Monday, January 29, 2007

Saturday's March on Washington

I am happy to report that we had representatives from Antioch New England's faculty, staff, students, and graduates at Saturday's peace march in DC--along with hundreds of thousands of other people from all over the country who made the trek to our nation's capital to urge Congress to represent the will of the both the American and Iraqi people and put an end to the Bush Administration's escalating aggression and occupation of Iraq. For those of you who couldn't make the trip, here are a couple of information sources to give you a sense of the event.

The first is a short video by Caleb Clark, a former ANE librarian. To watch his video journal, go to his video webpage.

The second is Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! radio program that ran today. It features interviews with some participants as well as recordings of some of the key speeches at the rally before the massive march around the US Capital. To hear the program, go to this webpage.

I hope this gives people some feel for the day's events. It was an excellent moment in civic participation around one of the most important issues of the day.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Green Corps Welcomes Applicants

Green Corps is a full-time, paid Environmental Leadership Training Program for recent college graduates that offers a year of in-depth training and experience with leading environmental groups like the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, and Greenpeace.

Green Corps was founded by leading environmentalists in 1992 to identify and train environmental leaders. Their year-long program includes intensive classroom training, hands-on experience running urgent environmental and public health campaigns, and placement in permanent leadership positions with leading environmental and social change groups. The program begins in August 2007, with the Introductory Classroom Training in Boston, and concludes with graduation in August 2008. Campaign work is done all over the country.

They will invite 25 recent college graduates to join Green Corps in 2007-2008 and are looking for people who are serious about saving the planet, have demonstrated leadership experience, and want to work for change over the long haul. Salary of $23,750. Optional group health care coverage, paid sick days and holidays, two weeks paid vacation, and a student loan repayment program for qualifying staff. To apply for Green Corps' 2007-2008 Environmental Leadership Training Program, fill out our online application. Regional deadlines, campus interview dates, and online application are at For more information, contact Jesse Littlewood, Recruitment Director, at, or 617-426-8506.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Martin Luther King's Journey to Activism

For the last two years, the EAOP has sponsored a three-hour radio special during the Martin Luther King Holiday on our local community station. The show plays four complete speeches by King from the Pacifica Radio Archives and offers some commentary from me. The segment that gets the most listener comment every year is the little known story of how King became an activist, which only proves that activists are made, not born.

Before December 1, 1955, King had not met Rosa Parks. He was 26 years old and still new to town. His church was one of the smallest, wealthiest, and most conservative of the two-dozen Black churches in Montgomery. His professional ambitions at the time were to run a solid church program, be well paid for it, have a nice house for his growing family, perhaps write some theology pieces for his denomination’s magazine, and do a bit of adjunct teaching at a nearby college after he was better established. King’s long-term career goal was to become a college president.

King had simply never ever imagined himself as the most prominent activist leader in Montgomery, let alone America. Sure, he had experienced racism, and hated it, but all black folks in America had experienced racism and hated it. He had also read a bit of Gandhi and Marx at Boston University and written several thoughtful papers about theologians of the social gospel movement who challenged the Church to take up the fight for social justice. Yet, in December 1955, all these ideas were mostly academic concerns for King. His only act of activism up to this point had been to write a letter to the editor for the Atlanta Constitution back when he was seventeen.

It is hard to imagine now, but if it had been left up to King’s initiative, the Montgomery Bus Boycott would never have even happened. The real organizer of this effort was E.D. Nixon, an experienced civil rights and labor activist who created the Montgomery Improvement Association and launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott within the first four days after Rosa Parks’ arrest. As the president of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, Nixon knew Parks well. She had worked as his volunteer secretary at the NAACP office for over 12 years. He also knew most of the city’s black clergy, a couple of reasonably sympathetic white journalists, and all of the local black activists, including folks from his union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

It was Nixon who recruited a very reluctant King to the civil rights movement. After bailing Rosa Parks out of jail for refusing to move to the back of the bus, Nixon and she talked together for hours and decided to launch a city-wide boycott of the bus system until the city desegregated the service. Nixon then went home and started calling local ministers to line up their support for the idea. As Nixon explained to one interviewer: “I recorded quite a few names… The first man I called was Reverend Ralph Abernathy. He said, ‘Yes, Brother Nixon, I’ll go along. I think it’s a good thing.’ The second person I called was the late Reverend H.H. Hubbard. He said, ‘Yes, I’ll go along with you.’ And then I called Rev. King, who was number three on my list, and he said, ‘Brother Nixon, let me think about it awhile, and call you back.’”

When King finally agreed to come to a meeting, Nixon chuckled and told King, “I’m glad you agreed, because I already set up the first meeting at your church.” At the ministers’ meeting, King was very nervous about the illegal boycott idea and several other ministers soon began to side with King against the boycott idea. In his own memoir of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King recalls how Nixon finally exploded towards the end of the meeting and shouted that the ministers would have to decide if they were going to act like scared little boys or if they were going to stand up like grown men and take a strong public stand against segregation.

King’s pride was so hurt, he shouted back that nobody could call him a coward. Then, to prove his courage, King immediately agreed to Nixon’s plan for an aggressive, community organizing campaign to build up the boycott. With that decision made, the group began to discuss who should lead this effort. Everyone present had expected Nixon to become the president of the newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association. But when he was asked about serving, Nixon answered, “Naw, not unless’n you all don’t accept my man.” When asked whom he was nominating, Nixon said, “Martin Luther King.” Having just loudly declared his courage to the whole group, King felt that he had to agree to take on this responsibility. Then, Nixon told King he would have to give the main address at the mass rally scheduled for that very night to announce the boycott plan to the black community.

King rose to Nixon's challenge. Serving as the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott for the next twelve months changed King. Watching 42,000 poor and working-class black people stay organized and do without public transportation for a year, he discovered things about the courage and capacity of ordinary people to resist oppression and move toward freedom. Watching the conservative, rightwing city government finally cave in to the boycott, he discovered the power of mass nonviolent direct action campaigns to win real victories--even when they are opposed by powerful interests. By seeing his own power to inspire people to become active citizens for a noble cause, King discovered just what kind of Christian leader he wanted to be in this life. He now fully embraced his new mission as an activist leader for fundamental social change.

There is an important lesson here for all of us. We don’t have to be born leaders, we don’t have to know everything before we get started, we just have to get started.

Midwest Academy Summer Internship Opportunity

The Midwest Academy, a 33-year-old national training institute for progressive direct action organizing, will hire community organizing interns for a paid ten week Summer 2007 program. The stipend will be $3000, and will be paid biweekly. The program will run from Monday, June 4 to Friday, August 10.

They are still determining the exact locations of placements. In 2006, interns were in Chicago neighborhoods from 95th and State to Brighton Park, Kenwood-Oakland, and Uptown, as well as in several suburban locations. Preference will be given to applicants from the Chicago area, or in school in the Chicago area. Details about locations will be posted as soon as available.

Interns will receive a week of training similar to the Midwest Academy five-day training using the organizing model developed in the Midwest Academy's book Organizing for Social Change. Students will learn how organizers choose issues, develop strategy, assess their own organizational power and that of their target/opponents, recruit constituents, and move into action. (Costs for the training, including room/board, are covered).

During the nine weeks in the field, interns will conduct community outreach and organize one or more public meetings. Interns will receive day-to-day supervision from their placement organizations, and ongoing training and mentoring from the Midwest Academy. For interns who are interested in pursuing a job in community organizing, we will provide job search assistance at the end of the internship or upon college graduation.

They are looking for young people who are ready to work hard and take on new challenges and responsibilities, who have a passion for social justice, and who want to learn solid skills in the field of organizing. They are particularly looking for people who want to explore a career in progressive organizing in Illinois. Fluency in Spanish or other languages relevant to recent immigrants will be a plus for some locations. Use of a car will be required in the suburbs! Mileage will be reimbursed.

To apply: Download and fill out the online application online. Review of applications will begin February 15 and continue until positions are filled. Likely candidates will be interviewed via telephone. Target date to complete hiring is March 31. Questions? Review the website, then email Judy Hertz.