2011 Letter from the Director: Building a Movement
December 5, 2011
These are exciting times. The Occupy Wall Street Movement is making history, changing the debate and placing the blame squarely in front of the 1%, aka, “the ruling class.” And the Occupy Movement is itself part an international upsurge extending from the Arab Spring to mass demonstrations in Europe standing up to the despotism and decline of financial capital. At the Strategy Center, we have expanded our national and international role to play our part.
The Strategy Center is a driving force in Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ), a national network of 50 groups organizing in communities of color, building “grassroots internationalism.” At a recent Congress in Raleigh, North Carolina, GGJ developed a national campaign to take on the 1% and their attacks on other nations and the environment: “No War, No Warming—Build the economy for the people and the planet.”
We demand a dismantling of the warfare state, and a new economy based on the social welfare state, with guaranteed income and environmental justice for all because the U.S. government operates 800 military bases of occupation. The U.S. warfare state imposes profound physical and mental suffering on working class GI’s who are fortunate enough to come home. And abroad, civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, Libya and Yemen, are dying at the hands of the U.S. army and predator drones.
Here in Los Angeles, the Bus Riders Union is part of “1,000 Durbans” an international week of actions to support the governments, social movements, and NGOs at the United Nations International COP 17 conference in Durban, South Africa. We are challenging the 1% of the globe, demanding a radical worldwide reduction of environmental toxins and greenhouse gases.
A banner year
As you will see in our enclosed full-color “Year In Review,” we are proud to share that we’ve had a banner year, with major victories and achievements across all our major campaigns and projects, from outstanding policy wins and reports to national legislation and cadre recruitment.
This year also marks the release of my new book, Playbook for Progressives: 16 Qualities of the Successful Organizer, that distills lessons from my 40+ years as an organizer, 23 of them as director of the Strategy Center. I wrote the book for organizers in the U.S. and around the world who are challenging racism, war, corporate polluters and the ideology and apparatus of empire. I am grateful to the 250 people who came to the L.A. opening, and our allies in New York, Boston, and Berlin who hosted events to launch the book.
Help us build a movement, one high school at a time
The foundation of our work is and has always been grassroots organizing. “Having a base,” as you’ll read in my book, “is the difference between victory and defeat…. After all, it is the base that constitutes a social movement, and, with accurate analysis, strategy, and tactics, the base that fights to win social transformation.”
In our 23rd year, we are asking you to fund the very roots of our base-building work: our Taking Action after-school student clubs. As you’ll read in the enclosed material, these are no ordinary high school clubs. They are the base of the Community Rights Campaign and the organizing power behind our historic victory of major policy changes from the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles School Police Department.
With our local allies, CADRE, ACLU (Southern California), Public Counsel, the Community Rights Campaign has been able to dramatically curtail police from issuing $240 “truancy” tickets to high school students on their way to school. The Campaign sits in direct negotiations with the police. Nationally, we work with the Advancement Project, Dignity in Schools, and the Drug Policy Alliance.
But when we launched the campaign over 4 years ago with a handful of students and a couple of organizers, no one could have imagined the campaign would grow so quickly from 1 to 5 campuses, and rise into a flagship campaign standing shoulder to shoulder with the Bus Riders Union. Yet, the theory of transformative organizing behind both is the same. We build our own grassroots base, with our own politics, and then work in the broadest alliances based on concrete demands that allow us to “fight to win.”
Our Taking Action afterschool clubs are a precious movement building institution that underlines why grassroots organizing remains essential to making history. We hope we can count on your support.