Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Many struggles, one movement

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Reflections on My Time in Chicago

National Nurses United Rally

Just returning home from an impressive array of activities in response to the NATO Summit. The Coalition for a NATO-Free Future organized a counter-summit with some amazing speakers and workshops. The Iraq Veterans Against the War moved us all with their personal testimonies and their heroism – ending the weekend’s activities by leading a march that culminated with several veterans tossing their war medals back to the generals meeting at the NATO Summit.

Important mobilizations took place throughout the city on a daily basis. National Nurses United (NNU) organized a spirited rally – taking up the international call to tax Wall Street transactions – a demand that could mean a huge transfer of wealth from the 1% to meet social and environmental needs throughout the world. POWER Executive Director Alicia Garza represented GGJ at NNU’s planning meeting on the campaign. STOP took over the neighborhood of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel for seven hours – calling him out on shutting down mental health clinics throughout the city. Emmanuel spent $55 million to host NATO – no doubt most of that going to an outrageously excessive show of force. Police in riot gear locked down the city and were not interested in showing restraint with non-violent protestors. The $55 million for Emmanuel’s state of siege could have supported all of the city’s mental health clinics beyond the next 20 years.

We had a great delegation of grassroots leaders in Chicago – with member organizations Afro-Eco, CAAAV, Chinese Progressive Association San Francisco, Community Voices Heard, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Labor/Community Strategy Center and POWER represented. Staff members Cindy Wiesner and Ife Kilimanjaro met with local Chicago organizations months ago to build relationships and talk about the summit. They also partnered with the War Resisters League to conduct a training about NATO to Chicago Occupy. We were guided by the dynamic young leaders of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization on a tour of their community – besieged by polluting facilities but victors of a recent fight to shut down a coal-powered power plant. We also had a great Organizer Exchange between Grassroots Collaborative organizers and the GGJ Coordinating Committee. GGJ’s delegation also attended the founding assembly of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles.

We organized a well-attended workshop on on our framing of No War, No Warming, Build an Economy for People and the Planet and GGJ Program Coordinator Cindy Wiesner facilitated a plenary that included Afghans for Peace, John Nichols, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Tom Hayden.

For me this experience brought home the importance of GGJ as a movement building vehicle. The alliance serves as a nexus between different sectors of organizing. On the one hand we played a role in helping grassroots organizations make the connections between their local work and global institutions like NATO and G-8. On the other hand we help national peace and justice networks understand and connect with grassroots organizing in communities of color. GGJ does this by creating spaces for convergence like the US Social Forum, conducting political education programs for our members and allies, or by organizing delegations to take part in important national and international convenings like the NATO summit, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro next month or the World Social Forum in Tunisia in the spring of 2013. Weaving together our understanding of issues, people and communities will allow us to deepen and broaden the knowledge of grassroots leadership, strengthen international solidarity and build the broader agendas that will make us a bigger movement than the sum of our parts. Big thanks to all of our new friends allies that we met in Chicago!

By Michael Leon Guerrero

Upon Leaving Chicago…

there are several things that i was deeply inspired by. namely, the work that local organizers did in Little Village to shut down 2 coal burning plants in the area. but there was also local youth working to shut down youth detention centers, working to open up crisis centers and stop the closure of their mental health clinics. and there was immigrant women working to expand DREAM organizing into something more holistic after asking themselves the question “why do i want to be a part of this system?” and the anti-eviction organizers that are working to get people moved into empty houses.

there was sitting in a room with almost all people of color who were working to bring a chapter of the International League of People’s Struggles to the US. and then there was the marching—right next to a massive palestinian contingent, alongside filipino students, and in front of a pro-migrant group.

but then there was other crap. like a counter summit that was brilliantly white (except for the interventions activists of color were able to make). the fact that jesse jackson kept showing up every damn where. even as local activists spoke quite passionately about how the church had failed them time and time and time again. and then there was this weird emphasis on anti-war activism by white organizers. i mean, who could be anti anti-war right? but i found myself feeling that way as more and more of the weekend passed. the anti-war rhetoric was so oddly disconnected from reality, even as it was steeped in reality…

bear with me a minute here. let me back up and try to unfold things.

lets start with this article about the closing of the the coal burning power plants.

there is nothing obviously wrong with it—in fact, it seems to be fairly supportive and actually points to local work and local activists.

but then there’s this.

Bridgeport pastor Rev. Tom Gaulke, with the Clean Power Coalition, said, “It’s nice that finally a decision was made that is good for the people, rather than good for the people who are trying to make a profit.”

In May 2011, eight Greenpeace activists climbed a 450-foot smokestack at the Fisk plant, and eight others rappelled from the Pulaski Road Bridge near the Crawford plant and dangled above the Chicago River to prevent a coal barge from passing.

The demonstrators were arrested, but the protests drew attention to the health issues created by the coal plants.

you see what happened there? local folks are grateful….and outsiders (greenpeace activists) who may or may not have been welcomed into the community (ahem) *DID SOMETHING*.

the years and years and years of work being done by organizers who *had no choice* were boiled down to “we’re so grateful” and the activists who dropped in for some drive by weekend activism—“drew attention to the health issues.”

this is the issue i have with the well meaning white dominated anti-war groups—they are grounded in this general mentality that “war is wrong” (it is) rather than being anchored in the *reality* that it devastates my community through recruitment and then denial of mental health services all to kill brown folk who never tried to kill me. or: “war is wrong” does not position white activists in a space of accountability and solidarity—it allows them to “show support” without having to link their actual communities to war torn communities.

it allows for drive by weekend activism that makes it look like they’re *doing* something—and positions (in this case) iraqis and the people of afghanistan as “grateful.’

actual solidarity and actual accountability is about looking at your actual community (the “good neighborhood” that has almost no people of color in it and wasn’t even considered as a site for the coal burning plant to go up in) and wondering—what accountability does my community have to the mexican town that’s twenty miles to the south?

this is not about “white privilege” (i.e. i have the privilege to breath clean air!).

this is about accountability. how is your community’s survival dependent on a brown community’s destruction? and what are you going to do about it?

are you going to go flying over an incoming barge like spider man? are you going to use cloth grocery bags when you buy groceries at whole foods? or are you going to ask those communities what they need? and then do every fucking thing you can do to do what they asked, including flying over a barge like spider man and licking stamps and cooking food for their meeting?

i have a whole bunch more to say about the way that the dislocation of geography plays out in activism (i.e. issue based activism instead of needs based grassroots basebuilding) and what that has to do with advancing white supremacy even with those who are really well intentioned—

but i’m off to work. i’ll have to save it for later.

have a good day, y’all.

Victoria Goff

My Lungs are Still Hurting

so tired. my lungs still hurt from today’s industrial corridor trip.

i’m fluctuating between being so sad i can hardly get out of bed, and inspired…

fighting so fucking hard cuz we know we deserve more…little village activists shut down one coal plant, the other one will be shut down in 2014. the whole time, the work they did was impossible—but they did it any way, cuz they knew they deserved more.

i love my people so much. it’s mexicans fighting that fight in little village. with their babies on their hips and their fist in the air. we are more than shadows, we are more than outer space aliens.

it was the nurses this afternoon, who marched without permits, who told the mayor to fuck off. who faced down helicopters and wore silly robin hood hats—reminding me of the women’s emergency brigade in flint with their red and white arm bands…

tired workers everywhere. tired women, tired mexicans, tired black teens…fighting so hard, i spent half the afternoon trying not to cry, even as we were being followed and photographed and yelled at and them taking pictures of us taking pictures of them…

i love us so much. feet throbbing, chest hurting, eyes burning, hands shaking as we pull out the phone to take one more picture, to let them know we know the truth—we deserve so much more…

i can’t breathe without coughing just a little, and i think of the soft breeze with the brilliant setting sun and the teeny screaming kids following the jingling ice cream carts being pushed by tired abuelitos and my throat fills with love, that twisty thick kind that gets stuck in the vocal cords…

i’ve been worried these past few days. things are intense and the trucks and exhaust and coal that usually have the killing job have been replaced with boom cannons, low flying helicopters, and surveillance cameras.

but then there’s tom morello flicking his guitar with his teeth, and then there’s all the tired nurses dreaming about his flicking motion, and then there’s the fierce mexicana grabbing her oversized golden hoop earrings and saying “don’t let these fool you, i’ll fuck you up!” and then there’s the chinese labor organizers in the back seat joking about how they’re going through rice withdrawal, and then there’s the elder sitting down as jesse jackson is talking and grumbling “i hate that bastard so fucking much,” so loudly, i swear to god jesse heard him, and then there’s the garden that elders helped youth plant and then there’s the tired feet dancing and dancing and dancing and dancing….

the helicopters fly lower and lower and lower and we dance and dance and dance, our hair flying in the breeze, our breath linked through love…

Victoria Goff

The really great thing about this week was…

the really great thing about this past week was the discussions that happened with other people of color organizers. one particularly important discussion happened around the oft cited logic by communities of color in the US that we have to stop war because funding war takes resources away from our communities.

the discussion we had didn’t really finally decide anything (i.e. this is a shitty theory and we need to call it out, this is a great point and we need to support it) but it did complicate things for me.


what does it mean to stop bombing in one country so we can get resources in this country in the context of globalization and the ideology of capitalism? is it a type of resource hoarding? is it recreating (albeit unintentionally) capitalism/globalization when so many communities throughout the world are calling for a dismantling of globalization in response to militaristic violence? (see: the Filipino community from above that spoke about a new trade agreement that is being proposed that would be worse for them than NATO has been for mexico and would be enforced through NATO.)

how does the US get the resources that communities of color are fighting so hard for? the ones we want directed into us instead of bombing? is it fair and just means?

what does it mean to be in a poverty stricken community and *not* demand resources? what would anti-poverty organizing that doesn’t demand a bigger share of nation/state resources look like? would it be ridiculous? or liberatory?

there’s so many deep and important questions that our communities need to think through and talk about together. and while i think that the discussions that need to happen are always difficult (as they *always* are when it comes to resources and who is going to get them, especially when it comes to communities that already are on the brink of survival)—it was a relief to have them. and to have them with people who take the questions/discussions seriously. who honestly see legitimate organizing strategies in response to the discussions.

Victoria Goff

Free Palestine!

this past week, several of us went to chicago to participate in the No NATO/No Warming organizing leading up to the march on sunday.

vijay prashad gave an excellent speech to open up the No NATO counter summit. a point he made that was especially powerful was how NATO uses the language of human rights to conduct horrific military campaigns throughout the world. prashad detailed how military intervention in libya is being positioned as a human right’s intervention and highlighted the culpability of human rights organizations in advancing militarism as a legitimate response to human rights abuses.

this point is important to me as an organizer as it wasn’t until i was at the summit that i even considered war from that particular angle before. i’ve always been anti-war, since i was old enough to know what war was. i have particularly focused on supporting the women of  Afghanistan and Arab women who have long pointed out that bombing somebody has never saved anybody. but i never really understood the role NATO specifically plays in the context of globalization, war, violence against and control of communities of color, or the destabilization of left leaning governments throughout the world. i have always approached “war” as this general type of violence that “it” or “they” do and our goal is to get it to stop.

recognizing how NATO is connected to different governments and corporations, understanding the relationship between free-trade agreements and military intervention, knowing that war is not the only type of violence a community can experience—this weekend’s discussions/workshops/organization around NATO really helped me to move out of a general anti-war stance and ground myself into the reality of how war exists as a part of an industrial complex, of which very specific entities are culpable for perpetrating. in other words, it’s not just that war needs to end—it’s that the various nation/states using NATO to militarily enforce their agenda need to be challenged and reexamined.

it’s a subtle shift for me, but an important one. one that will help me to act in solidarity with peoples outside the US (like the palestinians above) in a much more effective and meaningful way.

Victoria Goff 

March Chants 5/20/12

Thanks to the chant team, participants in the IVAW/CAN-G8 march on Sunday May 20 had plenty to add to the thousands of other voices.  Below are just a few of them.

Chant 1

No War! No Warming! Build the People’s Economy!

Chant 2

Call: Who’s world?

Response: OUR WORLD!!!!

Chant 3

Call:  When they say NATO, we say “GOTTA GO!”   NATO!

Response: GOTTA GO!!!

Chant 4

Make a choice, its clear to us


Chant 5

Running the world is not your right

The people will always FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

Chant 6

Chicago, Chicago

Turn the world around

Chicago, Chicago


Chant 7

North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Spreading lies

Through all our Nations!

(Deals, Death, and Exploitation!)

Chant 8

No more wars

In our nations

Not even guns


Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance has brought a delegation of organizers, activists and community members to participate in the Counter Summit for Peace and Economic Justice, a counterpole to the convergence of the G8 and NATO summits being held at Camp David and Chicago, Illinois. We are here to make the connections between the increasing militarism and war around the world to the war on working class communities of color; to advance resistance to US foreign policy that subverts the self-determination of our people around the world, and to identify concrete alternatives to war and militarism that allows for the proliferation of peace and justice around the globe. Enjoy!

Alicia Garza, Executive Director of POWER

We Are In The Fight of Our Lives

The opening plenary of the Counter Summit for Peace and Economic Justice underscored not only that we must, as a country, shift our priorities away from war and militarism and towards peace, justice, and whole and thriving communities–it also highlighted that we are in a fight for our lives.

Given that our lives and the lives of millions around the world are inextricably linked, what are the tools and strategies that we need to employ in order to win? From the Robin Hood tax advanced by National Nurses United, which would tax the 1% instead of the 99% who is already paying much more than our fair share, to visionary campaigns like Caring Across Generations which aims to expand and uplift the majority female and of color workforce that provides quality care for millions of elders being waged, today’s conversation reinforced that we need new organizing tools, new strategies and a whole lot more people to join the movement for peace and justice. We need to present a formal challenge to corporate power. As GGJ member and Jobs with Justice ED Sarita Gupta remarked this morning, “What would it look like to bargain with the top 1/10th of the 1%, like the Bay Area’s Greg Penner, who sits on the boards of Walmart, Goldman Sachs, and the Hyatt hotels?”


Alicia Garza, Executive Director of POWER

Robin Hood says: Take It Back From the 1%

Today GGJ delegates joined hundreds of nurses, Iraq war veterans, Chicago community members and members of the international labor community to say “We want our money back!”

In a spirited rally at Daley Plaza today, the energy was high as National Nurses United (NNU) called for a financial transactions tax on speculators that would be used to pump money back into the US economy. This tax would produce billions of dollars for healthcare, housing, jobs, education and other vital services that have been slashed at the behest of corporate interests.

As representatives of frontline communities ravaged by foreclosures, service cuts and poverty, our delegation thought that the Robin Hood tax was a pretty good idea. Speakers at the rally representing the 99% talked about wanting additional money to end AIDS, end climate change, fund transit justice and protect and promote the rights and livelihood of workers and families everywhere.

Delegation member Rose Brewer said, “I like the idea of it. With one caveat: Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. The difference here is that we are not stealing from the rich-we are taking our money back and putting it where it belongs–back into the hands of our communities.”



Alicia Garza, Executive Director of POWER

Welcome To Our Blog

The Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) is a national alliance of grassroots organizations building a popular movement for peace, democracy and a sustainable world. We support each other’s local struggles and collaborate with international allies who share our vision and commitment to building a transformative social justice movement beyond borders.

On this blog, our commitment is to provide a space for our staff, members and allies to share observations, experiences, analyses, successes, challenges and lessons stemming from their participation in various mobilizations, actions and other activities around the world.