[Hpn] "We Organize with Love in Our Hearts" an anti-war essay

Chris Crass chriscrass1886@hotmail.com
Tue, 09 Oct 2001 22:58:27 -0700


<br><br><br>
Howdy comrades,
Here is an essay about anti-war organizing.
Please feel free to distribute, circulate and use.  Thank you, chris crass

We Organize With Love In Our Hearts: building an anti-war movement
by Chris Crass

I was getting ready to leave for DC.  The mass mobilization was gaining 
momentum as the IMF/World Bank meetings approached at the end of the month.  
I was excited about heading out early to do 'Anti-Racism for Global Justice' 
workshops and get involved with the organizing.  I woke up like millions of 
other people on Sept. 11 to the news of tragic violence.  Like you, I was 
horrified.  And like you, it has weighed heavy on my mind and spirit every 
since.

Almost one month later and the bombs are dropping in Afghanistan.  The 
political landscape has been rocked by these recent events.  While the 
ground is still shifting rapidly, it is clear that our hope lies with 
building an anti-war movement committed to anti-racist politics and the 
agenda of global justice.  Two movements that have gained significant 
momentum in the last five years are those working against the prison 
industrial complex and corporate globalization.  Organizations and activists 
from each of these movements are making important contributions to anti-war 
efforts.  Like many others, I believe that collaboration between these two 
movements has enormous possibilities.   This essay documents some of this 
work and explores possibilities for social change in this time period.  
Through alliance building, political education and developing our capacity 
to organize, we work in this time of crisis to end war, challenge racism and 
further all of our struggles for justice.

*"We who believe in freedom cannot rest..." - Ella's Song, Sweet Honey in 
the Rock*

Within hours of the tragedy on 911, work began in the Bay Area to hold a 
Solidarity Gathering and vigil the next night, Wed. the 12th.  Over 600 
people, mostly people of color, came out to collectively mourn the loss of 
lives, to stand with Middle Eastern, South Asian and North African 
communities against racist attacks and to reaffirm our commitment to work 
for peace and justice.  The vigil was put together by organizations of color 
under the name 911 Solidarity Committee Against War and Racism.  The 
gathering was organized by and for people of color to demonstrate solidarity 
in this time of crisis and to create space for leadership from people of 
color in the emerging anti-war movement.  The Committee has also organized 
political education, a youth of color led march against war and racism that 
brought out over 800 people and ongoing work as the bombing of Afghanistan 
begins.

These actions have been organized primarily by people who have played an 
enormous role in the growing youth of color led movement against the prison 
industrial complex.  The state-wide racist attack on young people fueled 
Proposition 21, a juvenile crime ballot measure, which won in the March 
2000.  Prop. 21 ignited a response from youth of color that has been 
referred to as the beginnings of the next Civil Rights movement.  And just 
as the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the 60's helped launch 
the anti-war movement, young people of color today, who have been at the 
forefront of racial justice struggles, are leading anti-war efforts around 
the country.

In the Bay Area, STORM (Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary 
Movement) who is part of the 911 Solidarity Committee Against War and Racism 
released a statement that reads,

"Suffering under the boot of poverty, people around the world are becoming 
more and more desperate. Neither police repression at home nor U.S. bombs 
abroad will ease this fundamental despair; instead, they will only continue 
this vicious cycle of frustration and violence. Ordinary people in the 
United States can best deter future attacks by insisting that the U.S. 
government abandon its oppressive role of keeping down workers and 
dominating poor nations around the world. Increasingly, safety at home will 
require justice abroad. Intensified police crackdowns at home and military 
savagery abroad are not the answer; the answer is justice. We must not allow 
the United States to respond with bombs for Third World people and continued 
support for repressive dictatorships and rapacious corporations. Instead, we 
demand that the US respond to this crisis with efforts to meet the 
legitimate demands of the majority of the human family."

In LA, Tafarai Bayne of Youth Organizing Communities read an anti-war 
statement at a recent press conference that was widely covered in Chinese, 
Japanese and Spanish language newspapers and ignored by the LA Times.  YOC 
played a significant role in the fight against Prop 21 and focuses on 
educational justice in the enormous public school system of LA.  Franchezska 
Zamora, an organizer with YOC, noted "our membership and constituency is 
mostly people of color who have experienced discrimination based on 
immigration status and racial profiling.  We see how racism impacts our 
families and communities and so we have a historical responsibility to take 
an anti-war stand at this time."  The anti-war statement has been signed by 
over 40 groups in LA, which represent community, labor, service, immigrant, 
and youth based organizations.

Meanwhile, on college campuses across the United States peace and justice 
activists are mourning the loss of life, standing in solidarity against 
racism and organizing against the war calling out "Our Grief is Not a Cry 
for War" and "Stop the Racist Attacks".  National student networks who have 
spent past years organizing against sweatshops, environmental destruction, 
the WTO/IMF/World Bank and corporate globalization came together to join 
their calls for global justice with an explicit anti-war and anti-racist 
stand.  Actions ranged in size from a dozen to thousands.

In addition to anti-war and anti-racism protests, Arab, South Asian, Muslim, 
North
African and Middle Eastern communities, all facing racist attacks, have been 
organizing.  In New York City, DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) is a 
freedom organization of and for low-income South Asians.  DRUM has put 
together a multi-lingual hotline, and is monitoring and documenting INS 
abuses of immigrants in detention centers.

Solidarity against racism vigils have been held across the country.  An 
organizer in Chicago, who asked to remain anonymous, has been working to 
bring mostly white people out to vigils in solidarity at Mosques and she 
commented "As people build friendships through the vigils, I hope that it 
begins to click for the people who attend that there is a fundamental 
contradiction in saying that Muslim Americans should have the right to live 
in peace while their grandmothers, aunts and cousins in Afghanistan should 
be killed."

In addition to vigils, organizing efforts have been initiated to provide 
physical solidarity. Requests have come in to groups doing escort work to 
accompany children to and from school, to go with elders who simply want to 
go for a walk or buy groceries.  This current solidarity effort brings 
challenges.

Chantel, an organizer who works in Middle Eastern communities has been 
documenting and recording racist abuse and harassment.  When asked about 
pitfalls and possibilities for doing this kind of anti-racism work, she 
responded with a list, which included, "Understand that Islamic/Muslim 
communities are not all the same.  Realize that people from the Middle East 
have been fighting terrorists and their own governments for years.  
Understand white privilege right now, I can't do the same type of activism 
right now that a white person can because I have much more to lose.  Educate 
yourself about Middle Eastern culture and don't assume that everyone is Arab 
or Muslim.  It seems like most activists only know about the struggle of 
women in Afghanistan and a few issues in Iraq, but there is so much that we 
need to educate ourselves about in Yemen, Iran, Saudi, Bahrain, Pakistan, 
etc.  Please realize that the terrorists are not freedom fighters, they are 
not anti-capitalists or revolutionaries, but rather they are fundamentalists 
who use the word Islam and Muslim to further their own greedy political 
agendas.  Ask people what they would like and how you can be useful rather 
than assuming you know what's best for other people.  Support the rights of 
immigrants who might be facing deportation with the new laws being passed.  
Recognize that you have a responsibility to act in solidarity with 
communities under racist attack.  Also recognize that you are a voice right 
now for so many people who can't speak (under threat of violence) and that 
means being responsible."

*We who believe in freedom must ORGANIZE*

"What possibilities and pitfalls do you see for organizing in the current 
political situation", I asked.  Stephanie Guilloud, an organizer and 
educator in Olympia, Washington who played a major role in the mass 
mobilization against the WTO in Seattle, responded, "I believe that the 911 
events have fundamentally changed our organizing work. The stakes have been 
changed and we (who are white radicals) can no longer afford to pick and 
choose issues as we find it convenient. The challenge of the current 
political climate is to develop a movement that is not only focused on 
preventing and stopping a war but also committed to a sustained struggle for 
justice on all fronts. I think we have to slow down and strategize a 
long-term campaign for true justice that incorporates an attack on all the 
oppressive forces that led to this crisis."

She continued, "As white radicals who think we already know about racism and 
how
it works, I believe we must take anti-oppression work seriously. If we want 
to organize and mobilize people beyond our insular radical communities we 
need to challenge each other and find language and analysis that is 
accessible and movement-building. We need to develop long-term strategy and 
sustainable tactics which includes positioning anti-racism work at the core 
of our efforts."

The same question was posed to Van Jones, the Executive Director of the Ella 
Baker Center for Human Rights.  Both he and the Ella Baker Center have been 
heavily involved in work against the prison industrial complex.  He replied 
"The top priority for grassroots activists is this: unite the existing 
economic justice, environmental justice and criminal justice movements 
against racism and war. Now is no time for us to run and hide in shame, or 
start waving war flags around. Now is the time for the global, grassroots 
movement for social justice to move up to the next level. Now - more than 
ever - is the time for us to stand up and fight for a vibrant, multi-racial, 
bottom-up democracy that can protect and preserve the web of life. Safety at 
home requires economic and social justice here and abroad.

"Therefore, we must categorically reject Bin Laden's tactics of terror via 
underground cells. And we must also reject Bush's tactics of terror via 
overhead bombers. We must be willing to oppose the Bush agenda of global 
corporate domination. And we must reject the Bin Laden agenda of global 
religious domination. All together, our
movements offer a third way out. If we stay true to our transformative 
agenda, the hope unleashed in Seattle and Durban will ultimately prevail 
over the fear unleashed in Manhattan and D.C."

The days immediately following 911, I was scared (still am).  I needed to do 
something small to push myself, as well as begin to express an alternative 
politics.  I wore a T-shirt to work that reads "US Sanctions in Iraq Kill 
Children".  I was nervous at first, nervous that a customer at the video 
store I work at might go off on me, or worse."  Someone read the front and 
then asked to read the back "Stop Genocide, Peace With Iraq".  I couldn't 
tell at first what she thought of it, then with sadness in her voice, she 
said "That's why they hate us".  She told me about the nightmares she was 
having, planes exploding and buildings crashing down around her, night after 
night.  I didn't respond with more information about US foreign policy, I 
just listened.  I've been trying to listen a lot to people, trying to really 
understand the multiple reasons that people are hanging flags and singing 
'God Bless America'.  Listening is central to good organizing and it's 
something that I often forget.

Popular opposition and movements for justice are not made by rousing 
speeches and large marches alone.  As organizers we must also commit 
ourselves to the day-to-day work of developing a sustained struggle for 
justice on all fronts that is committed to anti-oppression work, as Guilloud 
highlights.  We must practice respect and come to understand the subtleties 
of solidarity as we work to "unite the existing economic justice, 
environmental justice and criminal justice movements against racism and war" 
as Jones suggests.  We must remain grounded and take care of each other in 
the process of confronting this crisis so that we can "stay true to our 
transformative agenda" and build upon the "hope unleashed in Seattle and 
Durban".

So how do we organize?  Three strategies come to mind when thinking about
building an anti-war movement committed to anti-racist politics and guided
by an agenda and vision of global justice:

1. Develop and nurture alliances between movements, organizations and
individuals who have already been working for justice.

2.  Political education work with a focus on international economics, US 
foreign policy and the power of social change movement to make history.

3. Engage new people into social change work while also building our overall 
organizing capacity and visions for liberation.

The first requires coalition work and developing relationships between 
organizations and individuals.  It requires working from a basis of respect. 
  It's useful to learn about the groups that are already organizing, what 
they have been involved with, who they work with and how.  Majority white 
organizations need to pay particular attention to showing respect for the 
leadership of radicals of color when working with organizations mostly of 
color.  The long history of white activists undermining social change work 
and disregarding and/or disrespecting organizations of color did not change 
after 911.

Hence, Guilloud's emphasis on anti-oppression work cannot be overlooked, 
particularly in times of crisis when emergency coalitions bring groups 
together who don't traditionally collaborate. The more white activists 
prioritize challenging white privilege and educating themselves about racism 
and anti-racism, the more the movement as a whole grows stronger.  Remember 
that working together doesn't just mean speaking at the same rally.  Ask 
other people what they think, what possibilities they see for organizing.  
Get coffee and learn more about each other and the groups you're involved 
with.  Organizing isn't just getting lots of people to a rally, it's about 
building relationships which in turn build our collective power.

The second requires doing enormous work which has been happening all over 
the country: teach-ins, study groups, discussion groups, forums, workshops, 
lectures, and more.  Mike Prokosch, an organizer and popular economics 
educator in Boston who works with United for a Fair Economy, points out that 
"the events of 911 have left an entire nation asking 'why?'  It is the 
responsibility of social justice activists to develop curriculum, put on 
events and create opportunities for people to explore that question.  We 
need to give people the information and context of international politics 
and encourage critical thinking.  If we can help people develop their own 
understanding of the world and give people a sense of their own power then 
we will be contributing enormously to long-term social change efforts."

As organizers we work to connect the issues and build movement.  As radical 
educators we connect the issues and develop analysis and vision.  We should 
think of our rallies and marches as, at once, mobilizing people who are 
already engaged and as political education for new people.  In a time of 
crisis lots of folks are looking for information and in times of war lots of 
folks get active for the first time.  We need to nurture the choir while 
also engaging the congregation.

The third requires that we get ourselves organized.  When new folks come to 
meetings we need to be able to find easy ways to plug them in.  Folks are 
coming out because they are confused, enraged or sad.  We need to be able to 
channel that energy into handing out leaflets, putting up posters, making 
phone calls, going to political education events to deepen their/our 
knowledge and going to actions.  We also need to be welcoming and friendly.  
Surveillance and infiltration by the state is a reality.  Our greatest 
protection is also our strength, building popular movements for social 
change.

As new folks are coming in we need to be giving people skills to 
participate.  Workshops on media, direct action, anti-racism, strategic 
campaign design, grassroots organizing help to build the coalition or group. 
  Trainings are good for people who have already been around as well.  In a 
time of crisis, an organizing dynamic can manifest in which the most 
experienced activists go into overdrive mode and everyone else tries to keep 
up.  It is in these times of crisis when it is even more important for 
people to conceptualize organizing as encouraging others to act, to help 
others build confidence in their abilities to act and to provide training 
and education to help others act effectively.  Even as we try to bring out 
lots of folks to rallies and teach-ins, we should also be committed to 
developing other people's leadership and building organizations that allow 
people to practice political work.  As we challenge injustice, we also need 
to challenge ourselves and each other to grow and become more effective in 
our work for justice.

We are in difficult times, but if we listen carefully, think strategically, 
and persevere, then we can work for a world inwhich the tragic events of 911 
will not ever be repeated anywhere.

Resources:
 Z Magazine's website has informative analysis on what's going on at 
zmag.net
 Postersforpeace.org is a NYC based autonomous actions initiative.  They 
have lots of street posters such as "Our Grief is Not a Cry for War" and 
"Our Son died a victim of an inhuman ideology.  Our actions should not serve 
the same purpose - parents of a WTC victim"
 ActionLA.org has updates on organizing in Southern California and 
contacts.
 Ella Baker Center for Human Rights' website is booksnotbars.org
 Students Transforming and Resisting Corporations' website is 
starcalliance.org
 For more on anti-racism/anti-oppression organizing check out Colours of 
Resistance www.tao.ca/~colours
 Indymedia has a section devoted to anti-war coverage and analysis 
indymedia.org/peace

Chris Crass is a white anti-racist organizer with the Challenging White 
Supremacy Collective.  He can be reached at chriscrass@tao.ca



_________________________________________________________________
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp