Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Many struggles, one movement

Category Archives: Grassroots Internationalism

Report from Rights of Nature International Tribunal, Lima, Peru

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

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

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

Report on the Rights of Mother Nature Tribunal.

TribunalTo see the list of judges on the diverse international panel, and the cases and lead presenters, visit this website: http://therightsofnature.org/lima-2014-tribunal/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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COP 20: Conference Of Phony climate “solutions”

by Matt Feinstein, Worcester Roots Project

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

No REDD+

This movement to stop REDD+ is one of the strongest campaigns represented here in Lima at the People’s Summit on Climate Change – a four-day conference convening hundreds of organizations from around the world, including Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. As Indigenous Environmental Network coordinator, Tom Goldtooth explains, “REDD+ means the privatization of nature on a scale so massive that it boggles our minds.” He goes on to say “REDD+ is like carbon stocks,” allowing corporations and governments to continue to pollute by IMG_7475purchasing credits that are then often used to fund the false solutions such as large unsustainable agrofuels.

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

Energy Sovereignty

Similar to food sovereignty – where people have local control and can ensure sustainability of resources – energy sovereignty is a central theme here at the People’s Summit on Climate Change. Read more of this post

In the face of conquest, Palestinians’ existence is resistance

Ashley_Sussiya 3By Ashley Franklin, Labor/Community Strategy Center, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ)

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

To Exist is To Resist

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

Land Grabs and the Israeli Occupation

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

One Struggle: From Burque to the West Bank and Back

Rodrigo_Mohammed Jboor (UAWC farmer)By Rodrigo Rodriguez, SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP), Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ)

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

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

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

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

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¡Compañero Chokwe Lumumba, Presente!

chokwe rest in power“Some of the most significant things happen in history when you get the right people in the right place at the right time. And I think that’s where we are.” 

— The Honorable Chokwe Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, speaking with Laura Flanders of GritTV, two weeks before his passing.

 

Rise in Power! Free the People, Free the Land!

goodbye chokwe

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance sends our deep love and condolences to the family and community of The Honorable Chokwe Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, whose sudden and tragic passing at the young age of 66 on February 25, 2014, has left many of us shocked and devastated at the loss of this historic leader.

Compañero Chokwe Lumumba was elected Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi in June 2013 after a vibrant campaign rooted in The Jackson Plan laid out by Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the Jackson People’s Assembly.

We pledge to keep alive the hopes and dreams that Compañero Chokwe Lumumba inspired in so many movement leaders, organizers, freedom fighters.

Compañero Chokwe Lumumba was one of the founders of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM).  Join us in sending solidarity to our compañer@s, fellow GGJ members MXGM, and his family and community in Jackson. We offer this page as a place where GGJ members and allies can share with MXGM the hopes and dreams that Compañero Chokwe Lumumba inspired in you. Please post a comment on this page with your solidarity messages and thoughts, visions and hopes that Compañero Chokwe Lumumba has inspired in you, and what you pledge to do in his memory.  In two weeks on March 13 we will compile and send the comments to his family and MXGM.

Learn more about Chokwe Lumumba:

Support Lumumba’s legacy in Jackson, Mississippi:

jackson rising new economies conferenceJackson Rising New Economies ConferenceKeep the legacy of Compañero Chokwe Lumumba alive by supporting the New Economies Conference in Jackson, MS on May 2-4, 2014. The primary objective of the Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference is to educate and mobilize the people of Jackson to build cooperatives and worker owned enterprises to meet the economic and sustainability needs of the community. In the process, we aim to expand the discussion about alternative economic models and systems and to confront the harsh economic realities confronting low-income and impoverished communities.”   

Support the Jackson Rising New Economies Conference and the Grassroots Economic Series with a donation.  Help make Jackson, Mississippi a center of economic democracy where jobs have dignity, stability, living wages, and quality benefits. Click here to help Jackson Rise or mail your financial contribution payable to Community Aid and Development Inc. Please specify “Jackson Rising” in the notes section of your check and mail donations to Community and Development, Incorporated P.O. Box 361270, Decatur, GA 30036-1270.

The Lumumba family is requesting financial assistance for the Celebration of Life fund. This fund will cover family fees related to the home going services for Mayor Chokwe Lumumba. Donations can be made on line at www.cadnational.org Just look for the link on the page for donation to the services. Donations by mail can be made payable to Community Aid and Development and mailed to the address on the website.

NCBL (National Conference of Black Lawyers) has made a separate request, also on behalf of the Lumumba family, to cover the cost of an independent autopsy. Donations can be made to that effort via Paypal by going to paypal.com sending your donation to the email addressncbl1968@gmail.com.

Report from the streets of the Bolivarian Revolution, Part 1

suny_vz18By Sunyoung Yang

I arrived last Wednesday in Caracas, during the peak of Venezuela’s right wing protests. Responding to the call for a “salida” by the opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, right wing students took to the streets burning educational and public institutions. The right is co-opting the “salida” – what was once a form of peaceful protest practiced by the left social movements against the dictatorial government of the past. I heard protesters banging on pots and pans out in the streets [a common form of protest by the right in Venezuela during the failed coup against Hugo Chávez Frías in 2002].  Relatively few people came out to protest but the next day they had murdered 3 people including a compañero from the 23 de enero collective, a historically militant and left collective in Caracas.

The next day I paid my respect to comandante Hugo Chávez at the cuartel where his body lies, and stopped by the 23 de enero to witness the funeral ceremony of the compañero who was killed by Wednesday’s protest. The community members were outraged both by their loss and the continuing violence that was being inflicted by the right throughout the country during the commemoration period of Chávez [one year after his death] and celebrations honoring the youths historic contribution to the revolution. As usual the US corporate backed media were reporting straight out lies that those who died were either from the right or cubans who died a long time ago that the Maduro government was trying to frame as recent deaths.

Despite the violence, tens of thousands of people marched the streets of Caracas on Saturday responding to President Maduro’s call for peace, reaffirming that the Venezuelan people’s support for the revolution was strong and that they wont be instigated into the right wings desperate attempt to destabilize the country. In fact post Maduro’s election and Capriles’s loss the right has been divided, and Leopoldo Lopez who instigated this protest is one of the many who are vying to take leadership inside the divided right. Some see this as his attempt to raise his profile as a leader.

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GGJ Leads Packed Workshop at NATO Counter-Summit

GGJ Members led a jam-packed interactive workshop at the Nato-Free Summit in Chicago on May 19th, the day before the NATO summit.  The workshop kicked off with discussions of how immigration patterns around the world often follow war timelines, creating trauma but also forcing people to become leaders for justice.  As funds are diverted away from social programs, we see how shock, war, and death are normalized.  The military creates conflict in families.  Violence, militarism, and war affect all of our lives, making an impression that is imprinted on us for our whole lives.

            Participants first broke down the 20th century into a timeline of events that have brought us to the current moment, highlighting key economic and political events that show the progression of economic and political movements bringing us to the current moment.  With these key moments in mind, participants were introduced to the GGJ framework, which was a similar process of GGJ organizations coming together around converging crises.  War, warming, and economy have critical overlap, which indicate it is imperative for us to build another system.  The emphasis is on moving money from war to social needs, and recognizing that the green economy as a false solution (see GGJ’s petition on the “Greed” Economy).

The next activity helped identify and connect the work that participants were involved in that linked everyone to a global movement.  Exhibiting that what happens in one part of the world necessarily impacts what happens in other parts of the world in this moment.  The following are some areas of work that participants reported on:

  • Clevelanders Against Poverty confront the history of people trying to sustain national globalization on the backs of poor people.
  • An independent real estate agent is helping people stay in their houses, fighting evictions from foreclosures, and negotiating loans with banks.
  • People’s Tribune is making people aware that they are not fighting bad people but a bad system.
  • An Earlham College environmental group is reclaiming endowments, divesting from coal companies, and reinvesting in clean energy.  They are attempting to change policy by working with groups on campus and some community groups.

The goal is grassroots internationalism or linking with people around the world, so the next section of the workshop was a communal visioning process of what success would look like.  Some visions and realities that participants shared were:

  • In Detroit we have started moving people into shut down homes, and people are really doing it.
  • 70% of people live in cities now, but in the future we will be living on community land trusts.
  • Communities are engaged in participatory budgeting where money is given back to local populations to decide what to do in their neighborhoods.

The final vision was one in which NATO is shut down, climate is restored, and the earth is regenerated.  Within this, Charity Hicks, a GGJ delegate from East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC), envisioned that, “…[i]n our communities, we are in a relationship with each other. We treat others how we want to be treated. There is nobody who is less than [us], and we treat each other with respect.  The earth has been respected and we have enough.”

Finally, it was important to lay the foundation for a bridge to lead from what we are doing now to where we want to be.  The following strategies were discussed to strengthen the work we are all doing:

  • Broaden coalitions and follow unified agenda
  • Current technology can stop poverty, but also a systemic change to get rid of the profit motive
  • Built in structure to mobilize thousands—bring together groups around budget time and get ahead of the budget schedule.
  • Challenge 501(c)3 control of organizing, perhaps through community funds organizing.

As GGJ National Coordinator Cindy Wiesner said, “We need more conversations about strategies that are informed by what we do now.  We need to be grounded in our work but also move beyond our comfort zones.  Because of these multiple crises we need to address them in a different way, [we need] more strategy sessions, more getting into the streets.”

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