Sushma Sheth is a communications strategist and organizer. In 2001, she returned to her hometown to join the Miami Workers Center, an emerging grassroots organizing and progressive strategy center. She jump started the strategic communications program, directed staff and programs, as well as convened regional coalitions to move progressive initiatives in Miami. Sushma was awarded the 2002 New Voices Fellowship and named 2007 Miami Fellow and “Top 25 Power Women of Miami” in 2006. Currently, Sushma is a graduate student. She supports social movements and institutions, including the national Right to the City Alliance, as a strategic communications and planning consultant, writer, and facilitator.
This piece captures some of the insights from a series of dialogues that the New York Study Group (NYSG) organized over the last year. NYSG is a study group made up of more than 100 organizers and activists from around New York City who are engaged in a range of exciting struggles rooted in working class communities and communities of color around the city, from immigrant worker organizing and housing campaigns to public education and cultural work. We came together because we believe that – even though our work in these struggles to win reforms and change conditions in our communities is crucial – we also needed a space to reflect on that work as leftists, as people who believe in an end to capitalism and in the fundamental transformation of power relations in our society. Given the political and economic conditions of our current moment, it is far from clear how to both build strong organizations that can fight for concrete changes and how to lay the groundwork for more radical transformation.
The strategic relevance of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign
This is a revised version of an article originally published in Interface: a Journal for and about Social Movements. Volume 2 (1): 262 - 270 (May 2o10). It was written in response to David Harvey's “Organizing for the Anti-Capitalist Transition.”
My name is Willie Baptist, like a Baptist Church. I am formerly homeless and still poor. I have been poor all my life and have been organizing among poor people in the United States for over 40 years. I participated as one of the organizers in the National Union of the Homeless nationwide organizing drive back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We developed chapters in 25 cities across the US with over 15,000 members and it t was perhaps the first time that homeless people organized homeless people on this scale. I also served as the Education Director for the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, an organization of poor and homeless white, Black and Latino families based in Kensington, the poorest community in the entire state of Pennsylvania, for 10 years. I have worked to build networks of grassroots organizations fighting poverty and connect them with international struggles of the poor including the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) of Brazil and the Abahlali base Mjondolo Shackdwellers movement of South Africa. I currently serve as the Poverty Initiative Scholar-in-Residence at Union Theological Seminary and the Coordinator of the Poverty Initiative’s Poverty Scholars Program.
Organizing Upgrade is excited to be able to share the video of one of the many exciting sessions that took place at the 2010 United States Social Forum in Detroit: Transformative Organizing Theory: Conscious Organizers Seek to Build Anti-racist, Anti-imperialist Politics Rooted in Working Class Communities of Color. Sponsored by the Labor-Community Strategy Center, this session was based on a piece by that same name written by LCSC’s Director, Eric Mann, an excerpt of which can be found here on Organizing Upgrade and which can be purchased from the Labor-Community Strategy Center here. The session opened with a presentation by Eric Mann, which was then followed by responses from five other experienced left organizers (many of whom are also Organizing Upgrade contributors): Steve Williams, from People Organized to Win Employment Rights, Ai-jen Poo from the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Cindy Wiesner from Grassroots Global Justice, Ng’ethe Maina from Social Justice Leadership and Patrisse Cullors from the Labor-Community Strategy Center. The room was packed, demonstrating how important these types of strategic dialogues are for left organizers today.
Organizing Upgrade wants to engage you - our readers - in the strategic dialogue we have started here. At the recent Social Forum, we heard from so many of you that you have been reading the site regularly and that you really appreciate the dialogue. We are honored that you appreciate the space we have created.
But now we want to hear from YOU!
We are experimenting with a new type of forum - a "Reader's Forum" - designed specifically to draw out the voices of the many left organizers, activists, and thinkers from around the country. We know you are reading. We also want to know what you are thinking!
LCSC is organizing a workshop at the 2010 U.S. Social Forum to discuss their transformative organizing model.
Thu, 06/24/2010 – 1:00pm – 3:00pm, Cobo Hall: W2-63
Developing the theory and practice of transformative organizing is a critical task before our movements as we fight to change the country, change the world. We are excited that transformative organizing is on the agenda at the US Social Forum and we invite everyone to join us for a rich, reflective discussion at our workshop with Ai-jen Poo (National Domestic Workers Alliance), Steve Williams (POWER), Cindy Weisner (Grassroots Global Justice), Ng’ethe Maina (Social Justice Leadership), Patrisse Cullors (Labor/Community Strategy Center) and Eric Mann
Towards Liberation of Self and Society, Part 1
Social Justice Leadership
SJL is organizing two workshops at the 2010 U.S. Social Forum to discuss their transformative organizing model.
Transformative Organizing 101 Wed, 06/23/2010 – 1:00pm – 3:00pm, UAW Building: Ford
Transformative Organizing 201 Wed, 06/23/2010 – 3:30pm – 5:30pm, TWW: 5
Joseph Phelan of Organizing Upgrade sat down with Purvi Shah and Chuck Elsesser of the Community Justice Project based at Florida Legal Services in Miami in early April to discuss the role of lawyers in grassroots organizing, social movements, and building another world.
Welcome back to Fast Forum! We pick a hot topic and ask 3 – 6 organizers from across the country to weigh in. Our hope is to draw out new ideas and to encourage new voices to take a stab at the freshest challenges facing our community. This month, Jidan Koon, Senior Fellow at the Movement Strategy Center in Oakland, guest-edited a FastForum exploring the efforts of different organizations to push the boundaries of the non-profit model.
We are living through dramatic times. What do you find to be the significant shifts and how do they change the context of the work we are doing now?
I go back and forth on how significant the shifts are for the movement. Obviously the economic crisis and the election of Barack Obama are pretty significant shifts. Those two combined allow for a different conversation of what the conditions are. However, the response by the administration to the crisis has not been a significant shift. The initial response (i.e. We need to Save the Banks) and the later response focused solely saving the financial industry, instead of taking the opportunity to invest in other kinds of economic recovery. The response followed pretty mainstream and historical reactions to crisis.