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Local and Global Organizing after 9/11

by United for a Fair Economy Tuesday, Nov. 06, 2001 at 5:19 PM

By Autumn Leonard, Tomás Aguilar, Mike Prokosch, and Dara Silverman From United for a Fair Economy, 10/25/01

"[O]ne part of the deep mourning I feel is for the global justice movements as they were before those planes crashed into the Twin Towers: steadily growing in scope and influence, increasingly occupying a central place on the global stage. We were blown off that stage on September 11, and the context for our ongoing activism is now utterly transformed." (LA Kauffman, Free Radical #19, September 17, 2001)

"Local grassroots organizing is the radical other to globalization. What is restraining globalization is local activism. It is local people organizing in defense of place, culture and values against the onslaught of globalization and it is where we see the most life-affirming activity. Often people from the local communities are the targets. I would not mistake mass protests as the only movement that is challenging globalization." (Shea Howell, Detroit Summer, Detroit MI)

After September 11, United for a Fair Economy called 49 activists and organizers across the country and asked them, "What is the state of organizing now?" We talked to a range of people from direct action organizers and prison justice activists to labor union members, immigrants, youth of color, queer activists and community organizers dealing with globalization in their front yards. We see a larger movement emerging that can pull all these movements together.

Overall, we heard that:

* The issues are still there. The partners are still there, so are the issues that pushed us into action, so are the changes in consciousness that movements have achieved. Most people we talked to plan to keep working on the issues they were already focused on, though some have added anti-war mobilizing to their plates as well.

September 11 "hit the pause button" for some key partnerships, tactics, and campaigns, but also opened the way to building new ones.

* It is a teachable moment. It is a hard time to oppose official policy publicly but an excellent time to bring a deeper analysis to mainstream society.

* Movements need to reframe their work because the new moment highlights the need to have a race, class, and sexuality analysis. (Gender analysis is important as well , but we didn't ask specific enough questions about it.) Initiatives based on a broader analysis will help pull together movement partners and strengthen the alliances that already exist. (see related article, "Reframing the US globalization movement")

We will summarize what people told us; list some strategies that people proposed; then finally try to assess where new partnerships are taking off. For related articles, please see www.globalroots.org. This new organizers' website will look at race (leadership by people and organizations of color), "localizing" (building a movement where people live, work, and organize), and strategies that pull together the partners for a broader globalization movement.

A. Questions and Answers

Who we talked to: This article is based on 49 interviews with global and local activists across the country. 31% people of color 11% queer and 55% women.

1. What moment are we in? How would you and your organization describe it?

"Every person of color is at risk now."

-Rep. Byron Rushing, Massachusetts House of Representatives, Boston, MA

"This is one hell of a teachable moment. Globalization is on everyone's minds now."

-Jerome Scott, Project South, Atlanta, GA

"I am a little frustrated with the mainstreaming and sudden, popular interest in public safety, in the sense of vulnerability. That is really a middle class phenomenon to suddenly have a call for safety is a slap in the face. I have been terrorized for years. Two days after September 11, a fourteen year-old kid got shot and killed on his bike. My partner is coming home, is he going to get shot? This stuff doesn

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