitney Young

    The Powerbroker: Whitney Young's Fight for Civil Rights
    February 19, 2013
    5:45 PM
    San Francisco Public Library, Main Branch, Koret Auditorium
    100 Larkin St.

    During the 1950s and 60s, civil rights leader Whitney Young navigated a divided society. He challenged America's white business and political leaders directly, but his efforts to open the doors for equal opportunity were often attacked by Black Americans who felt his methods were in contrast with the Black Power Movement of the time.

    A panel discussion follows the film.

    Civil Rights Act 1965 - front page today!

    Has the South outgrown its tendency to suppress black voting?  Read this article in front page of NY TIMES!

    EVERGREEN, Ala. — Jerome Gray, a 74-year-old black man, has voted in every election since 1974 in this verdant little outpost of some 4,000 people halfway between Mobile and Montgomery. Casting a ballot, he said, is a way to honor the legacy of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a civil rights landmark born from a bloody confrontation 70 miles north of here, in Selma.

    ....based on utility records. A three-judge federal court in Mobile barred the city from using the new voting list, invoking Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act...

    Critics of the Section 5 preclearance requirement call it an unwarranted and discriminatory federal intrusion on state sovereignty and a badge of shame for the affected jurisdictions that is no longer justified....

    The law applies to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states.

    .....They had removed almost 800 people from the voting rolls, including Jerome Gray.”

    Monday, February 4, 2013

    SFSU Civil Rights History course - drop ins welcome

    PLSI 357 Political Movements: Lessons from Freedom Summer
    Below is the schedule of my spring course at SFSU - HSS 157
    Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:10 pm to 3:50 pm (with some exceptions)
    READINGS refer to text: Lessons from Freedom Summer (Emery, Gold, Braselmann)

    Monday, January 28th INTRODUCTION

    Wednesday, January 30th
    The Southern Freedom Movement as a CASE STUDY

    Monday, February 4th
    Building the Foundations of a Social Movement: Infrastructure and Research
    FLASH MOVIE: Without Sanctuary

    Wednesday, February 6th
    Building an Argument, Civil Disobedience and Nonviolent Resistance (Thoreau, Douglass and Gandhi)
    READ: Foreward, Introduction, Frederick Douglass (pp 8-11), Thoreau: Essay on Civil Disobedience (pp. 16-17), and the section on Gandhi in Lessons from Freedom Summer

    Monday, February 11th
    Building the Foundations of a Social Movement: Infrastructure, Research, Identifying the Problem
    Read: Chapter TWO from Lessons

    Wednesday, February 13th
    Highlander Folk School: Research and Community Building
    Reading: Chapter section 4.B from Lessons and Chapter one from Democracy and the Arts of Schooling by Don Arnstine

    Monday, February 18th
    Becoming an Activist
    Guest Speaker: Jean Wiley

    Wednesday, February 20th
    The Montgomery Bus Boycott: Coalition Building and Nonviolence
    MOVIE: Boycott
    READ:  Chapter 4  INTRO AS WELL AS  4.A, 4.C, 4.D

    Monday, February 25th
    Sit Ins and the formation of SNCC: Strategic Use of Nonviolent Direct Action
    READ: Chapter 5

    Wednesday, February 27th
    The Strategic Use of Nonviolent Direct Action
    CLASSWORK:  The Role of Nashville Sit Ins in the Southern Freedom Movment

    Monday, March 4th
    Examples of the Strategic Use of Nonviolence
    Guest Speaker: Bruce Hartford

    Wednesday, March 6th
    The Freedom Rides 1961-3: Strategic Use of Nonviolent Direct Action
    MOVIE: Freedom Riders (excerpts)
    WATCH: Interactive Map of First Freedom Rides and the OTHERS!!!!  (this won't take long, but will 
    SKIM:  these events:
    please look at MAP
    Effect on SNCC. Before the Freedom Rides, SNCC as an organization is little known outside Movement circles. The public and press are aware of the various student sit-in movements, but know little of SNCC as an organization.
        At the end of 1960 SNCC was still a loosely organized committee of part-time student activists, uncertain of their roles in the southern struggle and generally conventional in their political orientations. Yet within months, SNCC became a cadre of full-time organizers and protesters. Its militant identity was forged during the 'freedom rides,' a series of assaults on southern segregation that for the first time brought student protesters into conflict with the Kennedy administration. — Clayborne Carson [1]
    Or, as one Movement veteran succinctly put it: "S.N.C.C. became SNICK!" 

    Wednesday, March 13th
    Freedom Rides
    Guest Speaker: Mimi Real (Freedom Rider)

    Monday, March 18th
    Toward Freedom Summer
    READ: Chapter 7 in Lessons

    Wednesday, March 20th
    Preparations for Freedom Summer
    READ: Lessons: Chapter 8

    Wednesday, April 3
    Development of Local Leadership
    Guest Speaker: Wazir Peacock (Mississippi, SNCC, 1960-63)

    NO CLASS April 8th OR April 10th
    McComb, Mississippi 1961-63

    Monday, April 15th
    Freedom Schools and the Arts, Part 2
    Guest Speaker: Chude Allen (Freedom School Teacher)

    Wednesday, April 17th
    The Mississippi Freedom Democratic PartyMOVIE: Freedom on My Mind (excerpts)
    READ: Chapter 10
    Movie: Eyes on the Prize (excerpts)

    Monday, April 29th
    Organizing in Lowndes County
    Guest Speaker: Jimmy Rogers

    Wednesday, May 1st
    The FBI's War on Black America
    MOVIE: Orangeburg Massacre

    Monday, May 6th -- What did the movement accomplish?
    Guest Speaker: Phil Hutchings



    Rosa Parks, Revisited

    Charles Blow in Saturday's New York Times refers to a new biography of Rosa Parks.  I reproduce it below (adding links).  Anyone interested in the real story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, I highly suggest watching the excellent docu-drama, BOYCOTT
    Most of what you think you know about Rosa Parks may well be wrong. On the verge of the 100th anniversary of her birth this Monday comes a fascinating new book, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” by JeanneTheoharis, a Brooklyn College professor. It argues that the romanticized, children’s-book story of a meek seamstress with aching feet who just happened into history in a moment of uncalculated resistance is pure mythology. As Theoharis points out, “Rosa’s family sought to teach her a controlled anger, a survival strategy that balanced compliance with militancy.” Parks was mostly raised by her grandparents. Her grandfather, a follower of Marcus Garvey, often sat vigil on the porch with a rifle in case the Klan came. She sometimes sat with him because, as the book says she put it, “I wanted to see him kill a Ku Kluxer.”

    When she was a child, a young white man taunted her. In turn, she threatened him with a brick. Her grandmother reprimanded her as “too high-strung,” warning that Rosa would be lynched before the age of 20. Rosa responded, “I would be lynched rather than be run over by them.” One of the most troubling and possibly most controversial scenes in the book occurs when Rosa is a young woman working as a domestic. A white man whom she calls “Mr. Charlie” tries to sexually assault her. Determined to protect herself, she taunts him as she evades him, haranguing him about the “white man’s inhuman treatment of the Negro.” “How I hated all white people, especially him,” she continued. “I said I would never stoop so low as to have anything to do with him.”

    Parks added that “if he wanted to kill me and rape a dead body, he was welcome but he would have to kill me first.” The author points out that although the story is recorded in Parks’s own handwriting, it isn’t clear whether it’s completely true, half true or just allegory. Rosa married Raymond Parks, a civil rights activist who sometimes carried a gun and who impressed her because, she said, “he refused to be intimidated by white people.” 

    She spent nearly two decades before the bus incident struggling, organizing and agitating for civil rights, mostly as the secretary of the Montgomery, Ala., branch of the N.A.A.C.P. But it wasn’t until Parks was in her 40s and attended anintegrated workshop that she found “for the first time in my adult life that this could be a unified society.” This didn’t mean that she was eager for integration, though. She was later quoted as saying that what people sought “was not a matter of close physical contact with whites, but equal opportunity.” And Parks was by no means the first person to perform an act ofcivil disobedience on a bus. She was very much aware of many of the people whose similar actions had preceded her own, even raising money for some of their defense funds. She also encouraged others to commit these acts of civil disobedience. Parks explained that “I had felt for a long time, that if I was ever told to get up so a white person could sit, that I would refuse to do so.” That day came on Dec. 1, 1955, when a bus driver asked her to get up so that a white man could sit. She refused. This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. It was a political calculation informed by a life of activism. As Parks put it, “an opportunity was being given to me to do what I had asked of others.” And the idea that she stayed seated because of physical fatigue is pure fiction.

    “I didn’t tell anyone my feet were hurting,” the book quotes her as saying. “It was just popular, I suppose because they wanted to give some excuse other than the fact that I didn’t want to be pushed around.”
    The book also lays out Parks’s leading role in the bus boycotts and her decades of activism after the civil rights movement. When Parks died in 2005, Theoharis says, “The Rosa Parks who surfaced in the deluge of public commentary was, in nearly every account, characterized as ‘quiet.’ ‘Humble,’ ‘dignified,’ and ‘soft-spoken,’ she was ‘not angry’ and ‘never raised her voice.’ ” Parks, like many other Americans who over the years have angrily agitated for change in this country, had been sanitized and sugarcoated for easy consumption. As Theoharis writes: “Held up as a national heroine but stripped of her lifelong history of activism and anger at American injustice, the Parks who emerged was a self-sacrificing mother figure for a nation who would use her death for a ritual of national redemption.” Fortunately, this book seeks to restore Parks’s wholeness, even at the risk of stirring unease. The Rosa Parks in this book is as much Malcolm X as she is Martin Luther King Jr. Happy Black History Month


    Tuesday, January 22, 2013

    Parent Teacher Conference

    In 1989, The Business Roundtable (an organization started in 1972 of the top CEO's in this country), decided they wanted to transform public schools.  Since then, the BRT has engineered a coalition of business organizations to push high-stakes testing at the state and national levels.  Teachers, parents, students and many others oppose this version of education reform but have yet to figure out how to stop it, never mind create an alternative vision shared by enough people to move public and private education away from its role as the primary socializing and sorting agent for the workplace.

    Around 2007, two organizations (T4SJ and Justice Matters) sponsored a workshop consisting of half parents and half teachers to explore the obstacles in the way of creating parent-teacher collaboration.  They wrote a skit as a means of illustrating some truths that they agreed upon.  I took the transcript of that skit and made it into a "movie"  -- see below.  I was moved to do so after recently watching many home movies  (for example) that seemed only to be engaged in the blame game. The comments on many of these youtube movies are worse than the movie.

    See if you can identify one or two obstacles to parent teacher collaboration dramatized in this skit.

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

    Holocaust Literature w/ Dr. Alan Rosen

    Teaching Holocaust
    An Educators’ Workshop and Community Conversation
    Dr. Alan Rosen, author, scholar, lecturer
    Monday, February 4, 2013 / 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
    Location:  Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., San Francisco

    Or call 510 786-2500 x 222 for more information
    Join Facing History and Ourselves and guest scholar Dr. Alan Rosen for an educators’ workshop and community conversation on using literature to teach about the Holocaust.  Dr. Rosen will introduce practical and theoretical uses of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction in Holocaust education. 
    Dr. Rosen has held fellowships at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the International Institute for Holocaust Research, Yad Vashem. He has taught at universities and colleges in Israel and the United States and lectures regularly at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies. His most recent work is The Wonder of Their Voices: The 1946 Interviews of David Boder. He is also the author of Sounds of Defiance: The Holocaust, Multilingualism and the Problem of English.
    Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. By studying the historical development of the Holocaust and other examples of genocide, students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives.
    This program has been made possible by the generous support of the Ingrid D. Tauber Philanthropic Fund in collaboration with TCI, a program of Jewish LearningWorks.