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Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle:

Reflections on Organizing and Building a People-Centered Human Rights Movement in the United States

Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle:


Reflections on Organizing and Building a People-Centered Human Rights Movement in the United States
Atlanta Public Sector Alliance and U.S. Human Rights Network December 2011

Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others. Frederick Douglass

SECTION 1: What are Human Rights? Where Do They Come From?

What are Human Rights? Where Do They Come From?


All rights are the product of social struggle. This is the most fundamental thing that all those desiring their rights must understand. The failure to grasp the reality of this truth more often than not has left those in most need of rights without them, primarily due to insufficient organization, or the inability to harness and build the power needed to win and exercise ones rights. In the long struggle of humanity to realize human rights, there have been a multitude of positive struggles, that expand who and what is respected and protected, and negative ones, that limit and restrict who is respected and protected. Some of these historic struggles include: Assertions of various forms of control or authority (Kings, Theocrats, Nation-States, etc.) over peoples, societies, and territories; Setting limitations or constraints on the power of these authoritative figures and institutions over individuals and peoples thoughts, actions, physical beings, capacities, and resources; Oppressed peoples and nations asserting their self-determination and independence from colonial and imperialist powers and institutions; Peoples, workers, and women fighting to access or restore access to land, water, housing, work, education, rights at work, health care, child care, the right to vote and other social goods and services; And the struggles of exploited, marginalized and excluded sectors of society such as women, (ethnic, racial, religious, national) minorities, migrants, and LGBTQI individuals and communities for dignity, recognition, and justice. The civil and political rights observed in the United States are no exception. The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution are both the products of social struggle. These documents are the direct result of a contest for power between the British imperial elites who originally conquered and controlled the thirteen colonies, and the English and European colonial settler elite who wrested control from them. The recognition of basic civil and political rights in the United States, particularly for Blacks, Indigenous Peoples, Chicanos, women, and the disabled, are products of the political victories won by the social movements organized by these peoples and social sectors over the past two hundred years. Despite the many democratic gains won by the various social movements in the United States, the US government and the society at large, still have a long way to go to realize the full complement of human rights articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Fundamental economic, social, and cultural rights, such as the right to food, water, housing, health care, education, and employment are not constitutionally guaranteed in the United States, and are generally not considered rights in and of themselves by the US government primarily because they limit the ability of
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capitalists to exploit workers and the natural environment. Even the civil and political rights recognized and promoted by the US government are recognized in a very limited fashion. For instance, as it relates to addressing issues of discrimination against racially oppressed peoples or women, the US government only considers discrimination to exist where there is a stated intent to exclude, treat unfairly, or in any way harm or impair these populations and sectors of society. This view of discrimination has enabled the institutionalization of legislation that does not explicitly state that its intent is to discriminate, but the outcomes of which are clearly discriminatory in regards to the treatment of women and oppressed peoples. Oppressed, exploited, and marginalized peoples and communities in the United States are limited in the full expression of their humanity and the comprehensive exercise of their human rights by a set of overlapping and interdependent systems of oppression. The most dominant of these systems include: Capitalism: A competitive socio-economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production (i.e. machines, tools, factories, etc.), distribution (trucks, trains, planes, stores, etc.), and exchange (banks, stocks, etc.) by capitalists, who exploit workers, those who must sell their labor in return for wages or a salary, to make profit (surplus value) and accumulate wealth. Neoliberalism: A capitalist strategy of accumulating wealth that seeks to remove all legal restrictions on capitalists and corporationsfrommoving production anywhere they can find cheaper labor and resources. The strategy also calls for the elimination of labor unions, worker protections, and environmental standards, the privatization or selling off of public assets, and the reorganization of government to more fully support and enforce this strategy on behalf of capital and the corporations at the expense of social needs. Racism or White Supremacy: A system of domination based on the institutionalization of the adverse material and social gains accumulated by Europeans and their descendents in settler-colonial societies from the western European conquest and colonization of the world between the 15th and 20th centuries. White supremacy is distinguished from the bigotry of individuals by the existence of systematic policies and practices within institutionsracial profiling, for example. White privilege represents the material benefits and advantages that white people have beyond which is commonly experienced by oppressed people. It differs from racism or prejudice in that a person benefiting from white privilege may not necessarily hold racist beliefs but still benefits from these advantages. Imperialism: Imperialism is a higher stage in the development of capitalism where a nation (or conglomerate of nations like the European Union) dominates other nations either by territorial acquisition (colonies) or the establishment of economic and political hegemony over them. The imperialist nation seeks to plunder the oppressed nation for profit and often supports dictatorial leadership in order to ensure a continual flow of raw materials, essential resources and cheap exports. For example, the United States has an imperialist relationship to the nation of Puerto Rico which it has ruled as a colony since the 1890s, denying the Puerto Rican people the right to selfdetermination to administer their own affairs and control their own destiny.

Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

Patriarchy: A system of male, heterosexual domination. A patriarchal society is male-dominated, male-identified, and male-centered. For example, men typically occupy top positions in politics, business, military, religion, and in the home. Often characterized by violence, patriarchy requires male dominance by any means necessary. Male, heterosexual lives are established as normal. Heterosexism defines a system of oppression against those with a different sexual orientation. Patriarchal power is a form of power (that can also be exercised by women) that is top-down, leader-centered, undemocratic, and dominating. Ableism: Ableism is a form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities. It is known by many names, including disability discrimination, physicalism, handicapism, and disability oppression. The ableist societal world-view is that the able-bodied are the norm in society, and that people who have disabilities must either strive to become that norm or should keep their distance from able-bodied people. A disability is thus, inherently, a bad thing that must be overcome. The ableist worldview holds that disability is an error, a mistake, or a failing, rather than a simple consequence of human diversity, akin to race, sexual orientation or gender. The perpetuation of these systems serves a small minority of society that has concentrated the bulk of the economic, political and social power (largely through the educational system, religious institutions, and the mass media) in the country into their hands. In order to fully realize our human rights, the oppressed, exploited, and marginalized must build the power and capacity to eliminate these systems of oppression. Power and capacity are built by organizing millions of people from the bottom up into social change organizations united in transformative mass social movement that puts people before profits and seeks to reinstitute a sustainable ecological relationship with the dynamic forces that sustain life on earth.

The common goal of 22 million Afro-Americans is respect as human beings, the God-given right to be a human being. Our common goal is to obtain the human rights that America has been denying us. We can never get civil rights in America until our human rights are first restored. We will never be recognized as citizens there until we are first recognized as humans. We are the victims of Americas colonialism or American imperialism, and that problem is not an American problem, its a human problem. Its not a Negro problem, its a problem of humanity. Its not a problem of civil rights, but a problem of human rights. Malcolm X El Hajj Malik Shabazz

Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. Stephen Bantu Biko 7

A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess. A. Philip Randolph

SECTION 2: What is Power?

We ask for nothing that is not right, and herein lies the great power of our demand. Paul Robeson

In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed... It means facing a system that does not lend its self to your needs and devising means by which you change that system. My basic sense of it has always been to get people to understand that in the long run, they themselves are the only protection they have against violence and injustice. Ella Baker

What is Power?
Power is the capacity to make a difference, to affect a change in reality. In this society, tremendous wealth and privilege for a select few provides the basis for inequality and injustice for the vast majority. This builds on itself in a never ending quest for more wealth and power. This is done through structural systems of oppression listed in the previous section. These oppressive systems do not stand alone but are interlocking and interdependent. In order for the few to control the many, internalized oppression or a belief by the oppressed in the dominant ideology is a necessary tool of the rulers. As Steven Biko stated, the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. Gender socialization, for example, is a way that the oppressive ideas that support male supremacy and patriarchy get passed on from one generation to the next. Audre Lorde cautions us to be aware of the pieces of the oppressor that we carry within us. Another tool used to maintain the rule of the few is the power of the state (the military, police, and the courts) to repress dissent. Dissent can also be managed through the co-opting of individuals into positions of authority that make them no longer accountable to the people. Non-profit organizations and foundation money are also often used to channel dissent in ways that do not confront the fundamental relations of power. The power of the people is different. It is used to liberate. Radically democratic power is based on a group-centered as opposed to a leader-centered approach. Rather than relying on a powerful leader, Ella Baker emphasized the need for people to not rely on anyone but themselves. Throughout history, those who seek to resist oppression and change society have had to rely on committed efforts of masses of people. This is where our power lies. In the past, little attention has been paid to power as a political category in its own right. One lesson that has been summed up, especially by feminists, is the need to raise consciousness about patriarchal power and its corrupting influence. Awareness of how power works is necessary at both the individual and collective level in order to ensure that the masters tools are not being employed in the service of radical change. Too often this has led to imitating the oppressor and the replacing of one oppressive set of power relations with another. In Western thinking, an artificial distinction has been made between personal and political. Feminists of color, in particular, urge us to heal this binary and see these as two aspects of one whole. When it comes to dealing with power, we must also look at both its personal and political manifestations. Power is exercised on all levels simultaneously. We need to be aware of its effects not only on us collectively but also individually. We have to struggle to change ourselves as we change the world. Power must be shared and distributed in an equitable way. This is a radically democratic view of power and is in contrast to the methods of centralized, authoritarian power. Our principles must
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be consistent. We must uphold the same democratic principlesexternally, in our organizing work and, internally, in the way our organizations function, make decisions, and develop leaders. If expediency, for example, dictates how we function, then we will undermine the objective of empowering people to be self-determining. Constant work must be done to deepen our understanding and apply a liberating view of power.

Methods and Techniques


Base Building Grassroots Orientation
Base building is a term that describes organizing work done with a particular constituency that is focused at a particular location or area or in a particular sector of society (workers, women, etc.). Individuals gather together to form a collective, popular foundation to challenge power. Decisions are carried out and implemented after being arrived at democratically. The process of doing base building work is usually very slow and undramatic. It demands careful attention to building relationships, patiently putting down roots. In contrast to mobilizing, the base building approach has a deep respect for the people and understands the need to not only develop organic leaders but also be directed by the wisdom and experience of the people being organized. Having a grassroots orientation means seeing the centrality of work at the base. The objective is to create a movement led by those most affected.

Campaign Development

Campaigns are developed in response to a particular need or issue. They usually have a limited time with focused energy and have definite goals to achieve. Campaigns can serve a long-term strategy or just be stand alone pieces of work. For example, there could be a campaign to organize around CERD (Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination: http://www2.ohchr. org/english/bodies/cerd/) in order to fulfill U.N. deadline requirements for shadow reporting processes to hold the government accountable. There would be a definite beginning and end to this work. This campaign would also serve the long-term strategy of building a people-centered human rights movement that holds the U.S. government accountable for the structural oppression of people of color.

Leadership Development (Individual and Group Centered)

Leadership development is key to the building of any grassroots organization. In the course of struggle, leaders will emerge. They bring with them wisdom and skills based on their life experience. What they may lack are particular skills needed in running a meeting, writing a leaflet, dealing with funders, etc. They also may need additional insights that organizers can bring about the true nature of the system and a vision for a radically different society. In contrast to the leadercentered group that invests its power in the hands of a charismatic individual, the group-centered approach that Ella Baker advocated empowers everyone involved in the process. Everyone has a contribution to make. Its the job of the organizers to figure out what people are best suited to do. Leadership development should be a consistent part of an organizations activitycontinually developing new leaders and expanding the base of power.

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Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

Coalition Building

Coalitions are formations pulled together temporarily or long-term. They usually are made up of different organizations representing different constituencies who come together to attain a shared goal or purpose. The issue of democracy and shared power is a critical one in a coalition. For example, unions may feel they should dominate the decision-making because they bring more resources to the table. Whenever various groups are brought together in the same room, there is bound to be tension. Former SNCC member Bernice Johnson Reagon has said if you feel comfortable, youre not in a coalition. Ideally, this tension can be creative and lead to deeper unity.

Movement Building

Mass movements are self-conscious efforts to challenge the system in a collective way. They involve and engage thousands of people and employ various strategies and tactics. They are often politically independent and not connected to any of the major political parties. An obvious example is the May 2006 series of national demonstrations for immigrant rights which were the largest in the history of this country. Movements typically are organized around a single issue with multiple entry points for people to get involved and make a contribution. While single issue movements can lead to transformative change, they most often are used to enact some type of reform in the system.

The answer to the problem between the white race and the colored, between males and females, lies in healing the split that originates in the very foundation of our lives, our culture, our languages, our thoughts. A massive uprooting of dualistic thinking in the individual and collective consciousness is the beginning of a long struggle, but one that could, in our best hopes, bring us to the end of rape, of violence, of war. The rational, the patriarchal, and the heterosexual have held sway and legal tender for too long. Third World women, lesbians, feminists, and feministoriented men of all colors are banding and bonding together to right that balance. Only together can we be a force. I see us as a network of kindred spirits, a kind of family. Gloria Anzaldua

Action and Reflection

The process of action and reflection is perhaps best articulated by Paulo Freire, a Brazilian popular educator. He saw the need for a constant cycle of knowledge and practice where people do not simply just act or reflect but engage in a process that integrates both. Action without reflection does not allow for the summing up of strengths and weaknesses. It can lead to activism for its own sake. People do not learn anything this way. Reflection without action is divorced from the constant need to struggle against oppression. True reflection will always lead to action. Both action and reflection are necessary for the oppressed to transform the world. We must actively participate in this praxis, i.e. the unity of theory (reflection) and practice (action), in order to achieve liberation.
Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

The theory we need to be developing is one that helps us understand the relationships among our different and multifaceted lives with all their specific struggles and resources. Rather than build unity through simplification, we must learn to embrace multiple rallying points and understand their inherent interdependence. 9 Aurora Levins Morales

There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. For the masters tools will never dismantle the masters house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Audre Lorde

SECTION 3: What is Organizing?

If you feel comfortable, youre not in a coalition. Bernice Johnson Reagon

Most people get involved as a result of being hailed by a visible political movement if there had been no movements to hail me. I have no idea what I would have done or would be doing today. If you are one of those organizers capable of pioneering initiatives, and we need such organizers in women of color movements today, and you want to activate youth, make sure you combine the political content with forms and styles of presentation that can dramatically hail young women and men. Angela Davis

What is Organizing?
As human rights are born of social struggle, they can only be implemented through social struggle. In order for oppressed, exploited, and marginalized people to successfully express, define, and realize the implementation of their rights they must organize themselves to break the grip of power held by the government and the corporations and reinforced by the systems of oppression.

What is Organizing?
Organizing is a process whereby people affected by a condition, problem, or issue come together in a practice of collective action and reflection to improve their common circumstance. Dialogue, discussion and debate are important aspects to organizing; it enables the affected to start to grapple ideologically and intellectually with their condition, and this helps to raise the consciousness of the oppressed. And as their consciousness is raised the oppressed are in a better position to understand and resist further degradation and exploitation. People engage in the process of organizing to harness their collective power to challenge and overcome systems of oppression and their derivative policies. History repeatedly demonstrates that only the people bound to an inhumane condition can liberate themselves from that condition. Victims of inhumanity have to have space carved out to raise their consciousness. No one can do this work for oppressed people. Rather, the role of organizers and their allies is to help open up the needed space for the most affected to become the organizers of their own liberation. Therefore, we should look at organizing as a project for oppressed people to build power to transform and improve their lives.

Using An Intersectional Approach


The intersectional approach to organizing involves recognizing what bell hooks calls the matrix of domination -the interwoven and interlocking way in which race, class, and gender oppressions exist, support, and perpetuate themselves- and organizing those most affected at the point of the intersections to break down all forms of oppression simultaneously. When we take the intersectional approach, were stating that there is no hierarchy of oppression. It means that we must lift up and recognize not only the broad commonalities of the human rights violations that we organize against, but also the importance of the Specificity of oppression. Intersectionality calls us to look at organizing with eyes that seek the confluence of gender, race, and class issues. It demands that we re-center the process of bringing people together in places where there is the most pain being inflicted. And if one can begin to organize successfully where the most pain is being inflicted, organizing to end the suffering of all comes closer to fruition. If we can have the human rights of the most oppressed respected, protected, and fulfilled, we can do it for an entire society.

Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

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Organizing Is NOT Mobilizing, Networking or Activism


One may sometimes encounter instances where some may use the terms Organizing interchangeably with other terms like, Mobilizing, Activism, or Networking. In truth, these terms and processes are very different. Unlike organizing, mobilizing does not require much dialogue, discussion, or debate amongst those being rallied. Under a mobilizing regime, all that is required is that people show up at an appointed time and place, usually for a rally, march, or other demonstration. The mobilized, in this model, are often not part of the central planning, and may not have any permanent allegiance or interest in the issue for which they have been mobilized. This is not to say that mobilizing people for action is something to be avoided, but we must not conflate simply turning people out to the streets with engaging the oppressed in a process that raises consciousness, develops leadership. We need to be able to mobilize our constituencies while we simultaneously build lasting alliances and organizations, and ultimately empower those most affected. The same can be said for activism. Activism is simply taking action to confront, challenge, or improve upon some problem. Like mobilizing, it doesnt require an ongoing interactive dialogue with other oppressed people; it doesnt necessarily raise consciousness or develop grassroots leaders. Simple activism doesnt call for the participant to think beyond short term tactical questions. One might say that activism is not necessarily interested in long-term strategic questions or transformation. Moreover, activism doesnt even demand as much planning and strategic thinking that might go into simplistically mobilizing people, because activism can be spontaneous activity among unorganized individuals. Merriam-Webster defines Networking as, the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions;specifically:the cultivation of productive relationships for employment Using this as our working definition, we can clearly see the difference between Networking and Organizing. Organizing isnt simply exchanging ideas or services. To the extent that an organizing model does do
Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

The massive extermination of indigenous people provided our land base; the enslavement of African labor made our economic growth possible; and the seizure of half of Mexico by war (or threat of renewed war) extended this nations boundaries north to the Pacific and south to the Rio Grande. Such are the foundation stones of the United States, within an economic system that made this country the first in world history to be born capitalist. Betita Martinez

I look at each day as a challenge. I do believe that we go forward as human beings. It is not exactly history as progress.We go backwards. We go forward. We go sideways. But, the potential to go forward always exists. I believe in liberation and justice. They are abstract words but are very concrete in terms of what I see and how we could be as human beings and with each other. I try to analyze my own illnesses. Not just on a physical level. I try to be in tune with my paranoia, with my depression. With all these things, I study psychology. I am trying to get a degree in psychology after many years of thinking that revolutionaries dont need psychology. But I think we need it now more than we ever did. We do need to understand colonial illnesses and mental illnesses of advanced capitalism and imperialism. It affects us differently due to gender, race, and class. 14 Marilyn Buck

this, its for the purpose of bonding people together to take collective action, raise consciousness, and develop grassroots leadership. Organizing is typically about challenging oppressive and corporate powers. If there are situations in which organizing leads to productive employment, its usually in the context of building power for the employee in the work place to improve wages and working conditions.

Beyond Pragmatism
Some organizers have the point of view that oppressed people are only, and need only, concern themselves with the winning of concrete but minor victories, and/or resolving a particular issue of interest to them. These types of organizers believe that the process of consciousness raising, educating, radicalizing the oppressed is secondary to the pragmatic victory. They may even believe that the victory itself is sufficient for radicalization of the people affected. But from the combination of our personal organizing experience and the theories of Paulo Freire, Myles Horton, and Ella Baker, we see that the process of political education, consciousness raising, critical thinking, and analysis development must be at the forefront of the organizers work, if she/he is about the work of transformation- of ourselves and society as a whole. The so called pragmatic approach to organizing has led to some victories and modest reforms. But as we know, without deep transformation of people and society, those gains can be and have been reversed. The way to create lasting change is a transformational approach to organizing that radicalizes its participants as they go about the process of radicalizing society for the betterment of all. This entails organizing not only around small reforms, but more importantly using small victories as stepping stones to challenge oppressive structures at their very roots. Therefore, our human rights organizing should be of the transformational sort. Our full human rights cannot be reached without a conscious and primary effort to transform structures, as well as political, economic, and social relations. Or as Myles Horton put it himself, If you only try to do the things where you win, then youll never try to do anything worth doing.

Education always implies program, content, method, objectives ... For me it has always been a political question, not exclusively an educational question, at what levels students take part in the process of organizing the curriculum. I know that this question has to have different answers according to different places and times. The more people participate in the process of their own education, the more the people participate in the process of defining what kind of production to produce, and for what and why, the more the people participate in the development of their selves. The more the people become themselves, the better the democracy. The less people are asked about what they want, about their expectations, the less democracy we have. Paulo Freire

When we center women of color in our analysis, it becomes clear that we must develop approaches that address interpersonal, state (e.g., colonization, police brutality, prisons), and structural (e.g., racism, poverty) violence simultaneously. In addition, we find that by centering women of color in the analysis, we may actually build a movement that more effectively ends violence not just for women of color but for all people. Andrea Smith

Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

You cant have an individual right. It has to be a universal right. I have no rights that everybody else doesnt have. Theres no right I could claim that anybody else in the world cant claim, and I have to fight for their exercising that right just like I have to 15 fight for my own. Myles Horton

Not Just Shaming, We Need Social Transformation


For years now, the prevailing approach that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have used to challenge human rights violators has been the strategy of shaming; that is, exposing the unjust acts of those who commit crimes against humanity, in the hopes that this will lead to policy changes on the part of the state, organization or entity in question. And, while it can be said that this approach has -in some cases- led to policy changes, this however should not be misconstrued as deep transformational change. Policy changes can be made on paper without real change being seen by the people on the ground. For example, even though the US has signed onto the CERD treaty and reports that it is making progress in this regard, racial discrimination remains a pervasive fact of life for Blacks, Latinos, and Indigenous peoples in the United States. What we as human rights organizers should be calling for is not just policy changes, but deep social transformation. Only with the dismantling of oppressive structures that prevent the comprehensive exercise of human rights can we hope to have a society where the humanity of all is protected. Policy changes wont dismantle oppressive structures, but social movements demanding a radical revisioning of social, cultural, economic, civil and political relations can. Setting up the conditions for this revisioning to be implemented is the work of a human rights organizer.

We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. We read one day, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. But if a man doesnt have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists. We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. And we are coming to engage in dramatic nonviolent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible. Why do we do it this way? We do it this way because it is our experience that the nation doesnt move around questions of genuine equality for the poor and for Black people until it is confronted massively, dramatically, in terms of direct action. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Human Rights Tradition


Many activists and organizers engaged in social justice work question the human rights framework, and for good reason. They question its application within the United States, since the government basically denies their implementation and litigation within the country itself. While struggling for social justice outside of the limited framework of the US constitution can be and is challenging, we argue that it is absolutely necessary. Merely staying within the bounds of the civil and individualrights framework accepted by the US government and the small elite that control its economy, will not create the justice and liberation we all need. We have to go beyond the limits of the present system, and we need more, much more, than the masters tools to do it.
Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

Today it is clear we need to think about power in new and different ways. When we understand that feminism doesnt demean but in fact deepens and enhances the struggle against neocolonialism, we will be able to design a power equilibrium more immune to verticality, super-concentration, and corruption; more inclusive of all the different social groups, more transparent, and with better safeguards against abuse. 16 Margaret Randall

Human Rights organizing as a distinct tradition and field, draws from a broad body of knowledge gained from community, political, craft, union, spiritual, and even military organizing. What makes human rights organizing distinct, however, are its intersectional orientation and its focus on institutionalizing a comprehensive, but ever growing, set of interrelated and interdependent universal principles and values to help humanity reach its full potential. The human rights organizing tradition in the United States is best exemplified by the struggles of oppressed peoples, such as the Indigenous nations, Blacks, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, and Hawaiians, for self-determination and social justice. These struggles challenge the narrow conception of rights coming from the European, particularly the Anglo-Saxon, tradition that focus primarily on the promotion of negative rightsthat is civil and political rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to a fair trail, and voting rights. The imposition of these rights on oppressed peoples via colonial conquest and various forms of subjugation, was an attempt in part to negate the more comprehensive sense of rights and community held by oppressed peoples prior to their subjection. These more comprehensive views included what would now be called economic, social, and cultural rights, but also included relational rights to the earth and its multitude of inhabitants, now being formulated as the rights of mother earth. The struggles for self-determination within the United States have expanded the understanding of what it means to be human above and beyond what it means to be a citizen. In their struggles for land, sovereignty, reparations, repatriation, economic democracy, reproductive rights, ecological sustainability, and more, oppressed peoples have and continue to challenge the boundaries of the limited set of rights currently accepted and protected by the United States government and constitution. It is critical that when we engage struggles for human rights and organize ourselves and our communities to secure these rights, which we draw from the lessons of oppressed peoples struggles, continue to support them in their current initiatives, and employ their protracted orientation of struggle for liberation.

Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

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Examples, Best Practices, and Applications of Local Power-Building Initiatives


By Any Means Necessary: The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the Struggle for Human Rights and Self-Determination in the United States
There is a popular narrative in the contemporary human rights movement that the first organizations in the United States focused on domestic human rights issues emerged in the 1990s. Two critical events are attributed to enabling this development. The first event was the end of the Cold War in 1991. With the end of formal hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union, political space was supposedly opened up to engage the human rights framework in its totality without it being associated with ideological aspects of socialism, communism, and radical nationalism that the United States government vehemently opposed. While it is true that a number of ground breaking non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focused specifically on the advancement and utilization of the human rights framework started in the 1990s, such as the National Center for Human Rights Education and Womens Institute for Leadership Development for Human Rights, there are some gross oversights posed by this narrative. Human rights have been an integral part of the orientation and ideology of a number of social justice organizations located within the United States since the 1960s. The vast majority of the organizations that advocated for human rights in the 1960s and 70s were drawn from the peoples or national liberation movements of this era, most specifically organizations from the Black, Chicano, Puerto Rican and American Indian (Indigenous) liberation movements. A cursory view of but a few of the organizations that utilized the framework demonstrates the breadth and depth of utilization prior to the 1990s: the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (PG-RNA), the Afrikan Peoples Party (APP), the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC), the National Black Human Rights Coalition (NBHRC), the American Indian Movement (AIM), the Young Lords Party, and the La Raza Unida Party. The focus of all of these organizations was attaining self-determination for their peoples and lands. The principle inspirations for these movements and organizations were the political and ideological contributions of Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El Shabazz), the national liberation movements of Africa and Asia, and the social revolution in Cuba and other Latin American countries. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), a national organization of people of Afrikan descent dedicated to advancing human rights and achieving self-determination for New Afrikan people within the United States, is a direct descendent of the human rights trailblazers of the 1960s and
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70s, specifically the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (PG-RNA), the Afrikan Peoples Party (APP), the National Black Human Rights Coalition (NBHRC), and the New Afrikan Peoples Organization (NAPO). MXGM was founded in 1990 by the New Afrikan Peoples Organization (NAPO), as a mass organization to organize and provide human rights education to African descendant communities throughout the United States. MXGM is united by six principles of unity that orientate the organization and give it a mass character. The principles are as follows: 1. Self-determination for New Afrikan people in the United States and throughout the world; 2. Human rights to protect all peoples from abuse and help them realize their full human potential; 3. End to genocide against Afrikan people in the western hemisphere and throughout the world; 4. End to sexist oppression and patriarchy and all social norms and customs that impede the development and opportunities of women; 5. Reparations for Afrikan people for the crimes of the transatlantic slave trade, chattel slavery, displacement, and colonization; and 6. Freedom for our Political Prisoners, Prisoners of War, and Political Exiles Over its 20 years of existence, MXGM has been a leader in the fight for human rights in the United States focusing on the following issues: The struggle for amnesty and freedom for the political prisoners, prisoners of war, and political exiles from the peoples movements of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. An end to the counterinsurgency campaign of the US government against the peoples movements fought under the guise of the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) and the socalled Wars on Drugs, Crime and Gangs, that have resulted in the mass incarceration and state supervision of millions of Black and oppressed peoples. Community self-defense, through Copwatch and Peoples Self-Defense campaigns, to combat police brutality and terror against Black communities. Organizing for workers rights and protections in the South through unionization drives and supporting the development of workers centers. Organizing emergency and disaster relief in the South as a result of white supremacists attacks on New Afrikan communities, or to mitigate against the unequal and racist distribution of socalled disaster relief as a result of floods, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Building self-reliant educational and economic institutions throughout the South through the establishment of Malcolm X Centers for Self-Determination.
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Starting in the fall of 2008, MXGM embarked on a bold human rights initiative in Jackson, Mississippi called simply, the Jackson Plan. The aim of the Jackson Plan is to turn Jackson into a Human Rights City - that is a city governed by human rights norms and principles that sets itself to respecting, protecting, and fulfilling all of its obligations under international law. To accomplish this goal, MXGM is employing two principle tactics within a comprehensive strategy to transform the city. The first major tactic involves the building of an independent Peoples Assembly to organize the resources and political power of civil society to harness its strength to transform the social norms and structures of Jackson from the ground up. The second major tactic is engaging electoral politics to elect human rights defenders and advocates to all of the public offices in the city and county, starting specifically with the City Council and the Mayors office, to legislate and enact human rights laws and statutes. To date, MXGM has created a dynamic Peoples Assembly in the 2nd Ward of the cities 6 legislative districts. As of spring of 2011, MXGM is currently in the process of building additional Assemblies in Ward 1, 4, and 6. Further, human rights advocate, Attorney Chokwe Lumumba, was elected in June 2009 to serve as the City Councilman for Ward 2 through the organizing efforts of MXGM and the Peoples Assembly. While the Jackson Plan is still a relatively new experiment, it illustrates that organizing around the human rights framework can succeed in the United States. However, in order for it to succeed, it requires the internalization of the human rights framework as a strategic component of the long-term vision and programs of our organizations and movements. Without this internalization and incorporation, reference to human rights in our organizing work and campaigns can seem piecemeal and artificial. A critical component of MXGMs success in Jackson is its consistent reference to human rights in all of its organizing, educating, and campaign work over the last 20 years. This laid the foundation for the Jackson Plan and the notion of building a human rights city. We encourage every20 Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

one to study the MXGM model and learn from it as you are considering how to apply the human rights framework in the United States. Unlike many progressive organizations that question the application of human rights in the United States, or see it only as a reformist tool, MXGM has always maintained the radical transformative nature of the human rights framework. For MXGM the transformative nature of the human rights framework lies not in its acceptance or rejection by the United States government (or any government for that matter), but in its ability to address multiple issues and concerns simultaneously and to constantly grow and expand as an inclusive framework. As a people systematically subjected to the oppressive systems of white supremacy, national oppression, patriarchy, heterosexism, and economic super-exploitation, we are in need of a comprehensive framework that can address multiple and interconnected systems of oppression at the same time in order help us seize our liberation. Any framework that attempts to systematically isolate one form of oppression and privilege the struggle to overcome it above all others, will not and does not suit the comprehensive needs of our people from our perspective and experience. Similarly, in embracing the human rights framework, we acknowledge that there is a manner and established practice employed by governments and both liberal and reactionary forces to maintain the present capitalist world-system. This status quo orientation can and is only maintained by denigrating, downplaying, and rejecting the collective rights of peoples, particularly Indigenous and oppressed peoples like African Descendants, Dalits, Roma, etc.; and undermining and negating economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR). It is only by denying and liquidating these rights that the capitalist world-system is able to be perpetuated and defended by the status quo actors. Our aim is to organize from the bottom up to attain the social and political power needed to fully realize and implement these rights to create the just world all species (not just humans) need, and thus eliminate the oppressive capitalist world-system.

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Atlanta Public Sector Alliance


The APSA is one example of the type of organizing that uses the Methods & Techniques; that prioritizes grassroots intersectional organizing; that goes beyond Pragmatic Organizing toward Transformative Organizing; that utilizes a strategy that is not just about shaming, but building a movement that transforms society at its roots. Since 2003, the organizers of APSA have worked to apply the theories covered in this manual, with many instances of success.In addition to the victories, APSA organizers also encountered important obstacles that reinforced the conviction that a grassroots, intersectional, transformative organizing approach is right. For example, while APSA has been able to win small but important gains for transit riders and workers, firm sustainability and financial stability has not been consistently achieved due to a lack of what some call, institutional buy-in from more established organizations and individuals favoring a different approach to Atlantas issues. Evaluating this contradiction, it became clearer to APSA that what it needed was an organizational model that centralized base-building as well as coalition building; that re-centered itself where the majority of the most affected were located. APSA needed its own dedicated member basein addition to a base rooted in other organizationsfrom which to draw people power to better organize and mobilize. Another way of understanding this very important point is by analyzing the efficacy of what it means to have institutional buy-in from more established organizations. To be clear, solid coalitional efforts are indeed important and necessary for building a transformative program and movement for social change, but at the same time, over-stating the power and influence of established institutions can be a mistake. Moreover, formulating ones program on the basis of an over-stated reality can lead one down the wrong path. For instance, we see that since the failure of Operation Dixieled by the Congress of Industrial Workers (CIO) from 1946-1953unions in the south in particular have developed little institutional power and influence. The souths particular ability to divide workers along racial lines, prohibit strikes, and otherwise ban wall-to-wall organization and representation, have put significant limitations on the power of labor organizations. Consequently, unions in the south areunfortunatelyweak, fragmented, restricted by right-to-work laws, and lacking in collective bargaining rights. As of 2011, only about 6% percent of Georgia workers belong to a union. That means about 94% do not belong to a labor organization. What this tells us is that, though labor unions are important groups for the furtherance of economic justice, we should not be confused about the depth and breadth of their reach and influence on workers, and
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on political policy making in Georgia. The picture looks even bleaker for workers when we look at southern states like North and South Carolina where union representation is much lower than a state like Georgia. Therefore, one might say its a big mistake to center all movement building in a place where the majority of the most affected are not located. Instead, we at APSA believe our approach of re-centering in the community, while partnering with organized labor, places us at the core of where people are, and not on the periphery. Both APSAs victories and its obstacles demanded that the organizers involved address a question analyzed in this manual: What is power? In addition to reaching the same conclusions put forward in this document, APSA also grappled with the fact that many of the people and organizations that they attempted to build partnerships with, had different notions of power; sometimes opposing notions of power. Oppressed people in Atlanta often saw and continue to see themselves as powerless; that only elected officials, owners of businesses, leaders of renowned institutions, the well educated, and the rich have power. And as a consequence of this misperception, these communities seek only to have a seat at the table with these so called powerful people, as the measure of progress, and as an opportunity to superficially have their voices heard. Many times in dialogue with potential partners, APSA organizers were told: We cant fight; Theyre going to do what they want to do; We cant stop them; If we dont participate in what theyre doing, we wont get anything. Defeat is conceded before the struggle has begun, and this shapes the strategy of the people and groups espousing this view. Whats left after the adoption of these defeatist positions are the politics of concession. Oppressed people with this view of powerwho are willing to give up principles for a seat at the tableare reduced to being the labor/community cover for the degenerative policies of oppressive forces. Oppressed people who adopt this posture at best only receive a minute portion of the supposed objectives that drove them to engage the so called powerful in the first place. Often, they are reduced to being satisfied with gaining crumbs from the banquet table of the oppressors. And later, they celebrate these crumbs as major victories. APSAs view of power, and how to deal with the elites who many perceive as having power, is very different. APSAs vision and approach challenges the prevailing notion of power. For example, APSA was able to stop MARTA from raising fares even though many people told APSA it could not be done. But as stated earlier, challenging prevailing views of power not only provides a method with which to successfully challenge oppressive authority, sadly, it can also create a barrier with constituencieswith whom we would like to allywho adamantly hold on to views that are disempowering.

That said, APSA using the praxis of Reflection & Action, understands these challenges, and continues to stay committed to utilizing the organizing principles put forward in this manual. These organizing principles have won concrete victories, and they point to the deeper issue of how to make deep transformative change.
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Vermont Workers Center


The Vermont Workers Center is a democratic, memberrun organization dedicated to organizing for workers rights and living wages for all Vermonters. We seek an economically just and democratic Vermont in which all residents have living wages, decent health care, childcare, housing and transportation. We work to build a democratic, diverse movement of working and low-income Vermonters that is locally focused and coordinated on a statewide basis. We work with organized labor in moving towards economic justice and in strengthening the right to organize. We are committed to taking action on the full range of issues of concern to working people, and to building alliances nationally and internationally. How has using human rights made a difference in your work? In terms of our work in Vermont, it made all the difference. Using the human rights framework transcends all the boundaries that usually divide people. This is especially important considering all the methods our opponents attempt to use to divide us. Our principle was, Everybody inNobody out. By people understanding that, it allowed Vermonters to come together with one powerful voice. It created a presence that legislators couldnt ignore despite all they were hearing from big business and lobbyists. The human rights framework is both beneficial for organizing and its incredibly useful for policy development. It brings people together. Its a uniting framework. When we got into the nitty gritty of policy, we had clear guidelines to follow. Our concern was achieving universal health care based on the 5 principles we had developed. We could go anywhere in the state and know that everyone would be on the same page. There were no internal disputes because people were united. The most important thing was that human rights helped us to have a discussion around human experience instead of around policy. Particularly with the health care issue, there can be arguments about dollars and cents, is it politically realistic, etc. Using human rights enabled us to frame issues in a way that encourages broader movement discussion. It made our work stronger to connect issues such as the relationship between health care and domestic violence, racism, militarism and war.
What obstacles did you have to overcome in terms of building internal consensus and cohesion and external alliances?

One obstacle we dealt with had to do with education and getting people to think of people as people. Rather than just using petitions, we used pictures to get people to relate to health care as a human right. It might be easy for someone to say that they dont want this or that group to have health care but when they hear the stories and see the faces, its hard to look someone in the eye and say you dont care. It is human nature to empathize when we hear these stories and know these people can be part of your family, a neighbor, or friend.
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You cant look at a suffering face without compassion and feeling the need to do something. Some people were resistant at first to using the human rights framework, associating it with foreign policy, resistance to repressive governments, and individual political rights, rather than collective economic and social rights like healthcare. We had to emphasize the economic and social aspect of human rights. Also, it is a struggle, even in our own organizations, to get everyone to see their potential to be an actor in their own life. No group of people is more important than another. Everyone has a role to play. Centering around people telling their stories became a powerful, political act. It demonstrated the capacity of everyone to be a leader. From a policy standpoint, another obstacle was getting our brother and sister organizations to understand that the human rights framework is a means for all of us to come together. The hardest people to work with were the ones already working on health care issues but our approach opened a lot of doors. The problem wasnt changing what these groups were already doing. Our task was to bring in the huge numbers of people who were not already involved. The important objective is to get health care for everybody. Different organizations had various positions but the Workers Center did not depart from its five core principles. Eventually, everybody embraced Everybody InNobody out and it was used by a lot of organizations at the end. What lessons have you learned that you think would be useful to other movement-building organizations? It helps to have a really simplistic framework without a lot of jargon. When organizing, to let people know that they are human beings who are entitled to basic rights and to share this information with their neighbors. Our five basic principles were designed to appeal to whatever your education level, all were included. The purpose is to learn how to protect your rights and the rights of the people that you care about. Think bigger and challenge the existing framework of what is considered politically possible. Redefining what we mean by being able to win victories. We organized for a whole year without any expectation that we would win. We consider it a victory for people to be developed at the grassroots level and to participate in the political process, hold legislators accountable. The idea is to ultimately have impact but key to that is bringing new people in and giving them the experience of exercising power. It was amazing for us to see how we set out to build a state-wide, grassroots network, an organization of people that have come together. Because we used the human rights framework, we can talk about other rights nowconnected to health careand use this discussion and spread it in order to build a peoples movement to establish real democracy in this country.

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Our Sheroes and Heroes


Ella Josephine Baker (December 13, 1903December 13, 1986) was
an African American civil rights and human rights activist. She was a behind-the-scenes activist whose career spanned over five decades. She worked alongside some of the most famous civil rights leaders of the twentieth century, including W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, and Martin Luther King, Jr. She also mentored such then-young civil rights stalwarts as Diane Nash, Stokely Carmichael, Rosa Parks and Bob Moses. Ella Baker was born in Norfolk, Virginia and raised by Georgiana and Blake Baker. Baker attended Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, graduating as class valedictorian in 1927 at the age of 24. As a student she challenged school policies that she thought were unfair. After graduating, she moved to New York City. During 1929 1930 she was an editorial staff member of the American West Indian News, going on to take the position of editorial assistant at the Negro National News. In 1930 George Schuyler, then a Black journalist and anarchist (and later an arch-conservative), founded the Young Negroes Cooperative League (YNCL), which sought to develop Black economic power through collective planning. Having befriended Schuyler, Baker joined in 1931 and soon became the groups national director. She also worked for the Workers Education Project of the Works Progress Administration, where she taught courses in consumer education, labor history, and African history. Baker immersed herself in the culturalpolitical milieu of Harlem in the 1930s. She protested Italys invasion of Ethiopia and supported the campaign to free the Scottsboro defendants in Alabama, a group of young Black men accused of raping two white women. She also founded the Negro History Club at the Harlem Library and regularly attended lectures and meetings at the YWCA. She befriended the future scholar and activist, John Henrik Clarke and the future writer and civil rights lawyer, Pauli Murray, and many others who would become lifelong friends. The Harlem Renaissance influenced Baker in her thoughts and teachings. She advocated for widespread, local action as a means of change. In 1938 she began her long association with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Baker was hired in December 1940 as a secretary. She traveled widely, especially in the South, recruiting members, raising money, and organizing local campaigns. She was named director of branches in 1943, making her the highest ranking woman in the organization. She pushed the organization to decentralize its leadership structure and to aid its membership in more activist campaigns on the local level. She especially stressed the importance of young people and women in the organization. Baker formed a network of people in the South who would go on to be important for the fight for civil rights. Baker fought to make the NAACP more democratic and in tune with the needs of the people. She tried to find a balance between voicing her concerns and maintaining a unified front. In 1946 she returned to New York City to care for her niece and left her position with the national association, but remained a volunteer. She soon joined the New York branch of the NAACP to work on school desegregation and police brutality issues, and became its president in 1952. She resigned in 1953 to run unsuccessfully for the New York City Council on the Liberal Party ticket. In January 1957, Baker went to Atlanta to attend a conference aimed at developing a new regional organization to build on the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. After a second conference in February, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was formed. The conferences first project was the Crusade for Citizenship, a voter registration campaign. Baker was hired as the first staff person for the new organization. Along with Bayard Rustin, one of her close allies, she was co-organizer of the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage which brought thousands of activists to Washington D.C. Because she was neither a man nor a minister, she was not seriously considered for the post of executive director, but she worked with the SCLC ministers to hire Reverend John Tilley in that capacity. Baker worked closely with

southern civil rights activists in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and was highly respected for her organizing abilities. She helped initiate voter registration campaigns and identify other local grievances. After Tilley resigned, she remained in Atlanta for two and a half years as interim executive director of the SCLC until the post was taken up by Wyatt Tee Walker in April 1960. That same year, on the heels of regional desegregation sit-ins led by Black college students, Baker persuaded the SCLC to invite southern university students to the Southwide Youth Leadership Conference at Shaw University on Easter weekend. At this meeting the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed. Following the conference Baker resigned from the SCLC and began a long and intimate relationship with SNCC (pronounced snick). Along with Howard Zinn, Baker was one of SNCCs highly revered adult advisors, called the Godmother of SNCC. In 1961 Ella Baker persuaded the SNCC to form two wings: One wing for direct action and the Second wing for voter registration. It was with Bakers help that SNCC (along with Congress of Racial Equality) coordinated the region-wide freedom rides of 1961 and began to work closely with Black sharecroppers and others throughout the South. Ella Baker insisted that strong people dont need strong leaders, and criticized the notion of a single charismatic leader at the helm of movements for social change. Ella Baker pushed the idea of Participatory Democracy, therefore, she wanted each person to get involved individually. She also argued that people under the heel, referring to the most oppressed sectors of any community, had to be the ones to decide what action they were going to take to get (out) from under their oppression. She was a teacher and mentor to the young people of SNCC, highly influencing the thinking of such important figures as Julian Bond, Diane Nash, Stokely Carmichael, Curtis Muhammad, Bob Moses, and Bernice Johnson Reagon, who wrote a song in Bakers honor, called Ellas Song. Through SNCC, Bakers ideas of group-centered leadership and the need for radical democratic social change spread throughout the student movements of the 1960s. Her ideas influenced the philosophy of participatory democracy put forth by Students for a Democratic Society, the major antiwar group of the day. These ideas also influenced a wide range of radical and progressive groups that would form in the 60s and 70s. In 1964 she helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) as an alternative to the all-white Mississippi Democratic Party. She worked as the coordinator of the Washington office of the MFDP and accompanied a delegation of the MFDP to the National Democratic Party convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1964. The groups aim was to challenge the national party to affirm the rights of African Americans to participate in party elections in the South. When MFDP delegates challenged the pro-segregationist, all-white official delegation, a major conflict ensued. The MFDP delegation was not seated, but their influence on the Democratic Party helped to elect many Black leaders in Mississippi and forced a rule change to allow women and minorities to sit as delegates at the Democratic National Convention. From 1962 to 1967 Baker worked on the staff of the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF), which aimed to help Black and white people work together for social justice. In SCEF Baker worked closely with her friend, longtime white anti-racist activist Anne Braden, who had been accused of being a communist during the 1950s by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Ella was a staunch defender of Anne Braden and her husband Carl and encouraged SNCC to reject red-baiting because she viewed it as divisive and unfair. That same year, Ella Baker returned to New York, where she continued her activism. She later collaborated with Arthur Kinoy and others to form the Mass Party Organizing Committee, a socialist organization. In 1972 she traveled the country in support of the Free Angela campaign demanding the release of Angela Davis. She lent her voice to the Puerto Rican independence movement, spoke out against apartheid in South Africa and allied herself with a number of womens groups, including the Third World Womens Alliance and the Womens International League for Peace and Freedom. She remained an activist until her death in 1986.

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Stephen Bantu Biko (18 December 194612 September 1977) was a noted anti-apartheid activist in Azania (i.e., South Africa) in the 1960s and 1970s. A student leader, he later founded the Black Consciousness Movement which would empower and mobilize much of the urban Black population. Biko was also instrumental in the founding of the Black Peoples Convention (BPC) and the Black Community Programmes (BCP). Since his death in police custody, he has been called a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement. While living, his writings and activism attempted to empower Black people, and he was famous for his slogan Black is beautiful, which he described as meaning: Man, you are okay as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human being. Bikos most famous writings are contained in the compilation I Write What I Like: Selected Writings by Steven Biko. Paulo Reglus Neves Freire (September 19, 1921May 2, 1997) was a Brazilian educator and influential theorist of critical pedagogy. In 1946, Freire was appointed Director of the Department of Education and Culture of the Social Service in the State of Pernambuco. Working primarily among the illiterate poor, Freire began to embrace a nonorthodox form of what could be considered liberation theology. In 1961, he was appointed director of the Department of Cultural Extension of Recife University, and in 1962 he had the first opportunity for significant application of his theories, when 300 sugarcane workers were taught to read and write in just 45 days. In response to this experiment, the Brazilian government approved the creation of thousands of cultural circles across the country. In 1964, a military coup put an end to that effort. Freire was imprisoned as a traitor for 70 days. After a brief exile in Bolivia, Freire worked in Chile for five years for the Christian Democratic Agrarian Reform Movement and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In 1967, Freire published his first book, Education as the Practice of Freedom. He followed this with his most famous book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, first published in Portuguese in 1968. On the strength of reception of his work, Freire was offered a visiting professorship at Harvard University in 1969. After a year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, Freire moved to Geneva, Switzerland to work as a special education advisor to the World Council of Churches. During this time Freire acted as an advisor on education reform in former Portuguese colonies in Africa, particularly Guinea Bissau and Mozambique. In 1979, he was able to return to Brazil, and moved back in 1980. Freire joined the Workers Party (PT) in the city of So Paulo, and acted as a supervisor for its adult literacy project from 1980 to 1986. When the PT prevailed in the municipal elections in 1988, Freire was appointed Secretary of Education for So Paulo. Myles Horton (July 9, 1905 January 19, 1990) was an American educator, socialist and cofounder of the Highlander Folk School, famous for its role in the Civil Rights Movement. Myles Horton was born in 1905 in Savannah, Tennessee to a poor family. His parents were former school teachers and Presbyterians. His father was a Workers Alliance member and his mother served as a respected and socially active community member. During his teenage years, Horton experienced union organization by holding jobs at a sawmill and as a packer at factories. As a teenager, he demonstrated his activism by holding a strike for higher wages at the tomato factory. Horton attended Cumberland College in Tennessee in 1924 and continued his work with local unions. After college, Horton went to work as a state Student YMCA secretary. In 1929, Horton became familiar with communist philosophy while studying in New York at the radical Union Theological Seminary. Hortons social and political views were strongly influenced by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, under whom he studied at the Seminary. He wanted to find a way in which the social condition could be challenged and changed and education became his nonviolent instrument. At the University of Chicago, Horton learned about the Danish folk high schools. Along with educator Don West and Methodist minister James A. Dombrowski of New Orleans, Horton founded the Highlander Folk School (now

Highlander Research and Education Center) in his native Tennessee in 1932 which was inspired by the Danish folk schools. He remained its director until 1973, traveling with it to reorganize in Knoxville after the state shut it down in 1961.

Audre Lorde (born Audrey Geraldine Lorde February 18, 1934 November 17, 1992) was a Caribbean-American writer, poet and activist. Lorde was born in New York City to Caribbean immigrants from Grenada, Frederick Byron Lorde (called Byron) and Linda Gertrude Belmar Lorde, who settled in Harlem. Nearsighted to the point of being legally blind, and the youngest of three daughters (her sisters named Phyllis and Helen). She learned to talk while she learned to read, at the age of four, and her mother taught her to write at around the same time. She wrote her first poem when she was in eighth grade. In 1954, she spent a pivotal year as a student at the National University of Mexico, a period she described as a time of affirmation and renewal: she confirmed her identity on personal and artistic levels as a lesbian and poet. On her return to New York, she attended college, worked as a librarian, continued writing and became an active participant in the gay culture of Greenwich Village. She furthered her education at Columbia University, earning a masters degree in library science in 1961. She also worked during this time as a librarian at Mount Vernon Public Library and married attorney Edwin Rollins; they divorced in 1970 after having two children, Elizabeth and Jonathan. In 1966, Lorde became head librarian at Town School Library in New York City, where she remained until 1968. In 1968 Lorde was writer-in-residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, Lorde died on November 17, 1992, in St. Croix, after a 14-year struggle with breast cancer. She was 58. In her own words, Lorde was a Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet. In an African naming ceremony before her death, she took the name Gambda Adisa, which means Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known. Lordes poetry was published very regularly during the 1960sin Langston Hughes 1962 New Negro Poets, USA; in several foreign anthologies; and in Black literary magazines. During this time, she was politically active in civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movements. Her first volume of poetry, The First Cities (1968), was published by the Poets Press and edited by Diane di Prima, a former classmate and friend from Hunter College High School. Her second volume, Cables to Rage (1970), which was mainly written during her tenure at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, addressed themes of love, betrayal, childbirth and the complexities of raising children. It is particularly noteworthy for the poem Martha, in which Lorde poetically confirms her homosexuality: [W]e shall love each other here if ever at all. Later books continued her political aims in lesbian and gay rights, and feminism. In 1980, together with Barbara Smith and Cherre Moraga, she co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first U.S. publisher for women of color. Lorde was State Poet of New York from 1991 to 1992. Bernice Johnson Reagon (born October 4, 1942) is a singer, composer, scholar, and social activist, who founded the a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock in 1973. The daughter of Baptist minister J.J. Johnson, Bernice was born and raised in southwest Georgia, where music was an integral part of life. She entered Albany State College in 1959 (since July 1996 Albany State University) where she studied music. Reagon was an active participant in the Black Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s as a member of The Freedom Singers, organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Reagon is a specialist in African-American oral history, performance and protest traditions. Reagon is Professor Emerita of History at American University in Washington, D.C., and holds the title of Curator Emeritus at the Smithsonian Institutions National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, and was the 2002-04 Cosby Chair Professor of Fine Arts at Spellman College in Atlanta Georgia.

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Glossary of Terms
Ableism A form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities. It is known by many names, including disability discrimination, physicalism, handicapism, and disability oppression. The ableist societal world-view is that the able-bodied are the norm in society, and that people who have disabilities must either strive to become that norm or should keep their distance from able-bodied people. A disability is thus, inherently, a bad thing that must be overcome. The ableist worldview holds that disability is an error, a mistake, or a failing, rather than a simple consequence of human diversity, akin to race, sexual orientation or gender. Capitalism A competitive socio-economic system based on the private
ownership of the means of production (i.e. machines, tools, factories, etc.), distribution (trucks, trains, planes, stores, etc.), and exchange (banks, stocks, etc.) by capitalists, who exploit workers, those who must sell their labor in return for wages or a salary, to make profit (surplus value) and accumulate wealth.

Organizing A process whereby people affected by a condition, problem, or issue come together in a practice of collective action and reflection to improve their common circumstance. Dialogue, discussion and debate are important aspects to organizing; it enables the affected to start to grapple ideologically and intellectually with their condition, and this helps to raise the consciousness of the oppressed. And as their consciousness is raised the oppressed are in a better position to understand and resist further degradation and exploitation. People engage in the process of organizing to harness their collective power to challenge and overcome systems of oppression and their derivative policies. Patriarchy A system of male, heterosexual domination. A patriarchal society is male-dominated, male-identified, and male-centered. For example, men typically occupy top positions in politics, business, military, religion, and in the home. Often characterized by violence, patriarchy requires male dominance by any means necessary. Male, heterosexual lives are established as normal. Heterosexism defines a system of oppression against those with a different sexual orientation. Patriarchal power is a form of power (that can also be exercised by women) that is top-down, leadercentered, undemocratic, and dominating. Power The capacity to make a difference, to affect a change in reality. In this society, tremendous wealth and privilege for a select few provides the basis for inequality and injustice for the vast majority. This builds on itself in a never ending quest for more wealth and power. This is done through structural systems of oppression listed in the previous section. These oppressive systems do not stand alone but are interlocking and interdependent. Racism or White Supremacy A system of domination based on the institutionalization of the adverse material and social gains accumulated by Europeans and their descendents in settler-colonial societies from the western European conquest and colonization of the world between the 15th and 20th centuries. White supremacy is distinguished from the bigotry of individuals by the existence of systematic policies and practices within institutions racial profiling, for example. White privilege represents the material benefits and advantages that white people have beyond which is commonly experienced by people of color. It differs from racism or prejudice in that a person benefiting from white privilege may not necessarily hold racist beliefs but still benefits from these advantages.

Imperialism A higher stage in the development of capitalism where a nation dominates other nations either by territorial acquisition (colonies) or the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other nations. The imperialist nation seeks to plunder the oppressed nation for profit and often supports dictatorial leadership in order to ensure a continual flow of raw material and resources. For example, the United States has an imperialist relationship to the nation of Puerto Rico which it has ruled as a colony, denying the Puerto Rican people the right to self-determination of their own affairs. Intersectionality The intersectional approach to organizing
involves recognizing what bell hooks calls the matrix of domination -the interwoven and interlocking way in which race, class, and gender oppressions exist, support, and perpetuate themselves- and organizing those most affected at the point of the intersections to break down all forms of oppression simultaneously. When we take the intersectional approach, were stating that there is no hierarchy of oppression. It means that we must lift up and recognize not only the broad commonalities of the human rights violations that we organize against, but also the importance of the specificity of oppression.

Neoliberalism A capitalist strategy of accumulating wealth that seeks


to remove all legal restrictions on capitalists and corporations from moving production anywhere they can find cheaper labor, to eliminate labor unions, worker protections, and environmental standards, selling off or privatizing public assets, and dismantling of the role of government in the regulating the economy.

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Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

List of Working Groups and Caucuses


The Faith and Human Rights Working Group is made up of clergy and non-clergy concerned with religious traditions inspiring social justice. The group will utilize the faith traditions of members in further developing the human rights model to direct social justice issues.
Contact: Father Jeremy Tobin at jertob3@juno.com and Rev. Lawton Higgs at reconumc@aol.com The National Alliance for Racial Justice and Human Rights is composed of individuals and groups working towards racial justice. The Alliance will be the action arm and mobilization group in support of CERD and a National Action Plan for Racial Justice. The goals are to advance CERD standards and implementation in local communities, campaigns and national legislation. To Join the NARJHR list serve, please visit http://www.narjhr.org/ The Sexual Rights and Gender Justice Working Group aims to meaningfully and consistently integrate sexual rights and gender justice into the broader agenda of the domestic human rights movement in the United States; increase the membership and participation of groups working on gender justice and sexual rights within the US Human Rights Network; develop the capacity of LGBT, reproductive justice, sexual freedom, sex worker, intersex, kink/BDSM and poly/nonmonogamy activists to effectively use human rights language, standards and strategies in their domestic advocacy and organizing; and to build solidarity with sexual rights activists throughout the Inter-American region and the world. Contact: Ricci J. Levy at rlevy@woodhullfoundation.org and RJ Thompson at rjthompsonesq@gmail.com Workers Uniting for Human Rights and Worker Empowerment with an emphasis on the South and Southwest, is made up of Public and private sector unions, worker organizations and worker centers. The purpose of the group is to discuss possible coordinated campaigns, to analyze developments in the global economy that reflect worker demands, alignments and solidarity that U.S. workers should engage in; and to have a focus on reaching out to and organizing workers of color leadership and building greater worker consciousness about the importance of building power at the work place. Contact: Saladin Muhammad at saladin62@aol.com

The U.S. Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry is composed of People who Use, Used and Survived Psychiatric Treatment. A user or survivor of psychiatry is self-defined as a person who has experienced madness and/or mental health problems and/or has used or survived psychiatry / mental health services.The group advocates for the advancement of human rights of users and survivors of psychiatry; facilitates effective information exchange among user/survivor organizations; develops networking opportunities for individual users and survivors of psychiatry; and provides representation and consultation to influence matters that affect users and survivors.
Contact: Daniel Hazen at danhazeus@yahoo.com

Political Prisoner and State Repression Working Group Land and Housing Action Group (Take Back the Land Movement Coordinating Committee) The caucuses that we currently support are:
Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) Criminal Justice Immigrant and Refugee Rights Sovereignty/Indigenous Rights

Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

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Who We Are
The US Human Rights Network is a progressive national network uniquely situated to build and strengthen the emerging domestic human rights movement. Our members are working on fundamental human rights issues such as criminal justice, health care, immigration, housing, labor, education, reproductive justice, internal displacement, and discrimination based on race, class, sex, ethnicity, immigration status, language ability, sexuality, age, gender identity, and expression. The US Human Rights Network was founded on the premise that an organized and informed civil society is the only force that can check governmental power and ensure adherence to the full scope of human rights guarantees. This people-centered approach to human rights work requires that the emerging human rights movement merge with movements for social justice in this country. Underlying all human rights work in the United States is a commitment to challenge the belief that the United States is inherently superior to other countries of the world, and that neither the US government nor the US rights movements have anything to gain from the domestic application of human rights. USHRN envisions a people-centered human rights movement where leadership is centered on those most directly affected by human rights violations, where participatory democracy and anti-oppression principles are understood and put into practice, and where the full range of diversity within communities is respected and embraced. The Atlanta Public Sector Alliance will engage in long-term, multi-issue, grassroots organizing in the Atlanta region. We will prioritize work at the base in order to build a people-centered, human rights movement that addresses the root causes of systemic injustice and oppression. Our Atlanta Human Rights Charter Campaign will focus strategically on the public sector as an arena of struggle. The Charter will articulate our vision of a new Atlanta that will realize, protect, and expand our human rights. Achieving our objectives demands developing the leadership of those most affected. Using the human rights framework, we will empower our membership
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with political analysis and a personal/political approach to building power and liberation that will be comprehensive and holistic. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) is an organization of people of Afrikan descent in the United States fighting for the self-determination of the New Afrikan nation in North America and Afrikan peoples throughout the world. MXGM is the mass association of the New Afrikan Peoples Organization (NAPO), which is an organization of experienced organizers dedicated to the liberation of New Afrika and Afrikan people.
Born of Struggle, Implemented through Struggle

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Phone: 404-588-9761 Fax: 404-588-9763 www.ushrnetwork.org