Thursday, April 19, 2012

lamp posts along our journey

The realised vision of an egalitarian society rooted in justice, collaboration, and mutual aid may still exist far on the horizon, but lamp posts of compassion in action continue to light our way forward.  It's important to savour the seemingly small victories, especially when they mean the world to one individual, one family, one community.  Today I reflect upon such an event with gratitude and encouragement.

Noelia Ramos with her two children.

Lessy Noelia Ramos was one of the 361 victims of the horrific New Bedford raid over five years ago. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, invaded a factory where workers like Lessy were making backpacks for U.S. troops. The workers were chained and shipped all over the country away from their families and their communities.)  After years of fighting the possibility of deportation, the 27-year-old mother of two was instructed to show up at the ICE office this past Wednesday with her bags packed a ticket back to Honduras.

Thanks to the mobilisation of community members, student groups, immigrant advocates, elected officials and many others, Noelia has received a one year stay of deportation, pending further review (see article about the victory, here.)  This mother, who suffers from post-partum depression, will remain with her family.  The people of New Bedford will retain a valued community member.  She will be able to continue working hard to support her family and to continue paying taxes to the country she calls home, a "nation of immigrants."

I'm writing this post not to expound upon the arguments for immigration reform, but to record my excitement and gratitude for everyone who made this happen, and my love and shared excitement for Ramos family.   

I learned about the case on Sunday afternoon, when I was walking by Arlington Street Church on my way with others to the #OccupyBoston Strategic Action Assembly.  A group of student activists with Student Immigration Movement were holding a vigil on the front steps of the church.  I went over to ask what it was about, and, my heart stings effectively pulled, immediately realised that this is a battle that we should be able to win!  I spent some time the next day helping to organise online support for the call-in day targeting the local ICE department and for the last-minute press conference to be held on Tuesday (see the action alert).  I also stopped by the Vigil during the madness of the Boston Marathon to help gather signatures.  It was a beautiful day to stand in solidarity and connect for change.

Noelia shares her story at a press conference on Tuesday.

Much gratitude to everyone who made a phone call to ICE and/or their elected representatives, to everyone who signed the petitions, to everyone who stopped to talk to folks at the vigil, to community members in New Bedford, to the organisers of this campaign, to immigrant advocates, to student activists, to elected officials and decision makers who finally made the right choice!  Thank you!

This might just be one small victory in the grand journey of the transformation that we are taking as a society, but celebrated and combined, these winds will fill our sail towards the horizon of justice and liberty.

Love and Gratitude, and Congratulations to the Ramos family.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Proceed, with Caution: the 99% Spring

Ever since Occupy started, I've wondered "OK, when are we going to start with the trainings...?" I have been involved with various environmental and social justice organizations and movements for a few years now, and I've been part of several special training events, including: the Northeast Climate Confluence, the Southeast Climate Convergence, Mountain Justice Spring Break, Mountain Justice Summer, and three PowerShift's, and the Tar Sands Action, to name a few. I know, first hand, how critical these intensive training programs have been to the ongoing successes of various grassroots, community-based movements across the country.

The Occupy Movement has brought so many wonderful, concerned and awakening individuals out of the woodwork, people across the political, economic and social spectra, people ready to put their necks on the line to bring to light root cause problems and propose radical (root word: radix=root) solutions. But quite frankly, while it is at the same time one of our strengths as a movement, most of us are not veteran activists. Most of us lack the organizing and activism experience and training to effectively do such things as: assemble an efficient, coherent goal-oriented campaign; recruit, train and retain volunteers; draft targeted talking points; speak to media without getting skewered; deal with police or counter-protesters; de-escalate potentially violent situations; execute effective soft-blockades; employ gators and lock-boxes; quickly scale trees, flagpoles or tripods; drop banners; canvass door-to-door; perform listening projects, street theater, brand-damage, or just table at a community event. These are all skills that I have obtained and improved at the above-listed and other training camps and events. In my opinion, it would serve Occupy well to make a concerted effort at incorporating, perpetuating and employing these types of skill sets.

Enter: "The 99% Spring". I rejoiced when I learned that a broad coalition of progressive organizations hadcoalesced to offer trainings to the Occupy Movement. An estimated 100,000 people will be trained between April 9-15 in communities across the country. Of course, these trainings won't include everything I listed above, but its a start. I hope this is just the beginning of these types of training programs targeted to the Occupy movement, and I implore all of my fellow Occupiers to consider attending their local "99% Spring" with open minds, ears and eyes. That being said...

Many of my friends and comrades have been quite vocal in their concerns that these organizations (especially are trying to co-opt Occupy: THANK YOU for attempting to immunize our movement and making this issue clear, and PLEASE KEEP IT UP. It is so important to maintain our autonomy, our vitality, and to not get sucked into the quagmire of institutionalized, mainstream, partisan activism. At the same time, I have worked with many of the organizations involved in 99%Spring for far longer than I have been with Occupy, and I know that they have so much to offer the Occupy movement, if we only accept their offer and stop to listen (ie. especially Rainforest Action Network, Energy Action Coalition,, Greenpeace and the Ruckus Society). Knowledge is Power. Let's take all we can get, and maintain our stance of autonomy. Learning from teacher does not make you their slave.

For a sufficient breakdown of answering the question "What is the matter with 99% Spring?," my comrade and fellow Boston Occupier, Brian Kwoba, has written a wonderful and thought-provoking piece, appropriately entitled "What is the Matter with 99% Spring?"

After properly immunizing yourself against mainstream Democratic temptations, you can find and register for your local training at Last I heard that are still quite a few openings in the Boston area. Fortunately, several of our local comrades have been trained as trainers, so even if you miss it this weekend, I'm sure there will be future opportunities. For those already Occupying or those curious to join the movement, this is an incredible chance to bring new growth to a new season of resistance and solutions-oriented organizing. Join us!