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Many struggles, one movement
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Avery Books: Report Back from MST Intensive in Sao Paolo

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 12:58am

This past spring I was part of a two person delegation of GGJ members to the first ever International English Language Course on Political Training for Political Educators outside of Sao Paolo, Brazil. The 6-week course was coordinated by the Landless Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra [the MST]) at their national school for political education, Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes (ENFF). I came as a representative of the Vermont Workers’ Center, and was among 60 participants from 47 organizations and 17 countries. Most organizations were members of La Via Campesina, an international organization primarily dedicated to the issues of peasant movements around the world and food sovereignty (GGJ is a member).  Organizations ranges from small farmer movements in Zimbabwe to organizations that work with adavasi (indigenous) movements in India to South African trade unionists to members of the Kurdish liberation struggle to a leftwing Mexican youth organization.

ENFF is the flagship school of the MST. Since their founding 31 years ago, the MST has been committed to political education (or formação in Portuguese). They have schools dedicated to political education in all 23 Brazilian states where they have a presence. ENFF was built 11 years with the volunteer labor of over 1,000 MST members and many other supporters of the movement. It is a gorgeous campus, populated with vibrant flowers, inspiring revolutionary murals made by each class that had passed through there, beautiful architecture, small plots of food productions, and a design that emphasized communal space (a small plaza in the middle of a cluster of dormitories, with benches and a gazebo; the courtyard where we held our daily misticas; the open verandas where we had cultural nights, celebrations, etc., on both stories of the building that held the kitchen, cafeteria, and a small store with MST products). There was also an incredible library that held thousands of books on various subjects, from the history of revolutionary struggles around the world to social theory to agroecology (mostly in Portuguese and Spanish). The MST leaders at the school described ENFF as the “patrimony of the international working class.”

The school was coordinated and “staffed” by a brigade of 40 MST members who took 4 month shifts to help run the logistics and programming of the school. Like all groupings in the MST, they had a name and slogan: “Apolônio de Carvalho,” named after an important Brazilian socialist. To facilitate the functioning of the school, all students were expected to do “militant work,” volunteer labor to support the day-to-day needs of the school community. I was on the coffee team that set up and cleaned up for the multiple coffee breaks through the “school day.” Other militant work ranged from the production team that helped produce and harvest the food grown on campus; a childcare team; a cultural team that helped plan the “cultural nights,” helped with the programming for the campus radio station; collective laundry; cleaning up after meals. Militant work is a central part of the pedagogy of the MST, partly around wanting to put intellectual labor alongside other forms of labor and also as part of creating new social relations, where labor is about meeting collective needs and is not performed because of coercion.

We had classes 6 days per week. Every day began with a 10-20 minute long “mistica,” planned by each of us in our small groups (“nucleos do base” [NB’s]) and by other NB. Mistica both describes a particular activity and a broader concept. The activity is usually a short “performance” that tells a particular story about a particular struggle, while projecting a vision of the future. I put “performance” in quotes because the MST is emphatic that it is not “theater,” but rather an expression of reality as we experience it. Mistica incorporates symbols, music, art, movement, “acting,” participation by “spectators.” One of the misticas my NB planned conveyed the intersection of patriarchy, dispossession, and capitalism. One of the ones that Daryl (the other GGJ representative) and his group prepared conveyed the patterns of state violence around the world and their link to imperialism.

Many MST movement elders attribute mistica as the primary reason they’re still in the movement. It’s spiritual and intellectual sustenance, and stretches minds and hearts in preparation for the activity of the day, Mistica also described the overall “spirit” or “expression” of a group of people, the outward expression of collective revolutionary spirit.

An MST member riding with me and another classmate to the airport at the end of the program commented that our class seemed to have a very beautiful mistica. There were songs that were our songs (some people brought from their movements, others that were brand new and composed spontaneously); chants that were ours; countless manifestations of a profound camaraderie formed through intense, emotional learning together, sharing and hearing each other’s stories, working together, traveling together during the intensive “field week,” celebrating together during various cultural nights and late night festivities.

The coursework itself was incredible. The MST sees left theory as a living body of theory, and draws heavily from the Marxist Leninist tradition. Some of the more interesting courses were on the history and development of imperialism, the reproduction of capital in agriculture, a great session on gender, political organization, and popular education. There was quite a lot of healthy debate on organizational form, the role of the state, the legacy of colonialism and the persistence of racism, the dynamics between the old hegemonic imperial nations and the newly industrializing “BRICS” countries that increasingly play out imperial relations on a more regional level.

I learned an incredible amount about social movements in Brazil and around the world. From the MST, we learned about their incredible dynamic relationship between organizational form, strategy, and tactics. Their process of land takeovers entailed setting up an incredibly cooperative mini-society of several hundred families, a “movement baptism” that created the conditions for embodying radical new forms of human relations. The MST doesn’t actually legally exist in Brazil, and many of the movements represented there were very suspicious of the growth of World Bank and foundation-funded Non-Governmental Organizations and Non Profit Organization (seeing with incredibly clarity the ways in which they coopt movements and movement leaders).

One of the profound lessons for me was on the meaning of true internationalism and solidarity. The MST is in a very challenging moment in Brazil’s political and economic history: the ruling Workers Party has betrayed many of its original principles to the whims of international finance capital; the right wing is mobilizing larger crowds than have been seen in decades. Yet, instead of turning inwards, they continue to launch programs like this training, have helped started countless other movements around the Brazil, and remain committed to the development of an international revolutionary social force. In fact, I believe that’s exactly what see as necessary in this context, rather than turning inwards.

It’s hard to some up any one main takeaway from that 6 weeks. I’m incredibly inspired to be personally connected 60 people fighting in inspiration liberation struggles around the world. I’m inspired by the deep and broad commitment to political education and leadership development. I’m deeply moved by the way in which the MST both fights for total social transformation while building the new social right now. And I’m so impressed with the many examples of the ways in which strategy flows from a profound and sharp assessment of the objective and subjective conditions during this phase of advanced capitalism.

Darryl Jordan: Report Back from MST Intensive in Sao Paolo

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 12:52am

I had the opportunity to participate in the first “International English Language Course on Political Training for Political Educators”. The course was done at the Florestan Fernandes National School in Guararema, Brazil from March 23rd to May 2nd. I never would have thought that going to school at my age would be such an impactful experience for me. Now I have to admit that I wasn’t sure what participating in the course was going to be like but I have done many meetings, gatherings, retreats, trainings, conferences and delegations but this was different. I was one of about 60 students in the class from many different movements and organizations, and 17 countries. Participants in the class came from the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, China, India, Greece, Turkey, Canada, Trinidad, Haiti, Kurdistan, Mauritius, South Africa, Mexico, Sir Lanka and Tanzania. My classmates were great people with all but one younger than myself. Now I was trying to write about my time in Brazil as a report back but it’s not working so I will just share some of the highlights of my time in the program.

Let me start with a description of our life at the school, I am so glad I didn’t have a clue about the daily schedule and the expectations for our participation in the class before committing to participate. Our daily schedule was up by 6am, sometimes a meeting with my NB group at 6:40am then breakfast as 7, mandatory attendance for Mystica at 7:45am and first class at 8am, coffee break at 10am then back to class until 11:45 when it was time for me to go to work in the kitchen for lunch at 12noon. Then most days it was back to class at 4:00pm until 6:45 when I would have to go back to the kitchen to work the dinner shift and then back for meetings or class at 8:00pm. I like to say here that working in the kitchen was my militant work and the crew I worked with was amazing making for a great time. Every student was assigned a work assignment as that is how the school is able to operate, there are few paid positions at the school. Work in the kitchen also included participating in meetings to review our work and make suggestions for how we could improve things and resolve problems. We lived in dormitories where we had to organize ourselves to insure the room and bathrooms were kept clean and sanitary. Our showers were solar so that I was motivated to get up and in the shower early as to get hot water.

Our classes were intense, our presenters for the different topics/subjects were all great although some were more interesting than others. The lectures were good, the debates even better and learnings from my classmates about the issues they struggled with were great. We all had to give presentations about the organizations/movements we were a part of, our work, the places we come from and a little history to help understand the context of our work. We had classes 6 days a week and sometimes 7. We were organized into base groups called an NB, I was part of the Mycelium NB.   Our class after much discussion decided to give ourselves the name Rojava and I’ve been known to refer to our class as the Rojava Family. A main feature of our learning during the program was the Mystica, a part of the program with a strong spiritual nature and an awesome way to do consciousness raising and political education. I have to say that for myself I learned more from watching Mystica, creating Mystica with my NB group and participating in Mystica than almost any other part of the program. Mystica dealth with almost every issue you could imagine. I was able with my Mycelium group to do a Mystica focusing on the case of political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal calling for his release and the elease of all political prisoners from US prisons introducing folks from around the world and Brazil to the history and case of Mumia Abu Jamal.

There were a lot of parties and partying but oftentimes the pace of the daily study and work schedule didn’t leave me a lot of energy to participate. We did as a class organize cultural night gatherings as we shared aspects of our culture, music and traditions and while these were great social occasions they were great opportunities to learn more about each other also. Our class had a number of very talented musicians, singers, poets, dancers and rappers.   Many of our parties and social time included the consumption of cachaça, a Brazilian drink made from sugar cane and a perfect mix for lemonade.

I should say that we were in class for 5 weeks and did one week out in the field. I was with the group that visited indigenous communities and the town of Dourados. These Indigenous communities are under attack from huge landowners who kill, burn up holy sites and prayer houses, pushing people off the land and stealing land. I want to say here that one of the most amazing parts of my trip to Brazil was my time here, I was so touched watching people put their beliefs and spirituality to work for them. It was during my time here that I learned a lot about myself and began rethinking my relationship to what I believe, how I practice what I believe and it’s connection to my understanding of spirituality.

I went to Brazil to sharpen my organizing skills, get more grounding in my understanding of the theory of how change happens or has happened in the past, learn how to do more effective political education and learn about struggles all over the world. What I accomplished was so much more, I am now connected to an international collective who see all our struggles as connected, I am of the Rojava Family and working for a new world free of the oppressions, war and poverty that we know today is my promise to my friends, family and comrades.

Fear, Guilt and Love: Reflections on the World Social Forum from a US Veteran

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 2:24am

by Maggie Martin, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW)

I’ve tried, pretty successfully, to live a life without too much fear. Growing up I didn’t follow the rules of stranger danger. I talked to everyone I met, picked up hitchhikers, went out to unfamiliar places alone, and I’m convinced it has enriched my life. I’ve been lucky; I’ve never had anything bad happen, at least not from someone I was supposed to be afraid of. After all my biggest source of trauma has come in the form of surprise attack from someone I was in a relationship with¾not a stranger lurking behind a bush.

My outgoing and trusting nature even translated to the war zone, where I was regularly reprimanded for trying to make friends with the Iraqis instead of treating them as a threat to our safety. When we were at the market or on our camp “guarding” local Iraqi workers my curiosity and desire for connection always outweighed my sense of fear and danger.

GGJ delegation to the 2015 World Social Forum in Tunisia.

This attribute is so essential to my sense of self that I was really struggling with the nervousness and even fear that I felt while I was preparing to go to Tunis, Tunisia, as a Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) delegate at the 2015 World Social Forum. I was feeling reservations even before the attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, which killed 21 people. When the attacks occurred and then when a few days later ISIS or Daesh claimed responsibility I was feeling near panic, or maybe I just let myself more openly express this fear, which all of a sudden seemed more justified. I felt disappointed in myself and determined to examine if what I was feeling was my own internalized Islamophobia.

I knew since my flight was scheduled to leave within a few days that I had to make a decision about whether I would still attend or not. I was still worried but with the reports from Tunisia that security was under control and that we would have a very high likelihood of complete safety I decided not to let fear win.

I realized in a conversation with a friend that returning to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as a social justice advocate was bringing up a lot of feeling about my other visits to the region as a US soldier. I spent some time alone unpacking and examining those feelings. When I was finally in Tunisia my fear drifted away during the opening march as I joined thousands of strangers, all of us in a roar of excitement that couldn’t be dampened by the pouring rain. Floating in a sea of people from all over the world, speaking many different languages and observing each other, I marveled at the fact that we all had come from different places but had common causes.

My fear hadn’t vanished but it did subside and in the space came a flood of shame. I realized that I felt fear largely because I felt profound guilt. I felt like I was as legitimate of a target as anyone could be. I had been a US soldier; I had occupied Iraq; and our US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had led to the rise of ISIS. I mentally prepared to be called an imposter, a fraud and someone who had participated in great violence. How could I expect to be here searching for new friends?

Maggie at the Palestine March during the World Social Forum

The judgment I expected never came. When I nervously introduced myself to a woman from Iran who had searing criticism about the role western imperialism plays her home country, she embraced me as a friend. This was my experience over and over, and my most cherished connections were those I made with women dealing with the effects of war and occupation in Kurdish Iraq and Palestine. The most inviting and accepting of all the people I met must have been the young Tunisians.

I have to say a word about these brilliant and vibrant young people who carry on the revolutionary spirit of Tunisia, and especially the young Tunisian volunteers. They were there in the thousands from Tunis and all over the country and they were absolutely essential to the Forum. These young volunteers were spread across the huge campus at every corner and at every building to help attendees find our way around. Most of the volunteers worked for free in exchange for food and housing for those who came from out of town. It seemed clear about halfway through the Forum that these amazing volunteers had a hard time getting the small benefits they were promised but even when they came together to protest their own working conditions, they were still willing to assist in several languages to help attendees find workshops and event locations. One volunteer-translator turned into an active participant and translator of the Feminist Unite workshop that took place as the other volunteer workers met to plan out their strike.

Tunisians wanted to know how we found their country and to assure us that it is a very safe place. I felt that¾and I believed them. I couldn’t bring myself to apologize for my role in making it less safe because I didn’t know if people would understand my self-centered analysis, or maybe processing my own feelings was not the best use of energy in that space, or maybe I just wanted to remain in the sunshine of their acceptance. I did feel sorry but mostly I felt love and appreciation for the people I met and spoke with and for all the people who had come there together in hope.

I appreciated when another Iranian woman living in France brought up circumstances of oppression and sectarian violence that has led to the rise of extremism in the region. It dawned on me that recognizing the humanity of so-called terrorists is a difficult thing to do. When we talk about the oppression and state sponsored violence against Iraq’s Sunni minority does it mean we justify heinous ISIS attacks? I don’t think so; it’s just recognizing a more full reality. Like when I talked to fellow delegates about the fact that my ex, who had assaulted me, had spent over 20 years in the military, that he had deployed multiple times to dangerous missions, and that he likely suffers from trauma of his own. As my friend said it’s not a justification, it just is.

Being able to share my past experiences and my reflections on what I was feeling during the trip with fellow delegates made the experience more significant. Over the week I had been able to crack myself open and make an inventory and analysis of past and current emotions, I came to rely on the delegates I traveled with and the people I connected with there to help me heal and understand a little bit more about how my experiences shape who I am. I learned that the choice to not live in fear is as important in Tunisia as it is anywhere else, that I am connected to other people around the world in a variety of ways and that I don’t need to let my role as a US soldier stand as the primary way to realize this connection with others. I realized that I can’t change the past, but I’m certain the work that I chose to do to change the future matters.

The LGBT contingent joining GGJ and the World March of Women during the Palestine March in Tunisia.

The Forum ended with a solidarity march for Palestine. The day was gorgeous, the people were beautiful and I was so pleased to march amongst my GGJ delegation, the World March of Women, and an Arab LGBT contingent that found safety and support amongst us. I’m incredibly grateful to have had this experience and I will do it justice by carrying it with me. The struggle continues until all people can live with justice and in dignity and we need to be our full and complete selves to transform our own lives and our society.

On the Road to #Paris2015: an interview with Mary Lou Malig and Cindy Wiesner

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 8:33pm

Max Rademacher of Alternatiba led GGJ’s “up with the People” chant in French, alongside Cindy in English at Climate Convergence in Tunis.

UP with the People! Yeah, Yeah!

And DOWN with Corporate capture! Boom Boom!

Keep Our Fossil Fuels In the Earth! Yeah Yeah!

And Throw Out False Solutions! Boom Boom!

Chanting on that last day of the World Social Forum at the Climate convergence, hundreds packed the lecture hall of the University of Tunis El Manar demanding “System Change, Not Climate Change!” From the mix of activists, intellectuals, organizers and climate change champions, the goal was clear: stop the fossil fuel industry’s corporate control of our planet. Reporting back on the four days of lessons and strategies shared throughout the Climate Space*, paving the “Road to Paris” where COP 21 will happen in Paris on December 12th. As the 21st session of Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international inter-government agreement on climate solutions.

What has played out in the last 20 years, however, are regressive agreements and a convening “meant to protect the climate and commit to take action” says Mary Louise Malig, Campaigns Coordinator and Research Associate of the Global Forest Coalition, “but somehow, beginning with the Kyoto Protocol and all those carbon markets, that [purpose] was lost…to corporate interests and keeping business as usual.”

With such distrust in the system that is heavily dictated by corporate greed and extraction, why would we engage in this International process? What opportunity does this climate negotiation in Paris risk and offer? I got a chance to hear from Cindy Wiesner, National Coordinator of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) and Mary Louise Malig to understand what’s at stake, what can we expect, and what we can do both in the Global North and the Global South.

Interviewer: So what’s at stake with COP 21?

Cindy Wiesner, United States (CW): What’s at stake is really the future of humanity and the planet, there has been 20 years of these negotiations between heads of states trying to come to agreements that could actually roll back the impact we are having on the planet.

Mary Lou Malig speaking at the Climate Convergence at the 2015 World Social Forum.

Mary Louise, Philippines (ML): At the forefront of climate change, [we are] suffering the very real impacts of climate change because science, evidence and reports all show that the weather is becoming more extreme, oceans are warming and there is more and more drought, more and more extreme typhoons. I think it’s really important that we, especially from the perspective of those who are at the forefront of climate change, that there is real systemic action taken to address climate crisis, to prevent marching into climate chaos. The danger with Paris is that it has the potential to lock us into a deal that will burn the planet.

CW: We’ve also been seeing corporate capture of the climate negotiations; we’ve seen that with the WTO, we’ve seen that with free trade agreements. We’ve seen that in the last few years with more and more influence of corporations into the climate negotiations. You have the World Bank, McDonalds, and Coca Cola, Monsanto talking about…being a part of the “green future” and we need to unmask what that really is: a cooptation of the current moment to make much more profit and to keep controlling issues of land, water and air.

ML: The UNFCCC, if they agree to a bad deal in Paris it’s going to have implications for years and years to come…the current text on the table shows that what they are proposing [are] not real emission cuts, they don’t want to touch the fossil fuel industry, what they want to do is to come up with more false solutions. And there are false solutions: carbon-markets, where they will create offsets, more carbon markets, more systems of cheating Mother Nature basically. And then you have REDD+, which is clearly a way to just sell off as much forest as they can until there are no more forests to sell. There’s a new one which they are proposing which is called climate-smart agriculture, which is basically a way to open a window for carbon markets to enter into agriculture.

Cindy Wiesner during the Climate Space meetings in Tunis. photo by Christian Losson of Libération Terre Fr.

CW: We’re seeing a blueprint of this agreement in the United States with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which has no clear commitments to emissions reduction, decentralized way [for] states to decide whether or not and how they want to implement, and no language around environmental justice principles or policies… Obama’s Clean Power plan is putting fracking as an option, nuclear as an option, and we know the devastating impacts in communities and worldwide. Earthquakes where there have never been earthquakes before, and the U.S. taking up water and precious resources and the devastating impacts it’s doing to communities. This is what the U.S. government is going to bring to the climate negotiations on an international level…new forms of advancing capitalism but painting it green.

ML: and then you have the technological fixes…like geo-engineering, which is the manipulation of the atmosphere, like [mimicking volcano eruptions], painting the desert white so it reflects more sun out into the atmosphere, or putting sulfur into the ocean, etc. It’s really crazy if you hear all these different proposals [like] industrial bio-energy, which they are calling “renewable” but is basically burning off forests in order to replace fossil fuels. If they open the door to all these carbon markets and false solutions we’re going to be locked into a decade of no real emission cuts, there going to keep burning fossil fuel, keep digging oil, and the way they are going to “address” it is they are going to offset, [carbon] trade, introduce all these genetically modified organisms, geo-engineering.

CW: So it’s clear, the battle this year is around what vision of humanity and which vision of the planet we want to have, it’s our job as social movements to really articulate that vision of those solutions that are coming from impacted peoples, impacted nations that are coming together to articulate a much more cohesive strategy around what to do…for that different vision and impact from the inside , outside and beyond these negotiations.

I: So what’s next? What can we expect?

CW: Right now there are plans for the Road to Paris that we’ve been mobilizing toward for years, such as a global mobilization that’s been called for May 30th and 31st to raise up our critique of the fossil fuel industry, and there’s a second date of action the week of September 26th to be able to lift up real solutions and alternatives. There have been mobilizations called for in November right before the COP 21 in Paris, and a call for decentralized actions all over the world in the different capitals to come together around sending that clear message to the UNFCCC, followed by an escalation of actions endings on December 12th in Paris.

I: Finally, what do you see as the role of those in the US and the Global North, and what leadership and coordination do we need with the Global South?

ML: We need to fight back, we need to push back, we need to really mobilize from now until Paris and beyond and really push for People’s solutions and People’s alternatives and really be supporting local struggles because it has to be multi-level. We are targeting international policies because that’s an important space and we don’t want to get locked into a bad deal, but we also need to be supporting, equally, all the local struggles that are also going on…because those victories will help us in pushing back these corporate interests.

Led by grassroots communities of color, over 400,000 people filled the streets of New York on Sept 21, 2014 to protest the UN 2014 Climate Summit. Photographer: Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg

CW: From Idle No More to the fast food strikes to the solidarity of non-Black folks with Black Lives Matter movement. In the US we have an incredible reimagining and recapturing of our radical roots. And people are really beginning to think of things with a vision, a vision of an alternative economy a different way of living, a different system other than capitalism, and people really beginning to connect their issues, their day to day issues to something more systematic.

ML: The key thing is to maintain and strengthen the solidarity between all of our movements…[to] strengthen the solidarity and coordination of our struggles so we can support each other North and South, build on each other’s strength, learn from each other’s struggles, and share strategies. * The Climate Space began as a venue at the World Social Forum 2013 in Tunisia to discuss the causes and impacts of climate change as well as the struggles, alternatives and strategies to address climate change.

¡Mujeres Marchando el Mundo va Cambiando! * Women Are Marching, and the World is Changing!

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 7:42pm

By Jessica Guerrero

Jessica speaking at the 4th International WMW call to Action panel at the 2015 World Social Forum.

I am not accustomed to needing language interpretation or translation in my community, and it brought up a mixed bag of deep things for me to rely on this so heavily in Tunis.  There was something, though, about everyone’s vision for participating in the 2015 World Social Forum (WSF) that spoke beyond words, verbal cadence or body language –we were all there because we believe another world is possible and we consider ourselves to be players in the transition towards otro mundo | another world.  wherever we’re from and whatever language/s we speak, we also consider ourselves participants with a responsibility to people and the planet.

Our goal as GGJ (Grassroots Global Justice Alliance) delegates was to deepen our understanding of how we can better work in solidarity with the tireless efforts of so many resisters, defenders, and community leaders across the world and how we can continue to build connections from our local struggles to efforts of gente | people throughout the world.

GGJ’s participation in the World March of Women (WMW) came out of the last World Social Forum held in Tunisia, in 2013.  This year, our collective relationship with the WMW Coordinating Committee became more specifically strengthened as members of our GGJ U.S. delegation met these fierce mujeres from Brazil, Mozambique, Turkey, South Africa, and more.  We collaborated on the presentation of 2 sessions, “The 4th International Call to Action” and “Feminists Unite”.   Both workshops were offered to packed rooms, thirsting for and anticipating great things.  Mujeres delivered on both occasions…

The 4th International Call to Action session started off with some hitches that were overcome, in my opinion, merely because there was a collective will in the room to do so.  There were problems with providing interpretation, and yet, there was something at the center of this session that did not need much further explanation…. Marche Mondiale des Femmes | Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres | World March of Women.  The panel seated at the center of the room included women, speaking different languages and communicating a single message-–the time is now for a global movement to unplug from patriarchy and disconnect from capitalism through a feminist movement for all.

A majority of mujeres, and transgender gente, and men allies filled every chair and all corners of the room.  It was loud in there with the clamoring of women on the rise, of mujeres on the move!  the crowd heard from over 5 regions represented so far in the upcoming World March of Women –Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, Middle East. we heard the ways in which each region will participate in the April 24th march and on each of our commitments to continue to build throughout the March 8th – October 17th period of international movement assemblies.  the various proclamations and declarations of solidarity were met with fervor and a thrilling sense of pride and promise.  several times our voices rose into chants with drumbeats of solidarity as we envisioned justice in our communities.

GGJ leads the U.S. participation in the 2015 World March of Women, the 67th chapter to join this epic action.  We are grounded in the slogan, We Will March Until We Are All Free (Seguiremos en marcha hasta que todas seamos libres): Defending the Dignity of Our Bodies, Our Communities, and Mother Earth.  From the belly of the beast, GGJ delegates presented our slogan as a chant in French, Spanish, and English.  You could feel an almost tactile enthusiasm for what is to come from a movement grounded in the solidarity of women throughout the world.  

The session closed with a resounding, “so-so-so…solidarity…avec les femmes…du monde entier!” (solidarity with women worldwide).  I think this chant became the unofficial slogan of the GGJ Delegation at the 2015 World Social Forum.

Our next collaboration between GGJ delegates and World March of Women Coordinating Committee members called for working together to build the workshop, “Feminists Unite”.  This session featured accounts of fierce women-led work building change in various parts of the world.  Our central goals included to make time for presenting workshop participants with the fire of mujeres in global resistance, while making enough time and adequate space for collective analysis, communal processing, and personal relationship building.  As I walked throughout the space and shared reflections later, I believe we met our goals and vision for this session.

Feminists Unite, Take Action! panel at the World Social Forum.

We heard from women on the front lines of brutality in various forms.

  • Palestine women defending their land and the dignity of their families and generations of their community
  • Tunisian women organizing to continue building a movement for justice
  • Kurdish women taking up arms to defend themselves and their communities from violent raids by ISIS.
  • Women from Mozambique defending their communities against displacement by mega-developments.
  • S. immigrant communities and people of color in the U.S. surviving and working to end the impacts of extractive economies.

Participants broke into small groups and intensely discussed their perspectives on the 4 areas that the World March of Women elevates:

  • Women & Work, economic autonomy
  • Militarism, War, Peace
  • Nature, the Commons
  • Violence against Women from the State, within the family, etc

Women and workers from the U.S. found deep commonalities with women from Arab countries.  A Palestinian organizer exchanged views with a U.S. veteran of the Iraq war.  A discussion on climate justice met racial and gender-based tensions and clarities.  Mujeres whose communities lay separated by vast bodies of water and land, explored deep connections between their experiences of violence.

We closed this session reporting back on each group’s discussions, sharing complicated analysis based in common understandings.  The room reiterated our vision for and commitment to building a better world together.  At various moments, both of these workshops, alongside the intensities of sharing our stories, provoked ruckus laughter, applause, high fives and hugs among participants, attendees, and even passersby.  From the center of this encanto, of this joy, we were all affirmed of the fact that there is no end to the immense value of interactions between women.

In less than a month, on April 24, 2015, the World March of Women will commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the factory fires that devastated communities of Bangladesh, and cemented a global collective plea for an end to capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy.

At 12pm, on April 24th, actions of defense, fierce resistance and celebration will ripple across the globe, touching communities that recognize the impact of solidarity.  In the United States, many communities will participate differently; collectively we will submit petitions demanding The Children’s Place to pay just compensation to the families of the victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, and to comply with safety regulations in the workplaces of their employees throughout the world.  From the belly of the beast, grassroots communities throughout the U.S. join our sisters and allies in coming together to end capitalism and colonialism, and to dismantle patriarchy, as we march, work, hustle, build, dance, revel and rebel until we are all free!

Defending the Commons

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 3:05pm

By Claire Flanagan

Claire Flanagan representing the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC) as a GGJ delegate at the 2015 World Social Forum in Tunis.

Over the past few days, here at the World Social Forum, many of us on the GGJ delegation have been attending and co-organizing events around the World March of Women. The World March of Women is a global, anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal network that seeks to reclaim feminism, and fight for dignity and self-determination for women worldwide.

The World March of Women has four areas of focus: War and Militarism; Climate, Nature and The Commons; Violence Against Women; and Women and Work. But I want to explore one in particular–Climate, Nature and The Commons. We hear a lot about climate and nature in our everyday lives, but over the past few days I’ve heard a few people ask what is meant by “the commons.”

The commons often refers to communally held natural resources like land, air, water, forests, and seeds. Though it can also include things like the internet, music, the streets, our homes, and public parks and plazas. Looking at history, we can see that a critical aspect of the formation of capitalism was the division of commonly held resources, specifically land. And the expansion of capitalism, to this day, is accompanied by division of the commons–often through privatization and development projects.

In Europe in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the upper class was struggling to contend with resistance to and the breakdown of feudalism. An essential part of the early development of capitalism was the Enclosure Movement–a set of strategies of the upper class to re-establish control by increasing wealth and land holdings through eviction of peasant communities and coerced selling of what had been communal lands. Cutting communities off from communal land forced peasants from subsistence agriculture and into the gendered wage economy.

Simultaneously, Europeans were using ideas of private property and strategies of division of common lands to justify the seizure of territory, the theft of resources, and the genocide of peoples throughout Africa and the Americas. This particularly affected women, who faced new forms of patriarchy and gender violence under colonialism.

SWOP is in an active campaign to defend water rights against the proposed Santolina development in New Mexico.

The destruction of the commons has continued over the past 500 years. In 1994, the North American Free Trade agreement required Mexico to change Article 27 of its’ constitution, eradicating the ejido system–a traditional system of commonly held land and the basis of many rural communities. This was a major factor in the devastation of corn farming in Mexico which forced millions off their lands and into a wage economy full of exploitation, poverty-wages, and unemployment.

Throughout this history, the division of the commons has had particularly devastating impacts on women, who are often excluded from the formal wage economy and whose contributions to the family and community are not seen as real ‘work’ under capitalism. Thus putting women in a position of increased poverty, dependence on men, isolation from other women, and alienation from themselves and nature.

As our communal lands have been forcefully divided and peoples are driven into the capitalist wage economy–it has been put on women to absorb the impacts and sustain our families and our communities. In this subordinate position, women in particular are expected to fill in the gaping holes left by the loss of communal land, and the community that was built around it, with their bodies, their hearts, and their labor.

Today, communities across the world continue the fight to defend the commons, with women at the forefront. In

World March of Women in Mozambique marching against the ProSavana mega-development.

New Mexico, GGJ member organization SouthWest Organizing Project is fighting a development project that would leach 20 million gallons of water per day of local water. And in Mozambique, the local World March of Women chapter is engaged with a campaign against a mega-development project called ProSavana which aims to turn 14.5 million hectares of land currently held by communities and small-scale farmers into industrial agriculture for export.

For over 500 years, debates and efforts to defend and expand the commons have been at the heart of our movements for justice, dignity and self-determination. The commons are both a site of struggle and a source of power. The division of community and community held resources has always been a central aspect of the development and expansion of capitalism. Thus the defence and reclamation of the commons must be a central part of the destruction of capitalism and our transition to an economy for people and the planet.

Our Power: Cooperation Jackson

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 2:41pm

by Adofo Minka

Adofo Minka of Cooperation Jackson facilitating the conversation around Pan Africanism in the 21st Century and giving context to the struggle and priorities of the United States with other Pan Africanist from around the world.

El-Hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X) once said that travel helps to broaden one’s scope. I never exactly understood what he meant by that and this is likely attributable to the fact that until now, I had never traveled outside of the United States. Being a part of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance’s (GGJ) delegation to the World Social Forum has changed that reality and has helped me to understand, more than I did before, the importance of international travel and engaging with other people throughout the globe to grasp a better understanding of where the work you do fit into the world picture. Being a part of this delegation has shown me the difference in reading about various struggles globally and having the opportunity to actually meet, talk to, and strategize with various people who are engaged in these struggles. The difference is that you actually get to learn about the nuances, complexities, and challenges that people face in their struggles against various forms of oppression in a way that in many instances reading will not reveal to you.

This experience has helped me to better understand how Cooperation Jackson’s work is situated within the global struggle to eradicate capitalism, white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, and the effect that these systems are having on our planet. Cooperation Jackson is an emerging network of worker-owned cooperatives and other democratically run enterprises based in Jackson, MS. Jackson’s long history of political struggles against white supremacy and capitalist exploitation, along with its’ current demographics and Mississippi’s long standing place at the bottom of the white settler colonial project of the United States make it a pivotal testing ground in the struggle to establish economic democracy. The work being done in Jackson, once it is fully realized, will serve as an important example of how a new economic paradigm premised on the principles of sharing, collective work, and self-determination can be a reality for working class peoples. Also, the fact that 85% of Jackson’s population is made up of people of African descent makes it a critical testing ground for economic strategies that may be applicable in other places throughout the African diaspora and help to challenge the misleadership of the neocolonial servants of capital and white supremacy. For all of the aforementioned reasons, Jackson, MS is a key pilot site for GGJ’s Our Power Campaign and the move toward a just transition.

Kali and Adofo representing Cooperation Jackson at the 2015 World Social Forum march for Palestine in Tunis

GGJ’s Our Power Campaign focuses on the move away from capitalist exploitation and the extractive economy that is currently threatening our ecological stability, the very existence of various species on the Earth, and the desire of human beings to have basic necessities with out being exploited. One of the key components in making the move toward a just transition is to establish economic democracy where people make decisions around their economic destinies and controlling their labor. This is the central and primary focus of Cooperation Jackson’s work. Three major components of Cooperation Jackson’s work that is directly connected to GGJ’s Our Power Campaign and a just transition are (1) Establishing a network of interconnected and interrelated worker-owned cooperatives that will be an anchor in establishing a solidarity economy in Jackson, MS, (2) Building our Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI) that provides affordable, environmentally friendly housing and (3) Making a Jackson a zero waste city by 2025.


Economic Democracy and Cooperatives

A part of Cooperation Jackson’s economic strategy is the development of various worker-owned and other democratic run enterprises. We understand the cooperative economic model is not the complete answer to addressing capitalist exploitation that the masses of working class people face in Jackson and in the state of Mississippi. However, we do believe that cooperatives are a key implement in helping to move away from the extractive capitalist economic model that is at the root of exploitation and underdevelopment of communities. This model is a viable alternative to offer to people in a context where most people have yet to begin to think outside of the capitalist box. Currently, Cooperation Jackson is developing three cooperatives: Urban Farming, Recycling and Waste, and Arts and Culture.

Sustainable Communities Initiative

The area that Cooperation Jackson has its base is West Jackson. This is an area that has suffered from urban decay, property crime, and governmental neglect since white flight took hold in the 1980’s. However, the area is strategically located near downtown Jackson and highways 220 and I-20 and has recently been eyed by developers as a place for development and ultimately gentrification. Along with providing affordable, ecologically friendly, and stable housing, the SCI will also play a major role in challenging gentrification and displacement of working class black families that have weathered the storms of living around dilapidated properties, crime, and economic neglect. To establish the SCI, Cooperation Jackson has developed a Community Land Trust (CLT) and begun purchasing vacant houses and lots from the city of Jackson and State of Mississippi. The properties purchased by Cooperation Jackson will be developed into an affordable housing cooperative. This strategy prevent speculators from purchasing the property, developing it, driving the prices up, and therefore making it impossible for black people that have lived in the area for the past 30 years to continue to do so. This strategy is essential in fighting against gentrification and ensuring that a critical mass of black people can remain in West Jackson.

Making Jackson a Zero Waste City

Starting a recycling and waste co-op is a part of the strategic plan in making Jackson a zero waste city by 2025. The recycling and waste co-op will look to recycle the paper, aluminum, and plastics of businesses and residents in the Jackson Metropolitan Area as well as collecting organic food waste and yard waste to use for composting for the Freedom Farms Urban Farming Cooperative. An important part of the strategy to make Jackson a zero waste city is broad education around the importance of recycling and composting and the type of benefits doing so provides for the environment.

The ongoing work of Cooperation Jackson makes it a strategic pilot site in GGJ’s Our Power Campaign and the move toward a just transition to challenge the violence and hegemony of capitalism, white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, and the climate crisis.

World Social forum 2015: Women Leading the Way

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 2:30pm

By Marcia Olivo

I attended the Women’s Assembly at the World Social Forum 2015, being held in Tunis, Tunisia. The assembly

Marcia Olivo representing the Miami Workers Center as a GGJ delegate at the 2015 World Social Forum in Tunis.

began with powerful and inspiring speeches of women leaders from different countries. In the auditorium, an audience made of mostly women and some men, celebrating the fact that through our work, strategies and leadership, we have been able to create relevant spaces within the World Social Forum—spaces that are helping us to raise the visibility of the negative impact of capitalist, neoliberal, imperialist, racist and patriarchal policies and practices on our bodies, our families and our communities.

More importantly, we reaffirmed our commitment to create and move agendas to achieve gender equality and to end physical and structural violence against women and girls of all identities. We won’t stop fighting until our demands become the permanent structural changes that allow us to dismantle all mechanisms and practices of oppression that foresee the inclusion and visibility of all the issues that daily impact the dignity, security and safety and integrity of women and girls.

As part of the audience, my heart was beating fast. I was chanting “Yes we can! “Si Se Puede!” My hands were

GGJ Delegates at the opening Women’s Assembly of the 2015 World Social Forum

clapping!. At the same time, a miracle happened, my heart and my brain started working together. In unity, both my brain and my heart were internalizing the beautiful reality that women from all over the globe, from Miami to Tunisia, from Mexico to Palestine, from Nigeria to Trinidad are creating changes to dismantle systems of oppressions. Women are creating new and innovative possibilities of transformation by offering a leading way, not the way.

Suddenly something was interrupting such beauty. A group of people, men and women from a region in conflict, aggressively occupied the stage, claiming their right to inclusion and to enhance the visibility of their struggle. Suddenly, the harmony, synchronization and synergy that my body and soul were in, stop without any warning. Silence, sadness, anger and determination occupied my being.

That was the time when I really was able to appreciate and value some somatic techniques. I centered myself and as a result I was able to identify shared values: (1) We are fighting different forms of oppression that are preventing our full participation in all aspects of society. (2) We see the importance of inclusion and to lift up the visibility of issues impacting our lives.  The truth is that our gatherings and our movement will not be without conflict and contradictions.   Part of our work is to develop tools that allow us to meet our challenges with love, compassion, and integrity that will translate into transformation.

Then a question came to my mind: when dismantling all the obstacles that hinder our full participation in a democratic society, and raising visibility and creating inclusion are shared values, then what becomes possible?

From my seat at the auditorium where the Women’s Assembly was taking place, despite all the contradictions, I

GGJ delegates marching with the World March of Women in Tunis.

saw and imagined many possibilities: A unified, strong movement, aiming to dismantle all forms of oppression based on love and humanity; an analysis and intersectional framework of social conditions and obstacles that prevent people from living with dignity and respect; a movement that includes all the voices, experiences, gender identities, culture and values ​​of the full demographics of our communities. Crystal clear I imagined a better world with women’s voices, leadership and Influence leading a way to defend the dignity of our bodies, our communities and mother earth.

Coming Home to la Tunisie

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 11:35am

Coming to la Tunisie has always been a mix of emotions for me. This time was no different-

Chanting at the opening march to the World Social Forum

though there are now new circumstances for some of those emotions. I am filled with curiosity, pride, inspiration, joy, nervousness and some sadness to come back to my father’s home to be a part of building solidarity with what the Tunisian people are working to create here. As GGJ comrade Souha Ben Othman from l’Association des Tunisienne des Femmes Democrates said so well, Tunisia is in the process of a revolution. I am hopeful that la Tunisie will grow and transform through this practice of building a democracy for all her people.

Meeting Souha and Wafa from l’Association des Tunisienne des Femmes Democrates at our welcome dinner made my heart sing with hope. To speak with women who are actively

Souha Ben Othman and Wafa Francuis from l’Association des Tunisienne des Femmes Democrates

working within this very entrenched patriarchial society for the rights of women was humbling. The same feelings of hope and love followed me heading into the women’s convergence by the World March of Women. The energy in the room was electrifying. Speakers represented fierce revolutionary women from all over the world- Mozambique, Tunisie, Mexico, Cote D’Ivoire, Morocco, Palestine and France. Their messages resonated with the crowd and pumped them (and me) up on multiple occasions…the struggle continues for all women’s freedom from all forms of violence, socio-economic oppression and racism- all driven by capitalism; and solidarity with all women beyond the borders imposed by imperialist forces.

The chant was, “so-so-so…solidarity..avec les femmes…du monde entier!” (solidarity with women worldwide)

Alvina, Anna and Mai-Stella at the Women’s Assembly.

It is difficult to imagine today was not even the official first day of the world social forum given the roller coaster of emotions-hope, love, inspiration, confusion, and exhaustion during the convergence and the opening day march. I look forward to continuing the ride this week and going back to Oakland rejuvenated in the spirit of revolution and transformative change.

–Mai-Stella Khantouche, Causa Justa::Just Cause, Oakland, Bay Area

Reflections on the People’s Summit on Climate Change and our Climate Justice Movement

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 10:12am

by Sacajawea (Saki) Hall, Cooperation Jackson and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

While attending the People’s Summit on Climate Change in Lima, Peru as a member of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance delegation, my mind was focused on the relationship between the intensifying struggles at home with the deepening struggles throughout the world. I couldn’t help but think about how the intense protests against police violence and for greater living wages and worker protections, amongst others, could strengthen the struggle for system change being demanded throughout the global south to halt climate change and its escalating dangers. Lima affirmed that my work through Cooperation Jackson to create alternatives to the extractive economy in the heart of the United States by building economic democracy rooted in cooperative economics and social solidarity as a model, can be and is a significant contribution to the global struggle for a just transition.

In an article, “Notes for Understanding the Lima Outcome” Pablo Solon provides an analysis of the document coming out of the United Nation’s climate talks. Lima marked the 20th year of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, or Conference of Parties (COP) and the draft document coming out of the negotiations will be finalized in Paris this year as the governing international treaty on climate change. Solon states, “In synthesis, an “agreement” that does not close the emissions gap for this decade, that continues with voluntary contributions with no clear targets for the next decade, has no strong compliance mechanisms and more cheating carbon market mechanisms, puts the future of humanity and life as we know it on our planet Earth in serious jeopardy.” [Emphasis mine.] I arrived in Lima knowing a lot was at stake, and left clear that we are in a state of emergency. We have to step up our game and engage in more radical thought and action to address the gravity of our current situation.

Systemic Violence from the State and Capitalist System

I consider myself knowledgeable about the various forms that state violence manifests. I relate the struggle against poverty, for reproductive justice, racial justice, as fights against state violence, but this trip translated terms I hear all the time like environmental racism and genocide specifically into environmental and ecological violence. While this seems obvious, and I laughed at myself realizing surely its been said and quickly did a google search, it was my first time thinking of it that way and I couldn’t remember hearing the term. Violence is not only a physical and immediate brutal act of aggression, but a deliberate act that threatens life and shows no regard for it. Displacement, natural disasters, the human response to natural disasters, exposure to chemical toxins, loss of biodiversity, access to clean water and other impacts perpetrated by governments and corporations have to constantly be framed as environmental and ecological violence to define the severity and the urgency of our response.

Putting climate change and its effects in the context of violence not only broadens the definition, but broadens the need for radical action and see it as self-defense.

Climate Justice and Human Rights

A major highlight of the gathering in Lima was the Global People’s March in Defense of Mother Earth on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. Although this mass mobilization took place on Human Rights Day, it was not apart of the messaging of the march. This made me realize that the human rights language and framework I’ve grown accustomed to at other gatherings that are parallel or outside alternatives to the United Nations was not present in Lima. Climate Justice as human rights were talked about in some spaces, but it was not central to the gathering as if it could not be used in the face of such blatant human rights violations and posturing. The irony was glaring as the United Nations process continued to be hijacked by corporations and watered down by states like the U.S with false solutions that contradict human rights principles and standards and even worse, further the human rights violations echoed by everyone at the People’s Summit and march. In fact there are no references to human rights in the final draft document, only in the preamble, which is not legally binding.

Although the tension between embracing human rights and rejecting the United Nations made sense, it didn’t sit right with me. Heavily recognizing the conditions imposed on our communities as human rights violations and asserting our rights as human rights seemed critical to me. Reading a reflection on Human Rights Day by Ajamu Baraka, a long-term US based human rights organizer, helped to contextualize the utter abuse and disregard for human rights in the COP 20. This quote from Baraka is instructive, “As a result of the cynical use of human rights by Western states, particularly the last two administrations in the U.S., there is deep dissatisfaction with the human rights idea. This is occurring right at the historical moment when the idea of human rights could provide an alternative ethical and policy guide for countering the global economic, political and social crises that governments and tens of millions of people are experiencing. Without a radical “de-colonization” of its basic tenets, methodologies and institutions, the orthodox human rights framework is unable to offer anything more than bland reforms and a “de-politicized” politics.”

As I reflected on the minimal presence of a human rights framework at the People’s Summit as dissatisfaction and even a rejection of it, I realized the value I placed on it is based on different type of human rights framework. My human rights training is rooted in the idea of a people’s centered human rights framework. I see the power and necessity in a people’s centered human rights framework that is able to do what Baraka speaks of “provide an alternative ethical and policy guide for countering the global economic, political and social crises…” At the same time I negotiate the contradictions with the existing legal and institutional frame based on understanding the values and limits of it.

A people’s centered human rights framework grows out of what oppressed people define for ourselves based on our struggles and goes beyond the limits of international legal text, it confronts white supremacy, settler-colonial capitalism, patriarchy and other systems of oppression that deny us our human agency and dignity. This framework is grounded in the understanding that we can only realize our full human rights when we change social relationships, structures and institutions.

In order to reclaim the mantle and strategic importance of the human rights framework, we have to get at the sources of the problem. One of the critical sources currently limiting the human rights framework is the doctrine and politics of “American Exceptionalism”. This doctrine maintains that the United States is simultaneously “a beacon on a hill” and the worlds rightful police force. And as a result, it can and must dictate the world’s agenda, and the rules and regulations that it imposes to implement this agenda, while it itself is immune to these rules and regulations.  We have to challenge this exceptionalism and the image that prevails of the U.S. exemplifying human rights and therefore the rightful international defender of it. We have to put forth our people-centered human rights framework, link it with the emerging Rights of Mother Earth Framework and the concept of “buen vivir” (roughly translated as “living well together”) and reclaim our agency, social space, and the right to live in harmony with each other and our provider and sustainer, Mother Earth.

Critical Questions

For me, critical questions going into Lima and coming out are, how do we challenge and confront the discourse as well as the policies, practices and implications? How do we make our solutions real with concrete, successful, examples? What do we need to do between now and COP 21 in Paris and beyond? What shifts will we need to make to confront the aftermath and consequences of the international protocols set to come out of Paris?

Answers to this question in theory and practice are developing all over the world, including here in the U.S. Cooperation Jackson is putting forth our ideas that we hope can be a model for other parts of the country. For us, answers to these questions are deepening through our alliances and networks like the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Climate Justice Alliance and the Our Power Campaign. As a pilot site of the Our Power Campaign we are deepening our praxis to support our development of concrete solutions for a just transition.

Reflecting on Lima and events at the end of 2014, I think we need to strengthen our work around shifting the narrative, step up our collective action here in the U.S. and strategically come up with sustained coordinated global action to bring about the systems change we call for. At the same time, deepen our relationships and exchanges here in the U.S. and with international allies to continue developing alternatives to the extractive economy and examples of our solutions. We need to leverage international gatherings this year, like Paris and the World Social Forum in Tunisia to plan targeted coordinated actions and exchanges.

I see placing our struggles in the context of systemic violence and human rights as challenging the discourse that validates the false solutions presented as so called “climate action” coming out of the UN COP process. Being clear about what we are up against, the violent nature of oppression and who perpetrates it is critical to putting forth our own narrative. Not only climate change is life threatening, but the “climate action” in the form of REDD, Climate Smart Agriculture, Carbon Markets and the like are acts of violence against Mother Earth and our communities. We must intensify our resistance by finding every way to confront and disrupt the destructive, extractive economy. This includes incorporating the lessons from the mass non-compliant movements of the 20th century that we see potentially re-emerging through the current fight against police violence and campaigns for better wages and employee protections.

The human rights framework not only directly confronts systems of oppression and the actors that perpetrate it, but also offers an alternative policy. A crucial component of Cooperation Jackson’s work to build economic democracy and sustainable communities includes our effort to make Jackson, Mississippi a human rights city with a human rights commission and charter developed through a people’s centered process. In creating a human rights city, a system can be set up to protect the advances we make in economic democracy and structuring sustainable communities. If we are truly talking about changing the system and a just transition, it has to include developing an alternative set of principles, values, morals and policies. The people’s centered human rights framework demands that all rights are universal, interdependent, indivisible, and inalienable. It demands a system that ensures the rights of people and the rights of nature are equally respected, policies that protect these rights, and a system that is obligated to fulfill these rights by creating the conditions and providing the resources necessary.

I’m looking forward to the road to Paris, but even more so to the road beyond. I’m exciting about the possibilities. We have our work cut out for us in such challenging times, but it is our duty to win!

Lima, the People’s Summit, and the Road Ahead

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 1:20pm

By Kali Akuno, Cooperation Jackson and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

2014 was a critical year for the Climate Justice Movement, which is arguably the most important social justice movement of our time. In the minds of many 2014 will be duly noted as the year when the movement transformed from being a resistance movement focused on altering the policies and practices of the national states and trans-national corporations, to one that is beginning to focus on system change and a just transition from the extractive economy.

This transition is in large part the result of grassroots resistance from Indigenous peoples, oppressed peoples, and working class forces throughout the world who have pressed for immediate action to address clear and present dangers and clear the way for a sustainable future. One of the leading forces in North America helping to lead this charge has been the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ), which is composed of nearly 60 grassroots organizations from throughout the United States, including the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM).

In early December, I had the honor and the privilege of being a delegate on the GGJ delegation to Lima, Peru for the People’s Summit on Climate Change to continue the push for a just transition and system change. The People’s  Summits are traditionally the social movements and civil society alternative to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, more commonly known as the Congress of Parties or COP. This People’s Summit, however focused little on COP 20 (for the 20th year of the UN Framework Negotiation process), and instead focused its attention on building links between social movements, confronting state repression, and promoting alternatives. It also focused on expanding the movement and promoting a just transition from the extractive economy on a global scale to wholeheartedly reject the final climate change framework that is expected at the COP 21 in Paris, France in 2015. To expand the movement and make the rejection as clear as possible, the majority of the civil society
organizations and social movements who participated in the People’s Summit are now building what is being dubbed “the Road to Paris”, which will culminate in a demonstration on the last day of the COP 21 negotiations. This demonstration is projected to top the one in New York City in September 2014 and be the largest in history against Climate Change.

The world will desperately need it, because the framework that is set to be agreed upon in Paris next December is nothing short of a crime against mother earth and humanity. What the final framework sets in place is in effect the recolonization of much of Africa, Asia, and Latin America in the name of “preservation”. Under the final framework the wealthier nations of North America, Europe, and East Asia along with transnational corporations are being allowed to “buy” the remaining forests and wetlands of the world to allegedly “protect” them from deforestation and encroachment. What it really amounts to is allowing these nations and corporations to continue polluting the earth at the same rate they currently are, and holding these forests as “offsets”. This practice is already threatening millions of Indigenous people throughout the planet, and is ensuring that the remaining “commons” are owned and controlled by the imperialist powers and the transnationals as conditions continue to worsen as they refuse to stop

march on the path to extinction. One of the most callous parts of the final framework is that the United States had human rights utterly removed from the negotiated text! Keep in in mind, that this is a United Nations document, which allegedly created to protect the human rights of everyone on the planet. This demonstrated how far capital is willing to go to put profits over people and the planet itself.

If anything, COP 20 demonstrated how desperately we need system change, and how critical a just transition is to get us there. From the perspective of Cooperation Jackson, a just transition is about creating an “economy for
the people and the planet” through economic democracy, which must be rooted in cooperative economics and social solidarity, and the utilization ofproductive processes that are not dependent on the extractive economy. Through the work of Cooperation Jackson, my contributions towards a just transition in 2015 will support the “Road to Paris” in the following ways:

  1. It will focus on instituting practical alternatives in the form of Cooperation Jackson’s organic Urban Farming and Recycling Cooperatives.
  2. It will focus on continuing to expand and deepen the human rights framework Cooperation Jackson lead the city of Jackson to adopt in December 2014, to include the Rights of Mother Earth.
  3. It will focus on getting the city of Jackson to adopt “zero waste” policies and practices, and to gradually become a zero waste city in 10 years.
  4. It will focus on hosting a People’s Assembly on a Just Transition in September 2015 to create greater community and regional buy-in for the framework.

The future is truly in our hands. We have to ensure that our children’s children and their children’s children inherit a world of abundance for themselves and all our relations.

First day at Cumbre De Los Pueblos 2014

Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:19pm

Conferencia Internacional de Sistemas de Produccion Ecologica y Cambio Climatico

by Arturo Trejo, Southwest Workers’ Union

When I was introduced to agroecologia by the Roots of Change Cooperative in San Antonio, the concept seemed very simple; a discipline of climate consciousness, land sustainability in agriculture—of both urban and rural—and the practice of food sovereignty.  In the inter-disciplinary concept that Roots Of Change Cooperativa has set in it’s community is to thrive and accomplish work on it’s own land; by opening the work to community volunteers (collectivism), using techniques of reusable sources for regional and local crops; compost, sowing seeds, seasonal crops; and food justice for local farming and access to fresh, organic and non-GMO foods.

Day one and those that followed at Cumbre De Los Pueblos in Lima, Perú, has given me a new approach of such praxis of agroecologia. My envisioned questions are, “What is agroecologia in Latino America?” “What is agroecologia for a new-coming member of the community?” and “How do we transition such rooted concept in Sudamerica to an urban community?”  As an advocate from the US urban perspective of agroecológia through Roots Of Change Cooperativa, these discussions at the Cumbre De Los Pueblos; I will witness a new outlook of grassroots and political action.

The title of the conference Conferencia Internacional de Sistemas de Produccion Ecologica y Cambio Climatico (Conference of the International Systems of Ecological Production and Climate Change), reflected on work of adaptation, self-sustainability and self-management of the lands of Perú. Biodiversity was a main topic during these dialogues, at a time when the Northern Western agriculture focuses on the production of mono-crop for our diets and promises the land to privately owned US companies, Western culture dismissed the current exploited land of Sudamerica from it’s own crops and import it to our markets. The trend of quinoa in our diet has been a proof of this argument, such grain has been taken away from it’s own land and sold in a large profitable-margin; a similarity in the trails of NAFTA, where maize, a native crop of Mexico, is taken and re-sold to it’s own producer; quinoa is at the same pedestal of it’s own economy.

Three speakers stood out to me and gave a new value into the meaning of agroecológia, Board Director, Gladys Rurush of the ARPO ANCASH (, agrarian reform advocate Victoriano Fernández of the city of Huánuco  and agrícola leader Faustino Morales of the ARPPE Piura is a second base organization that belongs to ANPE PERÚ along with 12 agricultural associates—who explained, the input and outcome of biodiversity in their land, has helped the development of new techniques of water supply, nurtured crops and leadership. Such leadership has established Juntas Directivas (Board Directors) in the transformation, as well, as the local and national socio-economic impact of Perú.

An example of transformation, in a time frame of 5 years, she went from picking one box of mangos to now successfully collecting up to 10-15 boxes. She continues her new methodology as a campesina in the low lands of 2,5000 km to the higher lands of 3,000 km above sea level.  As Victoriano followed, he emphasized the importance of the organic versus natural. His objective was to reinforce his community’s decision of being a commune of libre de transgenicos (GMO-free) farmers; supporting it by their continuous growth of local crops, like humus. The validation of Eco-Ferias (Eco-Fair) where seed trading and other exchange of their work; my interpretation of a Farmer’s Market, as a member of the audience asked why should campesinxs pursue these new trends of local fairs, as he simply replied, it sustains our work, and it challenges the extractive corporations.

During the end of the conference, Faustino explained in a very brief manner, it is about the development of a local, a collective society and the survival of their culture.

My three new understandings of agroecológia are simple and bigger; human participation, through Gladys diverse talks of non-binary labor and harvest. I learned, biodiversity does not occur naturally, for it is a tool of engineering of soil enrichment, resilient vegetation and self-sustainability. Gladys tackled the importance of womyn in the role of labor, decisions making and leadership, as her organization is a non-patriarchal and non-hierarchal. In the subject of economy– mainly local– as Victoriano said, “Eco-ferias (local eco-friendly fairs) are the window to our production and harvest,” with such demand of organic foods and communal labor availability for the manner of practicing self-management and self-sustainability. Ending with the subject of society, in which Faustino found all their labor credible to be inclusive and broader. There is no need for transnational corporates to hold the socio-economical survival of Perú and kidnap their lands with contaminated water, exploited soil, mining and GMOs.

From Lima, Perú,

From San Antonio,TX to Lima: Peru the Pueblos Call for System Change NOT Climate Change

Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:18pm

by Diana Lopez, Southwest Workers Union

The Cumbre de los Pueblos in coordination with COP20 took place in Lima, Peru the second week of December. The summit split into 5 tracks which all addressed a piece of climate change, from food to rights of mother earth to alternative energy and economies. While the People’s Cumbre was happening at the Parque de la Exposision, down the street the 20th Conference of the Parties/ Meeting of the Parties, referred to as COP 20 held hundreds of politicos and heads of state that were meeting in reference to the Kyoto Protocol.

The overall mood of the Cumbre was very solutions-based and highlighted local work, although there seemed to be three different moods depending on who was leading the workshop. On one level you have global funders, who made space for their grantees to speak about their work.  On another there were more academic, technology and policy spaces and finally there were the organizer spaces, which were self-organized and concentrated on front line experiences, movement building and alignment around solutions.

People seem tired and frustrated talking about policy and what the government should be doing. While its important to know and keep track the policies that will ultimately affect our communities the most, people are passionate about shifting towards a systemic change framework. The UN process does not provide that space for people to create and build together while uplifting local solutions and struggle. During the trip the GGJ delegation and SWU focused on the Cumbre to build on existing relationships with social movements from the South and to share our local solutions.

The pueblos are interested in learning how to integrate new sustainable technology into traditional farming practices while still healing mother earth. We are talking about fighting against the extreme corporations that continue to destroy communities while developing an alternative space where our people can thrive and begin the healing of Pachamama.

The message is clear that in order to really create solutions to climate change we must also talk about the disparities among funding, patriarchy within our own movement and the role US plays in the destruction of communities. 

One of the main reasons why I participated was to exchange knowledge around how we create systemic change. A central question I have is “What is the work that needs to happen on the ground these next few years to begin to see small shifts within our communities?” The other piece is strengthening our ties with the global south people’s movements and talking about aligning the work happening on the ground in the US. This year we have been through heartache around police violence and the attack of women, students and over all people of color so part of this is also addressing violence and gender issues within our community. If corporations and governments value power and money over everything else what makes us believe that they will fight for mother earth. These are only a few initial questions and thought that will lead us the our next work of implementing our goals at the local level while maintaining a national/global vision for change.

After the weeks of the 20th Meeting of the Parties the final negotiations coming out of the UN meetings did not meet the standards for the pueblo and truthfully an agreement will probably never fully focus on community and mother earth healing while corporations and trans-national organizations are the only ones that have access to those spaces. Leading up to Paris COP 21, where a climate agreement is scheduled to come out, there needs to be an increase in negotiators that value the local expertise of the community and that will fully focus on community solutions and not corporate bail outs. And while our allies will continue to represent our communities on the inside we will support on the outside by voicing our demands, uplifting front line struggles and building the community we want to see.

We are saying Enough is Enough. No War, No warming, its time to Build an Economy for the People and the Planet!

Report from Rights of Nature International Tribunal, Lima, Peru

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 9:49am

Part 1 of a series by Dania Flores – Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island

Dania Flores is one of 12 members on the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance delegation to Lima, Peru for the People’s Summit on Climate Change. 

Monday December 8, Day 1: After preparing with each other by conference calls for the past month, we finally were all together for our first morning meeting at 7AM in our great Hostal Las Camelias. We started the day by hearing some context on what had happened in the last 3 days, including the Rights of Nature International Tribunal and the work of people inside and outside the UN negotiations, the difference in the dynamics. Tom Goldtooth described it as “Schizophrenic” – like night and day: the agenda of the UN is about extraction, market and remediation/mitigation, a capitalist one. Here at the peoples summit we have a conversation about sustainability and life one of respect, human rights and nature rights, that painted a frame work for us of what it was to come. Last night we had dinner and bonded, we all had been very excited of the different things we are about to witness and also be part of, I am loving this… We are loving this.

Report on the Rights of Mother Nature Tribunal.

To see the list of judges on the diverse international panel, and the cases and lead presenters, visit this website:

As the world looks to Lima, Peru for the 20th UN COP on Climate Change, the International Rights of Nature Tribunal convened in Lima. The Tribunal heard twelve international cases that were aligned with UNFCCC COP 20 priorities. What was unique to this hearing is that each case was reviewed within a framework based on Rights of Nature and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

“We the people assume the authority to conduct an International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature. We will investigate cases of environmental destruction which violate the Rights of Nature,” declared Prosecutor for the Earth, Ramiro Avila during the opening of the world’s first Tribunal on the Rights of Nature on Friday January 17, 2014 in Quito, Ecuador.

Indigenous rights activist Casey Camp-Horinek (Ponca from Oklahoma, USA) and Patricia Gualinga, an indigenous of the Amazon and director of Sarayaku, provided expert witness testimony on the critical importance of Rights of Nature.

The Global Alliance for Rights of Nature was founded at a gathering in Ecuador in 2010, two years after Ecuador became the first nation in the world to adopt Rights of Nature in its Constitution and Bolivia passed its Law of the Rights of Mother Earth. Across the United States dozens of communities have adopted local rights of nature laws within the framework of a Community Bill of Rights in recent years. Click here for more on the declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

The Rights of Nature movement draws on the wisdom and cosmovision of indigenous peoples in positing a new jurisprudence that recognizes the right of nature in all its forms to exist, persist, evolve and regenerate.

One of the most impacting stories was the Yasuní National Park Oil drilling struggle. Anyone would think that if you have a national park that is conserved and preserved as a nature preserve, this would mean to keep and safeguard the natural state. But this case has been a perfect example of governmental land grabbing with a legal instrument, and instead of saving it for the preservation of the planet, it has been sold to the powers of the capitalist elite who have criminalized community organizers. By labeling organizers as “terrorist” the elite have twisted the stories of social fights to stop a public referendum that is guaranteed by the constitution and by standards of the law of Ecuador. Click here to learn more about the Yasuni struggle to defend their land

We believe that the process here at the People’s Climate Summit “CUMBRE DE LOS PUEBLOS” is a more legitimate process and a real democratic one, anyone was welcome to be there, everyone heard the evidence and listen to the victims. We also believe that the real experts and the ones who know about the real consequences of these violations are the people on the ground. We also agree that the people on the front lines should be the people leading the way to the solutions.

We also heard testimony of some of the issues in the North by Indigenous rights activist Casey Camp-Horinek (Ponca from Oklahoma, USA). She explained the issue of fracking, comparing the fracking process of shattering the shell to “cracking and breaking the bones of Mother Earth.” She also stated that in the last year they had counted more than 400 Man Made earthquakes, that started days after the fracking process had started. Here is some of her testimony:

Our Mother Earth is the source of life. Water is her lifeblood. The well-being of the natural environment predicts the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual longevity of our communities.

Mother Earth’s health, her nature, and that of our Indigenous Peoples are intertwined. As Indigenous Peoples, we are of the Earth and the Earth is of us. Mother Earth is life. This inseparable relationship must be respected through rights-based instruments for the sake of our future generations and for the well-being of the Earth herself, for all people and all life.

Our Indigenous Peoples believe that our system of governance must reflect our belief in balance and harmony. We believe in the equity of all of Creation, not just ourselves. The animals, plants, rocks and all elements have as much right to exist as people do.

This didn’t mean that we could not harm another living creature, since we require food from the plants and animals, but that we are to respect the sacrifice made by the animals and plants. These sacrifices were part of the Original Instructions to respect each other, to care for each other, because we are related to each other, as brothers and sisters.

We believe by observing the Natural Laws of Mother Earth, we would be able to learn the right way to life – the good way of living, to find balance and harmony with Nature.

Indigenous Peoples are very lawful people. From the Haudenosaunee Indigenous Peoples of North America, to our Ponca Peoples; we recognize our responsibilities and duties to the natural laws of Creation, as defined by our Original Instructions. Our Original Instructions declares and teaches us of the four sacred elements of life: air, light/fire, water and earth and its pollen and seeds in all their forms must be respected, honored and protected for they sustain life. Our Natural Law teaches us to respect all Creation, from Mother Earth and Father Sky and to all Life that have their own laws, and who have rights and freedom to exist. We are taught we must treat this sacred bond with love, compassion and respect without exerting dominance, for we do not own our Mother.

After the report we had a strong address by our member Tom Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network about REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and the consequences that this devastating false solution is presenting to all of us. In his words he told us “the deceptive climate ‘solution’ being proposed for California and the rest of the world from the horn of Argentina to the tip of the Artic in America and in all the other continents in the world, this false and dangerous solution is already being implemented within the UN climate negotiations and the World Bank. It sounds good on paper, but the reality is that REDD enforces the global colonization of Mother Earth; allows the polluting industry to expand its toxic emissions creating local toxic hotspots in faraway places; and creates a stolen future for Indigenous peoples, local forest dependent communities, communities living next door to a fossil fuel polluting industry, and a stolen future for the environment and all life. This is another scam by the capitalists and neoliberal governments run by the transnationals and multinational corporations.”

Many of us that were present at the tribunal are still in shock from the statements, stories and crude realities of each of the victims, and also the opinions, knowledge and passion of the experts.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Dania’s report from Lima

COP 20: Conference Of Phony climate “solutions”

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 12:39am

by Matt Feinstein, Worcester Roots Project

COP 20, the Conference Of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is meeting in Lima, Peru to advance false solutions to climate change. These solutions are market-based and flawed by the same economic system that has created this climate crisis. Or they are technological fixes such as “climate-smart agriculture” that will strengthen agribusiness and other large corporations at the expense of indigenous peoples, farming communities and poor folks. As an activist with No REDD+ Africa in Kenya, Ruth Nyambura, states, “market mechanisms are not solutions to the climate crisis. A primary mechanism that the UN proposes, REDD+ (Reducing of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), is not a solution, in fact it violates the rights of indigenous people and mother nature. The market is made for profit, not to safeguard nature.”


This movement to stop REDD+ is one of the strongest campaigns represented here in Lima at the People’s Summit on Climate Change – a four-day conference convening hundreds of organizations from around the world, including Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. As Indigenous Environmental Network coordinator, Tom Goldtooth explains, “REDD+ means the privatization of nature on a scale so massive that it boggles our minds.” He goes on to say “REDD+ is like carbon stocks,” allowing corporations and governments to continue to pollute by purchasing credits that are then often used to fund the false solutions such as large unsustainable agrofuels.

When asked what one can do about stopping REDD+, Ruth brings a systemic critique. “Divestment can have an impact, but let’s be careful about focusing on the individual. Real system change comes from strong grassroots organizations.” Tom Goldtooth adds to this, “We have to organize. We have to mobilize our resistance. We have to be strategic.”

Energy Sovereignty

Similar to food sovereignty – where people have local control and can ensure sustainability of resources – energy sovereignty is a central theme here at the People’s Summit on Climate Change. Juan Pablo Soler from Friends of the Earth Latin America outlines the destructive and extractive energy industries that are displacing people and destroying the earth: fracking, incinerators, big hydro-electric dams, petroleum extraction, agrofuels (palm and other large unsustainable “biofuels”), mines and nuclear plants. Instead of this devastation, speakers at the summit call for more movements in favor of protecting water sources and declaring indigenous land free of mines and dams. It is also important that these struggles be led by the people most affected by the climate catastrophes. Campesina and indigenous women are at the forefront of many panels, workshops, marches and cultural events here at the Summit.

Speakers have brought concrete examples of struggles from all over the world. People in Uganda are resisting large hydroelectric dams that are displacing communities and agrofuels that are causing huge deforestation. They come out of decades of struggle and expulsion by conflicts around oil extraction. Isaac “Asume” Osuoka from this movement says, “people should decide on their own local energy sources and be able to say no to big technologies. We are glad to announce that Shell representatives were confronted by activists this week inside the COP.” Meanwhile in Nigeria, Godwin Ojo reports that the international struggle against Shell has shown results. “Shell is running, but we won’t let them run away until they clean up their mess. Dirty energy as no place in the energy future,” he adds. In other places, the extractive industries have just begun. Edo Rahman from Indonesia reported that even though only 5 mines are active now, over 10,000 mining permits have been approved. Several countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador report of plans for large scale fracking.

Bringing it Home

What does all this destruction in Latin America have to do with people in our communities in the US? Grassroots Global Justice Alliance delegate, Diana Lopez, of Southwest Workers Union makes this connection for us while speaking at the Summit. She says that extractive industries and chemical agriculture are, for example, affecting people farming in both rural and urban areas. In San Antonio, people are struggling against GMOs, trying to save their natural seeds, and grow their urban farm cooperative. As Diana points out, in order to have a just transition as we propose in the Our Power Campaign, “we need sovereignty over our seeds, food and education and need to grow our movement against false solutions.” And, as many community organizations are pointing out at this summit, this principle also applies to our energy system. People here at the summit are not falling for the tricks, false solutions or techno-fixes being discussed inside the gates of the COP 20. We are building community-led real solutions that corporations cannot hijack, that favor life and justice.

#OurPower #PeoplesClimate #CumbredelosPueblos

#NoREDD #NoCarbonOffsets #NoClimateSmartAgriculture #FalseSolutions #SolucionesFalsas  #TrampasClimaticas

In the face of conquest, Palestinians’ existence is resistance

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:17pm

By Ashley Franklin, Labor/Community Strategy Center, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ)

Ashley was one of two GGJ members who participated in the Grassroots International Travel for Change delegation to Palestine, from October 27-November 6, 2014. Delegates participated in the olive harvest and learned about the struggle of the Palestinian people for self determination and food sovereignty. Stay tuned for a reportback conference call this winter.

In the face of conquest, Palestinians’ existence is resistance. This was made evident in the 10 days that I spent with the Grassroots International Delegation in Palestine. Below is an explanation of the Israeli occupation through a compilation of Palestinian experiences and resistance focusing on colonial settlement, land grabs, the use of political prisoners to suppress movements through fear, intimidation and dehumanization.

Land Grabs and the Israeli Occupation

As the Israeli Authorities continue on a quest to build an Israeli state, they have used land theft, demolition expansion, and policies of settler colonialism to uproot entire Palestinian families in the West Bank, steal farmland and usurp water supply. A critical component to the Israeli agenda is to use a barrier wall—“apartheid wall” —that surrounds entire villages, isolates others, or threatens to expel villages from their Israeli resident status.

This barrier wall, approved by Israeli Prime Minister Barak in 2000, cuts deep into the West Bank, and will encircle over 1.5 million Palestinian refugees into only 12% of Palestinian in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Surrounding the wall are 634 military checkpoints that include trenches, barriers and soldiers to control when community members can enter or leave their communities. Often times, these check points create only one entrance into villages, and if these entrances are shut, it prohibits people who live in those villages from entering, as reported by Stop the Wall. Israel’s strategy to create mass destruction and to end people’s freedom of movement is an effort to imprison the Palestinian minds and bodies and further the Israeli State colonial settlement agenda. The restriction on building new homes prevents people from living in dignity and controlling their growth.

We met a Palestinian liberation fighter who explained his struggle to curb the wall from being built near his home.

A tall concrete wall garnished with high definition cameras and barb wire, extends across the yard of Mr. Nidal, isolating him from all of his neighbors. This military imposed wall is decorated with a hand painted Palestinian Flag that serves as the welcome sign leading to a locked gate that Mr. Nidal must use to enter his property nestled between his village and the Palestinian occupied Israeli settlement. Mr. Nidal, like many other Palestinians, suffered from the wall being placed in the middle of his property—confiscating land, uprooting trees and crops, and furthering the colonization of the West Bank.

As Mr. Nidal welcomes us to his home, he begins to reflect: “66 years ago my family began this struggle with my grandparents’ home where they would cultivate the land and live peacefully with the world until war and imperialism occupied the country.” The war pushed his family from their land, where his grandfather was killed fleeing to Jordan leaving his grandmother and 5 children without income. Just like his father, he did not have a week of normal life from the day he was born until today. Nidal dropped out of school and has steadfastly worked as a carpenter 20 hours a day. All of the money he made was used to build the homes that were destroyed by the Israeli Authorities, three times, under their court order to confiscate the land.

“Although I bought the land in 1974, the Israeli settlement came in 1978 where I have been battling just to keep what little land that has not been stolen from me. Before the occupation, I had a very profitable store and farm, where I built a greenhouse that cost 300 sheckels but was worth 3 million sheckles to me. The authorities’ act of destroying my home and greenhouse, confiscating my land and attacks on my children is their attempt to make the conditions of our lives so hard that we just leave.”

However, his strength to defend his land and the Palestine prevails over the Israeli Authorities scare tactics:

“I remember the land confiscation order that was given to me when Israeli Authorities wanted to build the wall. The Soldiers planned to put the wall directly at my front door, leaving less than 6 feet from my stairs to the concrete wall. They also imposed a curfew with the wall, to ensure the gate that leads from my village to the stolen land of the Israeli settlement would only be open twice a day for 15 minutes. They wanted me to feel like I was trapped. However, I knew the peak of good faces the peak of evil. We are on the front lines here to face the evil.

“At one point a high ranking solider told me that I should just let them do their job because the bulldozers regardless will plow over my home, but I informed the soldier that every home they demolish is not bulldozing Palestine rather it is bulldozing Israeli. It is exposing the state of Israel and the harms that it is causing to Palestinian communities.”

As Mr. Nidal continued to share his stories of resistance, we noticed the newly painted wall was covered with a dove that read “freedom,” while the surrounding area was completely white. When we asked Nidal why the wall looked as if it had been painted over, he responded that the wall was too beautiful. He said that one day he was looking out of his window and realized the hard work of the volunteers who painted the wall, was soothing. This was opposite of everything the wall represented. He said, “I painted over the wall so that I can be reminded that this wall represents colonization and control. Instead of coming to paint beautiful pictures, we must tear the wall down.”

“After months of protest, many arrests of activist and attorneys, and the Israeli Authorities’ attempt to build the wall, my victory is having the wall placed further away from my front door, defeating the curfew and having a key to freely enter the gate to my land and preserved my land. With all the suffering, I can’t help feel a sense of victory when I walk on my land and when I pump water from my well.”

Political Prisoners

In a continued effort to repress any social uprising by the Palestinian people, the Israeli government employs incarceration, criminalization, and collective punishment to instill fear in the masses and cripple the Palestinian movement. Yet, their determination for liberation only fuels their resistance. The state has used Israeli laws to capture over 6,200 Palestinian political prisoners—500 administrative detainees, 18 women, and 210 youth—by operating under an independent court, soldiers and laws. It is common practice in Palestine for the Israeli state to arrest and detain Palestinians under “Administrative Detention” where they can be held for an indefinite amount of time, ranging from 1-6 months, without the detainee or lawyer knowing why.

Below you will find the testimony of a Freedom Fighter who was captured as a Political Prisoner. This political prisoner from Ramallah, Palestine, whose name I will keep disclosed, is a central component in the ongoing efforts to free political prisoners, free Palestine and to fight against new laws such as the 20 years of imprisonment for throwing stones at Israeli Authorities through the Addameer Prison Support and Human Rights Association.

I was awakened in my home by a resounding noise of sound canons coupled with live ammunition shot through the window next to me. It was 3:00am and I could hear my name being called on a loud speaker “surrender now and come out of your home” but I was physically incapable of moving because rounds of ammunition continued to be shot through the window. Once the bullets and sound canons ended, I thought that my nightmare was over—yet, it was only the beginning. There were laser lights from all directions pointing to my chest and the heart wrenching sound of fear form my mother and wife that loom my home. In my night clothes, I found myself escorted by a solider into a van with my feet bound and eyes covered I could feel boots repeatedly kicking every inch of my body where I would slip in and out of consciousness.

I woke up in an interrogation room with an Israeli Internal Intelligence agent, who would spend three days interrogating me. There were hours that I thought I was living in a completely different world. If I was found sleeping during the interrogation, I would be awakened by a heavy downpour of cold water. This agony ended with me forced into solitary confinement with 18 year old Israeli Soldiers who controlled my body. My only human interaction was with the officers who interrogated me, while I was being held without any charges. These officers would tell me that my house has been demolished and my family was in danger if I didn’t speak, which was a common practice of the Intelligence agency to force political prisoners to confess to crimes they did not commit. Their threats and stories were always met with my silence because my only crime was being a Palestinian.

My cell was my height in length which included a drain on the ground for me to use the restroom. However, this drain will constantly get backed up and once I waited an entire day for the officers to fix the pipes but had to spend the night in the sewage water. What seem to be endless hours and days, left me passing time by picking an argument with the police, counting stones, or talking to creatures that would come from the drain. The loneliness and intentional isolation of each prisoner had us picking fights with the guards just so that when they beat us we could feel human, again.

These conditions would never end because the judges and soldiers around me were all connected so they kept extending my solitary confinement. I decided to go on hunger strike! This was a bond built with the prisoners around me, as we stood in solidarity for our freedom. We would read three books and write reports in two of them and prepare a presentation for the entire group for the other book. The academics in prison would hold classes to teach each prisoner their specialization, be it English or mathematics. This is how I spent my time until I was released four months after being arrested. Now, I am even more committed to make sure every political prisoner is released and returned to their families and the struggle for liberation.

One Struggle: From Burque to the West Bank and Back

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 2:03pm

By Rodrigo Rodriguez, SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP), Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ)

Rodrigo was one of two GGJ members who participated in the Grassroots International Travel for Change delegation to Palestine, from October 27-November 6, 2014. Delegates participated in the olive harvest and learned about the struggle of the Palestinian people for self determination and food sovereignty. Stay tuned for a reportback conference call this winter.

The occupied territories of Palestine sit almost 7000 miles away from my home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

It is literally half a world away. But in many ways it felt like I never left.

I grew up in the occupied territories of the Rocky Mountain west of the North American continent, in the heart of Aztlan. Much like the occupied territories of Palestine it is an intensely beautiful part of the world with an intensely brutal history. It is a history of colonization, of land grabs, and genocide; but also a history of struggle and resistance.

In 1848 the US signed the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, ending its war with Mexico and ushering in an era of settler colonialism that epitomized the uniquely “American” ideal of Manifest Destiny.

The Indigenous and Spanish speaking Mestizo peoples of what would become the western United States had already been colonized, mostly in the name of the Catholic Church for over two centuries. The conquistadors who moved north were famous for their banner cry of “God, Glory and Gold”. They were also famous for the cruelty they practiced in their subjugation of Indigenous peoples. In 1680 the Indigenous leader Popay helped organize The Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico, the first instance of indigenous peoples pushing the colonizers out.

The period of colonization that followed westward expansion of the US Empire would quickly find the communities, cultures, languages, and life ways of Indigenous and Chicano communities under attack once again. The US military expansion that accompanied the settlers would also quickly become famous for the brutality it practiced on these communities. The post civil war period known as the Indian Wars, saw a rapid intensification of this brutality. One of its more subtle measures was the use of Black soldiers in these ‘Indian Wars’. The units that became famous as the ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ would find their way to New Mexico in the hunt for Apache leaders like Geronimo, Victorio, and Nana among many others.

In the 60s and 70s my mother’s home community of Taos became a destination for the hippies. Decades before that it was a haven for artists from the East Coast, what eventually became known as the Taos Artists movement that helped introduce the world to “Southwest Style”. Nowadays it is a playground for the wealthy elite, for skiers and snowboarders, for backpackers and white water rafters; a haven for tourists who come to gawk at our quaint adobe homes and take pictures of our colonial period churches and Pueblos. The Chicano and Indigenous people are still there, but every year it gets harder to maintain the land base, the water resources, and the way of life. For every Dennis Hopper, Julia Roberts, and Donald Rumsfeld that decides to build a million dollar adobe mansion it gets harder for the poor and working people to keep up with skyrocketing tax bases. It gets more expensive to keep your water rights. It gets harder to stay. This is arguably the third force of colonization that our beautiful state has undergone.

If you take into account the fact that the military is our largest employer; thanks to the nuclear weapons research and proliferation industry, the military bases, weapons facilities, the massive military industrial complex (Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin all have facilities in New Mexico) and now the nuclear dump (The Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Carlsbad) it becomes pretty evident New Mexico is still very much a military colony of the United States. One of the main reasons the states of Arizona, Utah, and Colorado were carved out of the New Mexico territory was to surround, isolate and subjugate the indigenous and Chicano communities who make up the majority of the population of New Mexico.

I say all of that to offer a little context to my thought process.

When we talk about the struggle for land, water, human rights, food sovereignty, and justice in the context of the Chicano and Indigenous communities of the US versus a free Palestine; it looks like the same struggle because it is the same struggle. The colonial policies of the US Empire have created a situation in Palestine that looks every bit like the history of the colonial United States.

Steal the land, admit that it’s wrong; but keep doing it anyways. The banners may not say, “God, Glory, Gold” anymore but the fundamental concepts are the same. They’ve changed the war cry now to read “Freedom, Democracy, and Security”, but nothing about its intent has changed.

Stop the Wall Logo

On our last night in Ramallah I told Jamaal Juma from the organization Stop the Wall that he needed to come visit us in New Mexico. We talked about how I could show him the wall that ‘protects’ my state from the now foreign country that it used to be a part of. Jamaal offered that we should compare them, and see whose wall is bigger.

This is the most amazing thing to me about this journey, the humor and graciousness that the Palestinian people hosted us with. We heard horrific stories from dozens of people about the brutality of the occupation. They told us stories of resilience and resistance and struggle that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Everywhere we went we were immediately offered coffee and tea and laughs. We heard from many of our hosts that you can’t take everything so serious, if you allow it to drag you down then the occupation had already won. This was a central theme from many of our hosts. You have to keep living, and you have to fight back.

Abu Nidal’s gate (photo credit Ann Gary)

Abu Nidal, a man whose house has been completely surrounded by the wall, told us that he is grateful to be the one to fight back. He forced them to build him a gate, when they wanted to control the gate he fought them. The Israeli occupation forces then offered him a gate but it would remain locked and they would keep the key; so he fought them again. He has the key to his gate in their wall now. But his home just like most homes, it seems like, has a demolition order on it. His only interest is to create a life for his family that is worth living, “But if you throw a rock at me I will throw one back.”

Another man we met named Abu Saqr, his name means Father of the Eagle, in the Jordan Valley shared his story with us. The Israelis have demolished his village 7 times after they built a settlement on his traditional lands. Every time they demolish his home he rebuilds it closer to the settlement. He says that the next time they come to demolish it, he will rebuild inside the settlement. Abu Saqr has 25 children, the Israeli settlement on his land has 35 settlers, he says this is his battle; they are 35 so he must be 40.

Sumud (photo Credit Marie Kennedy)

Abu Saqr and his wife introduced us to their baby girl named Sumud, who was born during one of the demolitions. Sumud in Arabic means steadfast.

This is what she represents to her father and the people of Palestine. Steadfast perseverance.

Steadfast perseverance in the face of oppression.

Steadfast perseverance in the midst of brutality.

Steadfast perseverance in the struggle for liberation and self determination for the people of Palestine and the people of New Mexico and people everywhere.

Darwish: “On this land is something worth living for.”

Painted on one of the tents in the village of Sussiya is a quote from the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, “On this land is something worth living for.”

To me, this is everything. Sussiya is a farming village that lives everyday under the threat of demolition. They have a demolition order claiming the land as being a place of historical significance and that no one should live there. This obviously didn’t stop the Israelis from building a settlement just up the hill. The people live in tents and caves that are regularly demolished and rebuilt.

One of the village elders was very clear in his sumud, he said that he was born in Sussiya and he will die in Sussiya. Either god will take him or the army will, but either way he’s not leaving.

In Sussiya we also met a farmer and his family, a man named Mohammed Jboor. We helped plant olive tree saplings in his field. The settlers have destroyed over 100 of his olive trees over the years. Every time they destroy the trees he plants new ones. One of the things Mohammed said that sticks with me is that the struggle of Palestine is about much more than human rights, “Rights without power only makes sheep”.

I feel like this is the most important point of this journey.

There are almost 2000 NGOs in the West Bank, working on everything from prisoner’s rights, home demolitions, women’s empowerment, and human rights issues, to farming and agriculture. A powerful young organizer named Mariam Barghouti was very clear that Palestine doesn’t need more saviors, Palestine needs solidarity. It’s not our place to romanticize their struggle, there’s nothing romantic about it. It is our job to stand alongside Palestine and her people; to uplift and amplify their struggle and their voices. It’s the Palestinian people who will determine her future, and it is our duty as her allies to stand and fight with them against the forces of colonialism, empire and oppression.

People’s Climate Activities were Historic… UN Climate Summit, Not So Much.

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 11:34am

by Sha Grogan-Brown, Grassroots Global Justice

You probably heard this many times last week, but it’s worth saying again—the People’s Climate March on Sunday September 21, 2014 was a major historic event. It was historic because of the sheer numbers who came out to march (it’s being called the largest climate march in history, with estimates around 400,000 people in the streets of New York City). It was historic because the participants and leaders of the march reflected the voices and bodies of the people on the frontlines of the crisis, who are most impacted by climate change and the economic crisis. It was historic because of the way that the grassroots organizing sector and climate policy organizations came together to collaborate in the planning of the march, and laid the groundwork for strengthened relationships and a broader united movement for climate justice.

In the days following the march, people took action to continue pressuring the United Nations and global leaders to take real community-led action on Climate Change.

Unfortunately, the UN response was far from historic. You may have also seen the UN Climate Summit’s branding last week: “I’m for Climate Action.” At first glance, that may seem like a good thing. We want action on climate, right? However, what the UN calls “Climate Action” is not the kind of action that communities around the globe need, so much so that members of the Climate Justice Alliance called the UN Climate Summit “little more than a pep rally pushing carbon trading offsets and weak voluntary or limited pledges for emission cuts leading up to the global climate treaty negotiations in Paris next year.”

President Obama’s response was disappointing as well. He shared the UN’s rhetoric about “taking action” and “reducing emissions” yet the pledges the US made will not get us anywhere close to where we need to be in order to prevent major climate catastrophes.

Pablo Solon of Focus on the Global South shares some analysis in his article “How Did Leaders Respond to the People’s Climate March?“:

  • Insufficient Pledges: “With the weak voluntary pledges made under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)… emissions will be… about 30% more than the maximum amount the earth can handle, according to science… The United States ratified its current weak pledge of 3% of emission cuts by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, which means that they will do even less than what was agreed for the first period of the Kyoto Protocol which they never ratified and which ended in 2012.”
  • Weak Financing: “The other key point to assess is funding for developing countries that are suffering from climate change while being the least responsible for the problem… Based on what happened at the New York Summit, there would be no significant increase in funding for developing countries from public sources in developed countries.”
  • Clever Packaging of Markets: “For Ban Ki-moon, some heads of state, the business sector and the World Bank, the Climate Summit was a success because, from the beginning, their aim was not to close the emissions gap or to fill the Green Climate Fund. Rather, they sought to use this event – which is not part of the official process of UN negotiations – to launch more initiatives and carbon markets and to use the “summary of the chair” (Ban Ki-moon) as a way to introduce these proposals in the coming official negotiations in Lima, Peru, this December.”
  • The UN’s two clear goals were focused on “carbon pricing” and “Climate Smart Agriculture,” both of which are false promises that actually serve more to develop carbon trading markets than they do with reducing emissions or creating any tangible changes for frontline communities.  Click here to read more about Climate Smart Agriculture in this press release from La Vía Campesina.

Despite inaction from global leaders, the People’s Climate activities made last week historic. But what happens next matters even more.  GGJ is organizing on the Road to Paris for the UNFCCC COP21 meetings in December 2015. Between now and then, global movements are coming together through a People’s Climate process to push global leaders to take the kind of climate action that frontline communities need.

Follow Grassroots Global Justice on Facebook and Twitter to stay tuned for next steps in this historic People’s Climate Process.

Click here to check out some of our favorite articles and news coverage from this past week