Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

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Category Archives: Grassroots Internationalism

Avery Books: Report Back from MST Intensive in Sao Paolo

This past spring I was part of a two person delegation of GGJ members to the IMG_1829first 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 IMG_1754who 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 IMG_1824internationalism 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

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 IMG_2487from 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 IMG_1800night 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

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.

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

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 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

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

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 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.

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

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!

By Jessica Guerrero

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

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, WMW - logo-cropmerely 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.  wmw-ggj-together

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.bangladesh1_AP

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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 CityCooperation Jackson logo

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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)

Mai-Stella and crew

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

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!