Dear Friends of the Strategy Center,
We are proud to bring you our annual end-of-the-year letter and fundraising appeal. It has been a tremendous year of work. If you read no further, would you consider making a donation of $50, $100, $500, $1000—or whatever you can afford and choose to give? We hope you will give generously as we work to expand our work in L.A., nationally, and internationally. We would also love to hear what you think of the enclosed overview of the state of our work (just email us at Info@thestrategycenter.org).
The Strategy Center in 2013—After Obama, the Movement!
The re-election of Barack Obama creates an important opportunity for the social justice movement. The Obama campaign defeated an arch-reactionary, Mitt Romney, whose affable “aw shucks” style covered up some evil intentions—from calls for “self-deportation” of immigrants to plans for privatizing every government agency. For us, the systematic racism against President Obama by the Right, which constantly defined him as either “foreign” or “socialist” (both of which we felt were compliments) meant that the defeat of Romney was essential. The prospect of the first Black president being defeated for re-election—despite 93% of the Black vote, 70% of the Latino vote, 70% of Asian Pacific Islander vote, and 80% of the Native American vote—by a crazy, racist, “this land is still the white man’s” movement would have been disastrous for the Black and Latino communities where we center our work. The Movement should now build upon Obama’s victory as well as celebrate the state victories on gay marriage, immigration, and our defeat of the regressive Measure J in Los Angeles County initiated by Mayor Villaraigosa and the MTA.
We also share your profound dismay at the state of the debate among the pro-imperialist parties. So the challenge is, where do we go from here? Neither Obama nor Romney spoke to the needs and aspirations of working people, communities of color, and the nations and peoples in the Third World fighting the economic, political, and ecological rape and pillaging of their countries. At his victory speech, President Obama dropped all discussions of “the environment,” knowing that his plans for economic growth will contribute to planetary ecological disaster. His constant repetition of “the middle class” was manipulative, trying to create the illusion that the U.S. has only two classes—the wealthy and the middle class—which writes out of history the multi-national working class led by the Black and Latino working class. In reality, the working class is growing and many higher paid working people are free falling into lower strata of the class—with no jobs, no housing, scant medical care, declining government benefits and, for a growing number, living on the couches of families and friends. As we write this, President Obama, the Democrats and the Republicans are all working together behind closed doors to strike a “Grand Bargain” that will massively cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Our work is cut out for us.
What Are We Going to do About L.A., the United States, and the World?
The Strategy Center is expanding our work in Los Angeles, the U.S., and internationally as part of a movement to address the world economic, political, spiritual, and ecological crisis. We want to advance our theory and practice of Transformative Organizing based on counter-hegemonic ideology and counter-hegemonic, structural demands on the system that raise the level of class struggle and class consciousness. Here are some highlights of this year’s work.
Free the U.S. 2 million! We Want the Social Welfare State, Not the Police State! Black and Brown Youth Say, “Hey, LAUSD, We’re Pre-Med, Pre-Job, not Pre-Prison!”
In February, the Labor/Community Strategy Center and its Community Rights Campaign, working in alliance with Public Counsel, the ACLU (SoCal), CADRE, Youth Justice Coalition, Children’s Defense Fund and the Dignity In Schools Campaign (LA) culminated 5 years of organizing by getting the L.A. City Council, by a 14-to-0 vote, to radically roll back the city’s “day-time curfew law,” the #1 generator of school police citations in the L.A. Unified School District. This victory dramatically curtails tardy and truancy ticketing and policing—decriminalizing it—so that most attendance issues can be handled within the school. The new policies send truant students to 13 new Youth WorkSource Centers where counseling, support programs, and referrals will be provided to address root causes. Reported widely in national media, including NPR’s Morning Edition, the victory sets a powerful precedent in L.A. and beyond and has already resulted in a virtual elimination of tardy tickets and their $250 fines (at one point 47,000 tardy and truancy tickets were issued over 5 years), and a 30% reduction of ticketing across all categories from last year. More importantly, there has been a sea change of public rhetoric away from “zero tolerance” to a discourse in which judges, police chiefs and city councilors talk in the media about no longer “punishing” youth and instead “being there for you and listening.” This campaign, led by Manuel Criollo, Ashley Franklin, Barbara Lott-Holland, Carla Gonzalez, and dozens of amazing CRC members and organizers raised the broader issues of educational racism and the fight against “the school to prison pipeline.” This is part of our broader campaign to “Free the U.S. 2 Million Prisoners” by challenging the war on drugs, war on crime, war on gangs, and war on Blacks and Latino communities and put the prisons, not the prisoners, on trial.
The Fight for the Soul of the City: No On Measure J—Taking on Environmental Racism, Gentrification, and the Corporate/Government Elite
On November 6, outspent by almost 100:1, the Strategy Center and Bus Riders Union led a feisty coalition to defeat Measure J on the county ballot by a half percent vote margin. Measure J was a proposal by the Los Angeles MTA to extend Measure R, a regressive half-cent sales tax, for another 30 years—from 2039 to 2069. We were up against Mayor Villaraigosa, the majority of the MTA board, the chambers of commerce, major rail construction companies like Parsons Brinkerhoff and Tutor Saliba, and sadly, the County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) and many mainstream environmental groups. They promised greater mass transit, expanded freeways, cleaner air, green jobs, motherhood, apple pie, and the American way (MTA was able to write the ballot language).
We countered that Measure J was a fight for the Soul of the City. We argued that Measure J, like its predecessor, Measure R, would bait and switch funds promised for buses and transfer them to boondoggle rail projects that would benefit corporate elites (and yes, construction unions), all the while gentrifying Los Angeles, raising fares, driving working people out of their neighborhoods, and carrying out an anti-labor transportation policy by destroying the transportation options for hotel, restaurant, garment workers, security guards, kids and families. At the same time, Measure J would give the highway lobby 20% of the funds to “expand freeways” at a time when we urgently need to shrink freeways and dramatically reduce and restrict auto use.
The No on Measure J Campaign was an exciting united front with the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, Beverly Hills Board of Education, Union de Vecinos, activists against the 710 Freeway extension, and Los Angeles Community Action Network. This was one of the largest electoral outreach and agitprops campaigns we have ever fought. Led by the BRU Planning Committee, it included 44 BRU members phone banking to 30,000 people, 40,000 robocalls in English and 20,000 in Spanish, experimentation with Facebook that reached 110,000 people, 800 lawn signs, several radio shows, an op-ed in the Daily News, and two public debates between BRU lead organizer Sunyoung Yang and MTA Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky. We hope this exciting victory can lead to some negotiations with the MTA to end their war on bus riders and we know it is an important step in developing our movement.
Voices from the Frontlines—Winning the Battle of Ideas, Giving Voice to Social Movements
This year, host Eric Mann and producer Geoff Ramsey-Ray have made Voices a stronger center for movement debate and mobilization. With the help of Strategy Center veteran and web designer Tanya Bernard, we have built a Voices website, www.voicesfromfrontlines.com, with an Action Center that highlights popular struggles. One program to highlight was our focus on the struggle at both Dorsey High School and Crenshaw High School against the plans by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy to “reconstitute” these key symbols of South Central Los Angeles. Reconstitution would involve a take-over of the school, dismissing all the teachers, and then, selectively re-hiring the ones they choose and being able to dismiss the most pro-union, pro-community, pro-student teachers. As guests on the show, Sharonne Hapuarachy and Taylor Broome from Dorsey and Alex Caputo Pearl and Reverend Eric Lee from the Crenshaw group were able to tell their story and appeal for support during a difficult period of press white-out. Other guests this year have included, LisaGay Hamilton, Aris Anagnos, and Mumia Abu-Jamal. Check out the Voices site to hear Mumia Abu-Jamal on the importance of Black revolutionary history for understanding today’s political situation.
What Are We Going to Do About the United States? No War, No Warming–We Want the Environmental Justice State, Not the Warfare State
It was 2002 in Bali, at a UN preparatory conference for the “Rio+10” World Summit on Sustainable Development. The Strategy Center was there as part of the world-wide movement among NGOs and social movements to curtail the power of U.S. Empire. A high-ranking U.N. official, not knowing his microphone was on, turned to a colleague and said, “What are we doing to do about the United States?” We turned it into a galvanizing call at the heart of our work in the Bus Riders Union to restrict the auto. In 2005, we launched a campaign for bus-only lanes on Wilshire Blvd. That campaign resulted in a landmark victory last year but the geometric progression of global warming has made clear that stronger and more radical programs are needed. This year we participated in the Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ) delegation to the Rio+20 Earth Summit, where we saw the U.S. government lead an accelerating global agenda to commodify Nature and invest heavily in false solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Through GGJ, we are participating in important conversations among environmental justice and climate justice organizations to build new campaigns to take on extreme energy and foster just transitions. GGJ is an essential organizational commitment for us because it creates the opportunity and obligation to connect our grassroots movement building work in the U.S. with the struggles of the nations and peoples of the Third World to confront the imminent threats of global ecological catastrophe.
The Challenge to Build a New Left for the 21st Century
These are both exciting and daunting times. In every aspect of our work, we strive to fulfill our role as part of a far larger international movement, as an organization that is willing to frontally challenge the policies of the U.S. government in the traditions of the early Anti-Imperialist League, the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, and today, the world struggle for self-determination and “Well-Being” led by La Via Campesina, World March of Women, the ALBA nations, and indigenous movements across the globe. This is easier said than done as the power of U.S. based multi-national capital and the rapidly accelerating rate of ecological catastrophe is growing exponentially. But that makes a Movement-building strategy even more urgent—building a grassroots base on the ground, developing long-term campaigns that challenge the system, developing an ideology and strategy to shape that work, and an international movement of grassroots leaders to build a New Left. That is the challenge and we urge you to help us do this work, volunteer for our projects, and support our work financially at the highest levels possible.
Thank you for your support. It is critical to our work.
Donate online here: http://bit.ly/U3A8hL
Eric Mann, Director of the Labor Community Strategy Center
Tammy Bang Luu, Associate Director
Manuel Criollo, Director of Organizing
Daniel Won gu Kim
Lian Hurst Mann