Time has flown, and somehow we are more than two-thirds through Catalyst Project’s Anne Braden Anti-Racist Training Program already! We have been thrilled and inspired by the experience thus far, and moved by the overwhelming support this program has received every step of the way.
We thank you for every thoughtful conversation, hug of support, analysis-building discussion, donation, and all the other ways you’ve helped this exciting new project grow and thrive. We are humbled and super appreciative of the crucial feedback and constructive criticism we’ve received from a multiracial, intergenerational group of advisors, allies, and organizers in the community about how to help this new program be the most useful and transformative it can be. With much appreciation of your support, we wanted to send out an update to our extended community about how the Anne Braden Program has been going so far.
Tonight, like most Sunday nights this spring, 33 social justice activists filled our space with incredible collective energy. Their passionate questions, readiness to dig into hard topics, excitement about new learning, and strong desire to be more effective and accountable organizers building movements for justice is inspiring to witness and share. Catalyst Project has worked hard to create a training program that centers challenging white supremacy as part of a collective liberation framework, and brings together lessons from history and current organizing in interactive sessions that engage the head, heart, gut, and spirit. We are trying to create a dynamic and rigorous learning space where white-privileged activists involved in a broad array of social justice struggles can develop and deepen their anti-racist leadership and organizing skills. Each week, participants read 30-90 pages to prepare for the session, and complete projects assigned periodically.
Participants come to the Anne Braden Program with a history of involvement in housing and employment rights organizing, healthcare and reproductive justice work, queer liberation struggles, immigrant justice and anti-war movements, organizing against the prison industrial complex and for transformative justice, HIV/AIDS work, the struggle for justice in the Gulf Coast, Palestine solidarity, anti-violence, climate justice and faith-based organizing. Our hope is that the Braden Program can help create an anti-racist ripple effect as participants continue working in the movements of which they are a part and engage in social justice work for the long haul.
Here’s a taste of what participants have been saying about their experience in the Anne Braden Program:
"During the Braden Program, I've been able to synthesize and articulate what my experiences around organizing have been. I'm able to put words to what I've been thinking and feeling, and more able to make links that are enriching my organizing and that of my comrades. Especially I'm seeing changes and shifts in consciousness with other white people doing "bridge" work with Native and Indigenous-led campaigns and struggles."
“I am so spiritually fed by this experience. Ever since I moved to the Bay Area, I have been searching for a community to support me in dedicating my life to working for racial justice. I have finally found it. I have never felt so grounded and supported in making a sustainable lifetime commitment to this work. This program has truly altered the course of my life.”
“So far the Anne Braden Program has been one of the most amazing experiences of my adult life. I have never been in a training that has inspired, motivated and challenged me in so many ways. I look forward to every Sunday and carry these conversations home with me-holding questions, responses, ideas, new concepts, radical analyses and thoughts toward a collective liberation in my being… Every week my “whiteness” takes on new meaning and I situate it now in a systemic understanding that lets me know it is completely vital to work toward becoming a white anti-racist social justice activist and in fact required… Anne Braden and all of its components are giving me sacred tools to be able to do this and I appreciate every moment I have these opportunities.”
Highlights from Sessions
We were blessed to have Sharon Martinas (of the Challenging White Supremacy Workshop) conclude the two day opening sessions with her insights on anti-racist organizing in the Bay Area during the 60s and 70s and place the Anne Braden Program in a legacy of work before us. During our session on the development of capitalism and the Black Liberation Struggle, Akua Jackson of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and SOUL facilitated a powerful activity helping participants understand strategies and visions of key figures in revolutionary Black history. In our session on indigenous resistance to US colonization, scholar-activists AJ Jaimes Guerrero, Elizabeth “Betita” Martinas, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz led an incredible panel discussion, followed by a participatory workshop by poet Ariel Luckey. Rahula Janowski, Cathy Rion, and Mel Pilbin of the Heads-Up Collective brought their wisdom as guest facilitators in our session on deconstructing class, and participants raved about the presentation by Maria Poblet of Saint Peter’s Housing Committee during the workshop on imperialism. We recently had an inspiring panel on “Visionary Politics” with Alisa Bierria of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, Carla Perez of Communities for a Better Environment, Sara Kershnar of Generation 5 and the International Jewish Solidarity Network, and Rachel Herzing of Critical Resistance.
This component of the Anne Braden Program enables participants to reflect on their experiences throughout the program and build a one-on-one relationship with another anti-racist organizer. We are grateful to have recruited a diverse and dynamic group of 38 mentors with extensive experience in racial and economic justice. Paul Kivel, a Catalyst Project advisory board member and author of "Mentoring for Social Justice", co-led a training/orientation for mentors in January. Several of our mentors have provided leadership in training sessions, are engaged with volunteer placement organizations, and otherwise connected to the larger Anne Braden Program. Feedback from both mentors and participants has been overwhelmingly positive: the mentorship process has been described as an inspirational learning experience for all involved.
“Meeting with my mentor has been amazing. I have truly cherished each meeting I have had with her and feel like we are a perfect fit for each other! This has been one of the most rewarding parts of the program for me so far. I look forward to meeting with my mentor Vicki more!”
During the program, participants get to learn first hand and support the organizing of multiracial and people of color-led grassroots community based organizations through volunteer placements of 3-6 hours a week. Participants are placed at the following organizations: POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights), All of Us or None, Just Cause Oakland, Generation 5, Chinese Progressive Association, Communities for a Better Environment, Service Women’s Action Network, Women of Color Resource Center, PODER (People Organized to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights), Bay Area Katrina Solidarity Committee, Critical Resistance, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, SF 8 Organizing Committee, Californians for Justice, Trans and Gender Variant in Prison Project, Coalition on Homelessness, Young Workers’ United, Childcare Collective, EBASE (East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy), Saint Peter’s Housing Committee, and the San Francisco Day Laborer Program. We thank the 21 site supervisors for your work making the placements possible and offering powerful learning experiences for the participants. For a recent session on organizing strategy, participants did interviews with their site supervisors to learn more about the history, vision, and practice of the organizations they’re working at. This helped participants then articulate burning questions on strategy that we are continuing to explore.
“Volunteering at Just Cause Oakland has been on of my favorite parts of the Anne Braden Program. It has strengthened my ability to really listen and hear what the needs of the organization and it’s members are. I am learning about how to run a campaign and contribute to the behind the scenes work that goes into grassroots organizing.”
The volunteer placement at POWER has been an exceptional and key element of the Anne Braden Program. Through hands on work and consistent discussion with site supervisors and staff, the material of the program has come alive; the readings and workshops have come into dialogue with my experiences at my volunteer placement, each informing the other, prompting questions, provoking answers, and providing overall personal and political growth. The volunteer placement has directed me so clearly into what I now know to be my next step as an anti-racist organizer!
In the Streets
In addition to learning together in the workshop, Anne Braden participants took to the streets together in the anti-war demonstrations on March 19 in San Francisco. It was an opportunity to take a public stand against the war on Iraq and the war on communities of color here in the belly of the beast. Many Braden participants also attended the “We are Not Disposable” vigil and rally March 21st, protesting the recent violence against transgender women of color, organized in part by CUAV (Communities United Against Violence). Braden participants also had a strong showing at the Free the SF 8 rally April 21st.
Participants will be getting support from their mentors and in the program to help develop their next steps for implementing their learning and continuing to grow. And we are holding a closing ceremony and celebration on May 31st at the Women’s Building in San Francisco and you are all invited! We are enclosing invitations for those of you in and around the Bay Area, and we hope you can make it. If you are outside the area and want to attend, please let us know.
As for Catalyst Project, we are planning a thorough evaluation of the program this summer, and will be deciding at that time whether and when to hold the next Anne Braden Anti-Racist Training Program. One factor in our decision will be the program’s economic viability. We wanted to keep the participant fees low and offer scholarships, and so we have been stepping up our grassroots fundraising to help cover costs. Your donation at this time makes a big difference!
The Anne Braden Anti-Racist Training Program has been a huge learning experience for us at Catalyst and we are so thrilled to be doing this work in a community of critical support and love. Thank you for everything you’ve done to help build this new project, and to support our ongoing work in the Anti-War and New Orleans Solidarity Programs. Stay tuned for our Annual Report, coming out this fall.
With love and respect,
The Anne Braden Leadership Team of Catalyst Project