DCI Gala and Dinner, Tues. Dec. 10

Celebrate International Human Rights Day, with honored guests:

Andrew Young Ambassador Andrew Young

DorothyCotton-1 Ms. Dorothy Cotton

Vincent Harding in Nabi-Saleh Dr. Vincent Harding

  • 6:00 Reception & cash bar with jazz and r&b by Fe Nunn and Friends

  • 7:00 Dinner with jazz by Harry & Eric Aceto, Doug Robinson & Chad Lieberman

  • 8:00 Program with Emcee Cal Walker

  • Remarks by Ambassador Young

  • Fellowship of Reconciliation Presentation of  the 2013  Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards to Ms. Cotton and Dr. Harding

  • Spirituals and Freedom Songs by the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers led by Baruch Whitehead

In Ballroom of the Trip Hotel (formerly the Clarion), One Sheraton Drive, Ithaca, NY

$125 per plate. All proceeds from this event will benefit the Dorothy Cotton Institute.

Click here to purchase tickets online or sponsor others’ attendance.

The Dorothy Cotton Institute is a locally based non-profit organization providing workshops on Human Rights Education, the Citizenship Education Program for the 21st Century, and is working to build a global community of human rights leadership.
DCI is a project of the Center for Transformative Action and an organizing member of the Building Bridges initiative.

Cross-Class Alliances for Social Change: Webinar review

Cross-class Alliances for Social Change:  Research on the influence of class culture on how we organize

A report and some questions.

On October 17th, a few people gathered at Cooperative Extension to watch a webinar presented by a group called Class Action.  The webinar, “Building Cross-Class Alliances for a New Economy,” was presented by Betsy Leondar-Wright who was reporting on her research on whether class differences had an effect on how people take up social activism.  Her answer was “yes.”

Leondar-Wright and her team interviewed 61 people from 25 progressive social movements in 5 states and surveyed 362 people.  Of the 362, 28% were people of color, 72% white.  To assign class to respondents they looked at their parents’ income source and education and their current occupation and education.  They consolidated these results into what they describe as 4 “class trajectory categories:”  lifelong working-class (which includes poor, though it isn’t clear how many people who consider themselves poor responded); lifelong professional; upwardly mobile straddlers; voluntarily downwardly mobile.  These latter three were lumped together for reporting purposes, and so the results are in two (possibly confusing) categories:  working-class and college-educated, as follows:

Why do we join movements?

Working-class people join movements because they have a shared context—workplace, family—with the group and they join as a cluster with others.

Most college-educated activists join movements because they are committed to an issue or an ideology.  That comes first, then they find a group.  These people tend to join as individuals.

How do these groups recruit?

Working-class activists recruit more members with incentives, assurances of mutual aid and member-only benefits, realistic plans for short term victory that will improve recruits’ lives, and food at all meetings.

According to the research, college-educated activists expect issues and political ideas to recruit people and often, according to Leondar-Wright, overlook food and short-term incentives.

How do these activists talk?

When talking about their cause, working-class activists tend to use humor, teasing and  prefer concrete, specific language.  They tend to make political points via story telling, metaphors, analogies, and examples.

College-educated activists tend to talk in abstract generalizations.  Humor is in the form of wordplay.

For example, in the interviews, college-educated activists used “strategy” or “strategize” more than 8 times as much as working-class activists.  They were fond of “network” (used 6 times as often), “outreach” (5.4 times as often), and “context” or “contextualization” (used 4.7 times as often).

And how about leadership?

According to the research, working-class activists are reported as much less “anti-leadership” than college-educated activists.  They tend to monitor leaders’ actions as either for or against the community.  For college-educated activists “leadership” has a negative connotation.  Many will stay in a group and criticize the leaders or the group.  For some, equalizing power and sharing airspace are just as important as the group’s goals.

So, what to make of all this?

The categorization of classes as reported in the webinar seems awkward and arbitrary, but the researchers were clear on how they made these choices.  I find the distinctions between classes blunt and wish for more differentiation in the results.  For example, who doesn’t like food at a meeting?

On the other hand, the research brings to my attention things I’ve known or suspected and tended to sweep under the rug because a) it is risky to generalize  and b) because even if I did pull them out and look at them, I thought of them more in terms of my own behavior, not in relationship to collective action.

I wonder how this research relates to reader experience?  What have you noticed makes you and others effective activists?  What would you add?  What would you ask the researchers?

Leondar-Wright ended the webinar with advice on building cross-cultural movements:

  • Look for and dismantle invisible walls
  • Eliminate “inessential weirdnesses,” cultural norms, processes, language that may alienate.
  • Instead of asking, “why don’t they join us,” reach out and pitch in as allies to working-class/low-income led community efforts.

Whether or not we might quarrel with the research, I welcome this advice.  I would find it helpful to think together about how we can actually do these things.

You can check out Class Action at www.classism.org.

Leondar-Wright’s book will be out soon, Strengthening Social Movement Groups by Seeing Class Cultures.

Reimagining a Fair & Local Economy

Freeing Ourselves From Systems that Weaken & Divide Us

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this…We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality …whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. over 45 years ago as an impassioned call for “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution”, these words seem more relevant than ever to the linked economic, environmental and social calamities we face today. Our global economy and its effects on nearly every facet of our lives is increasingly seen as a root of these problems. With a warming climate and epic failures like the BP oil disaster and financial crisis, this system and its structures are looking catastrophically flawed and outdated. The “economic genius” of Frankensteinian creations like derivatives has turned our world economy into a shell game, with perhaps the worse yet to come.

Communities have become ground zero for a resource extraction model seeking to maximize short-term profits for distant stock holders while externalizing as many costs as possible. Those “externalities” include many of our own who are left behind as the divide between the haves and multiplying have-nots grows. Making matters worse, the reach and influence of the too-big-to-fail juggernauts responsible for these crises extends deep into our systems of governance, playing no small part in the recent government shut-down.

At the same time, a growing number of communities like our own are grappling with how to sustain basic civic infrastructure, including water, transportation, health, social services and educational systems. Put into place decades or centuries ago, many are now crumbling and we find ourselves without adequate means to maintain or replace them. Extreme events like Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, expected to increase in frequency, are also revealing a lack of resilience in our support systems and compromised landscapes.

We seem to be caught in a destructive feedback loop, unable to break free from a system that is continually reinforcing itself (with the help of bailouts and subsidies) while weakening our communities and endangering the planet. Some are wondering what alternatives might exist – how can we reinvent a new economy that serves, not consumes us?

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.  -Buckminster Fuller

Unseen by some, another great revolution, or “reimagining” is already occurring. It is rising from communities like our own, leveraging the power of We to solve intractable problems collectively.  Here are some signs of and guideposts for this emergent and hopeful movement. Continue reading

RIP Monsanto Protection Act

It’s dead. Thanks to you. And hundreds of thousands of people like you who signed petitions, and called their representatives and senators, the Monsanto Protection Act has, officially, expired.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) pushed hard to kill the Monsanto Protection act, a biotech industry-friendly rider attached to the government funding bill that expired on September 30. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) made sure the rider was stripped from the Senate version of the new bill to fund the government. Of course, as we all know by now, there currently is no new bill to fund the government, thanks in large part to the antics of Republican Tea Partiers. But at least we know the Monsanto Protection Act won’t be in the next funding bill. Assuming Congress ever gets around to passing one.

So score one for the anti-Monsanto, anti-GMO movement. With the Monsanto Protection Act dead, Monsanto no longer gets immunity from prosecution for illegally growing GMO crops.

Sometimes we wonder if those petitions and phone calls really matter. But remember. No matter which senator pounded the final nail into the Monsanto Protection Act’s coffin, you provided the hammer. This is our victory!

A Big Thank-You!

8.24.13 DC Carrying Banner

On Saturday, August 24, two big bus-loads of people traveled from Ithaca to the 50th Anniversary Realize the Dream march and rally in Washington, DC. We were among the thousands and thousands of positive, truly kind and powerful people there, and it renews our faith in who the American people really are to connect with so many kindred spirits speaking out for Jobs, Freedom and Justice and the civil and human rights of all people.

The organizers of the trip were Elizabeth Field, Laura Branca, Kirby Edmonds, Audrey Cooper from the Multicultural Resource Center, Marcia Fort, Director of GIAC and Lana Milton from GIAC.We were able to cover 53  free tickets to many of our riders through the generous donations of the following organizations and individuals, to whom we offer our heartfelt thanks:
Greater Ithaca Activities Center
Building Bridges
An anonymous donor (who attended the 1963 March donated 10 seats so that young people could go.)
Moosewood Restaurant
Social Ventures
Center for Transformative Action
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Multicultural Resource Center
Congregation Tikkun V’Or
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton
Lynne Jackier
Ann Martin
Beverly Baker
Joan Swenson
Sue Kittel
Dick Franke and Barbara Chasin
John Suter
Sandy Pollack
Karen Friedeborn

Thank you to all who made this happen!


Please share …. Hope to see some of you there….



You’re invited to a free event on Thursday, August 8 to learn about participatory budgeting (PB), a new approach to democracy in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. PB gives ordinary people real decision-making power over real money. Come hear from people who are using PB in their own cities to fund the projects needed most in their communities.

6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Admission is free, but please RSVP.
Bring your family & friends!

Watch a short video about participatory budgeting: http://vimeo.com/65169312

Check out the Participatory Budgeting Project: http://www.participatorybudgeting.org/

Stay connected on Facebook for updates on PB events in Tompkins County!

This event is made possible thanks to the generous support of The Natural Leaders Initiative, The Workers’ Center for Tompkins County, The Community Foundation of Tompkins County, GIAC, the Alternatives Federal Credit Union, and the Public Service Center at Cornell University

GreenStar Community Projects: Feeding Our Future

Hello esteemed community-colleagues. We very much hope you will be able to join the next “Feeding Our Future” conversation on August 15 at GIAC. We’ll hear from leaders of several important food justice initiatives in the community, and share insights, innovations, information and ideas for building a food system that serves EVERYBODY in our community. Please do share this message with others in your organization and neighborhood. Thank you so much!
Joanna G

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