Using Public Spaces To Organize Communities

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By Sam Allen for Transition Network – One summer night in 2014, Lucille Burns, a 34-year-old mother, was shot and killed while trying to break up a fight. Tamar Manasseh, a mother of two who had already seen too much gun violence in her Chicago neighborhood of Englewood, was devastated. Then she sprang into action. As she wrote in her recent op-ed for Truthout, “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had a theory, though: If enough adults, mainly moms, sat outside in lawn chairs and eye-catching shirts, violence would cease. I knew how much my own teenagers hated to be watched and how different their behavior was when they were, so I figured all teenagers would pretty much react the same way to supervision. So, I started my project: Mothers Against Senseless Killings. Every evening, we set up our lawn chairs and a barbecue grill on the block where that shooting took place — a block that had also seen high levels of gun violence in the past. We fed not only the bodies of the people in the community, but also their souls.” In the three years since MASK was formed, not a single act of violence has taken place on their block – not even a fistfight. Volunteers sign up to feed the block every summer night, and special events draw crowds to the corner, like the MASK Back-to-School Block Party with backpack giveaways, DJs, barbers, braiders, face painters, and tattoo removal services.

Organizing Tenants In The Rentier Society


By Michael Byrne for ROAR Magazine – These organizations are developing new ways of responding to the growing conflict between tenants and landlords and between housing as a right and housing as a financialized asset. They aim to become more than radical activist groups, but rather to organize tenants en masse and to change the structural conditions and policies which condemn tenants to a life of high rents, frequent evictions and low-quality housing. All the organizations mentioned above are involved in collective action in response to individual issues, in particular rent increases, evictions and poor housing standards. This involves providing information about tenants’ rights, negotiating with landlords, media campaigns targeting specific landlords and taking legal cases. For tenant organizers this is about tenants working together to fight for their rights, rather than charity. Renting can be an isolating and individualizing experience. The only time a tenant is likely to reach out to others is during a particular moment of crisis, such as a rent increase or eviction. These moments provide the possibility to de-individualize the experience of renting, but also to politicize that experience by showing that by working together tenants can change their reality. Yet this kind of “case work” brings its own challenges — and not just in terms of the considerable resources it requires.

A Manual For A New Era Of Direct Action

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By George Lakey for Waging Nonviolence – Movement manuals can be useful. Marty Oppenheimer and I found that out in 1964 when civil rights leaders were too busy to write a manual but wanted one. We wrote “A Manual for Direct Action” just in time for Mississippi Freedom Summer. Bayard Rustin wrote the forward. Some organizers in the South told me jokingly that it was their “first aid handbook — what to do until Dr. King comes.” It was also picked up by the growing movement against the Vietnam War. For the past year I’ve been book touring to over 60 cities and towns across the United States and have been asked repeatedly for a direct action manual that addresses challenges we face now. The requests come from people concerned about a variety of issues. While each situation is in some ways unique, organizers in multiple movements face some similar problems in both organization and action. What follows is a different manual from the one we put out over 50 years ago. Then, movements operated in a robust empire that was used to winning its wars. The government was fairly stable and held great legitimacy in the eyes of the majority. Now, the U.S. empire is faltering and the legitimacy of governing structures is shredding. Economic inequality skyrockets and both major parties are caught in their own versions of society-wide polarization.

What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In?

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By Mike MIller for Counterpunch. We need to build it. That will require talking with people who now don’t think the way present movement activists do; it will mean listening to them, and gaining their trust; developing relationships with them; engaging them in not only protesting but in becoming co-creators of the movement and organizations required to turn around the ship of empire that the U.S. has become. To imagine what this might look like, add a “0” to the numbers of people participating in what are now considered “mass actions”. And imagine them being sustained over a long period of time. And imagine already existing civic organizations (unions, congregations and others) growing in membership because of their involvement in the cause. And imagine new organizations being formed by people who now don’t have a continuing voice in civic affairs. And stretch your mind a little further to imagine permanent organizations being built that unite all these forces. That’s what “big organizing” would look like.

The Power Of Deep Organizing


By Sam Gindin for The Bullet – The profound defeat of the U.S. labour movement over the past three to four decades is usually measured by the loss of things that workers once took for granted like decent wages and benefits. A less quantifiable but ultimately more decisive indicator is the retreat from possibilities. By extension, the labour movement’s renewal (or reinvention) is inseparable from reversing, through effective struggle, this lowering of expectations. Jane McAlevey captured this sentiment in the title of her first book, Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell), a memoir based on her experiences as a labour organizer.

Twelve Ideas Post-Election from Front Line Organizers

By Bill Quigley for Popular Resistance – When you find yourself in a suddenly darkened room, what do you do? Some rush blindly to where they think the door might be. Others stand still, let their eyes get adjusted to the different environment, re-orient themselves, then cautiously and sensitively, move forward. Some search out people who might be able to show the way. Post-election, a lot of people are re-assessing and searching for the best way forward.

Organizing Prisons In 1960s And 1970s: Part One, Building Movements

Cell block at West Virginia State Penitentiary, site of a 1986 uprising. (Source: Library of Congress)

By Staff of Process – On the 45th anniversary of the Attica Prison rebellion in 1971, Process speaks with seven scholars of the carceral state about prisoners’ organizing in the 1960s and 1970s and movements protesting mass incarceration today. This is the first of a three-part series, guest edited forProcess by Jessie Kindig. Check out parts two and three.

The Rise Of The Unorganizable


By Tomasz Frymorgen for Jacobin – Wildcat strikes in informal sectors are challenging unions’ assumptions about where and who to organize. On August 11, surrounded by 150 wildcatting Deliveroo drivers, a union activist read out a list of concessions won by British couriers, all of whom organized with the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) union. Courier workers won a 28 percent raise; CitySprint workers won 17 percent — their first in ten years. At Mach1, riders won higher pay, company-provided uniforms, and an end to equipment rental fees.

The South Is Organizing — And There’s No One To Cover It


By Mike Elk for Pacific Standard – The striking thing about being a recent northern immigrant to the South is how often I walk into a bar and hear people talking about Bernie Sanders. As an outsider to the region (I’m a native of the East End of Pittsburgh), I sometimes find it incredible: Go into any bar in the South and all the young folks are feeling the Bern. While Sanders lost big in these states, he did win among southern Millennials — yet another indication that the South is changing a lot faster than some folks realize.

Organizing In A Brave New World

By Stephen Lerner and Saqib Bhatti for Inequality – Austerity, growing inequality, and the economic and political domination of billionaires, bankers, hedge funds, and giant corporations make the current moment ripe for birthing a movement that can radically transform the country and the world. This is a time of great peril, but also of extraordinary opportunity and—yes—reasons for hope. The last four decades have been characterized by unrelenting attacks on the working class, the weakening of unions and the financialization of capitalism.

What Drove Latest Changes To Federal Policy On Solitary Confinement?

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By Sharmini Peries for The Real News – Alan Mills of Uptown People’s Law Center and Bernadette Rabuy of Prison Policy Initiative say lawsuits, psychological studies, and persistent grassroots pressure were behind Obama’s recent policy changes. On Monday, January 25, President Obama announced a set of sweeping reforms centered on the policy of solitary confinement in prisons. The reforms include a complete ban on solitary confinement for juveniles in the federal prison system and drastically reduced time for first offenders in isolation.

How To Change The World In 3 Easy Steps

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By Nafeez Ahmed for Medium – I often get asked by people about what they can do to change things, to change the world, when each of us is just one person, in the face of so much that we cannot even hope to control or influence. What can we do? Why bother, given our powerlessness? As we look back on the key events of 2015, and the processes that led to them, it would be all too easy to succumb to despair. Despite fighting the ‘war on terror’ for 14 years since 9/11, we’ve only succeeded in seeing terrorism accelerate, metastasising into the so-called ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria.

When Bank Workers Occupy the Banks

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By Michelle Chen for The Nation – After about eight years of seeing Main Street households get owned by Big Finance, front-line bank workers are now trying to reclaim Wall Street, branch by branch. In Los Angeles, where communities are still reeling from the financial crisis, front-line bank employees, and activists last week occupied the lobbies of Wells Fargo and Bank of America and demanded fair terms for the customers and the workforce. As we’ve reported previously, bank workers have been organizing to demand more equitable banking practices for those buying and selling some of the most lucrative financial products at the community level.

Mississippi’s Women Some of The Poorest. But We’re Getting Organized

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By Kenisha Potter-Stevenson for Moyers & Company – When I think of it, I get chill bumps. I never thought I’d see the day when so many women — of all backgrounds, but mostly women of color — would come together to make Mississippi a better place for ourselves, a better place for our children and a better place for our future. But that’s what we’re doing right now with the Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative (MWESI) — a movement to push an agenda that was developed the old-fashioned way: by talking to people about the obstacles they face and then addressing the issues they are concerned with.

The Fight For 15 Just Landed At America’s Busiest Airport

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By David Moberg for In These Times – Encouraged by an energetic rally of more than 100 janitors and other members of Service Employees (SEIU) Local 1, a group of low-wage security, cleaning and passenger service workers at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Tuesday launched a campaign to organize 5,000 airport workers to win higher wages and the right to form a union without intimidation. The O’Hare organizing drive hopes, first, to bring the non-union workers at the airport into the Fight for $15 movement, initiated three years ago among fast food workers and, according to SEIU, already responsible for raising wages of 11 million workers. Then SEIU organizers hope to use the energy of that campaign for higher pay—and whatever success they have—to help create a union that can continue to defend and bargain for better working conditions.