Dear friends, families and comrades,
Thank you all for the tremendous support, guidance, and love that so many of you have contributed to help us build the four-month Anne Braden Anti-Racist Training Program. Catalyst Project and the Anne Braden leadership team are in high gear preparing for the kick-off on Saturday, Feb. 2, and we’re incredibly excited. With the Iraq war in its fifth year, the struggle to rebuild New Orleans for Black working class families long from over, and a growing movement for climate justice taking root, we have been told by many of you that there is a huge need for something like the Anne Braden program.
Building the Anne Braden Program: We took a major leap of faith, politically and financially, in deciding to build this program. It has been powerful and humbling to have so many people in our community step up to help make it happen. Over forty people came out to a community meeting in May 2007 to give us feedback on the initial proposal. Dozens of you have made time to talk with us about the program and give us suggestions. Organizations around the country helped us with outreach and participant recruitment. Many of you encouraged people you knew to apply and some of you applied yourselves. Over 100 people are involved in the Anne Braden Program itself as participants, mentors, volunteer placement site supervisors, leadership team members, fundraising team members, advisors, interns, and staff. As we get ready to start, we want to send you an update on the program along with a reflection piece from one of our Fall 2007 interns, Eli Conley, on his work building the program.
Organization Building and Fundraising: In order to make this program possible, we brought on Ingrid Chapman as our second full-time paid staff person and set out to raise between $60-90,000 to run the program and build Catalyst (close to tripling our previous annual budget). With the guidance of Catalyst advisor Nisha Anand we developed a strategy based primarily on grassroots individual donor fundraising. We brought on three interns, built a fundraising team of ten close allies, and put out an appeal for support. With almost 200 donors we’ve raised close to $30,000 so far, which is fantastic. Fifty of you have become monthly sustainers, ranging from $5 to $250 per month. We are well on our way to raising our budget and we are humbled by your on-going support.
Participants: We received 74 applications for the 35 slots in the program. We wished we had the resources and capacity to take every applicant, and it reconfirmed for us the need for programs like this supporting the development of white anti-racist activists who can step up and play meaningful roles building our movements. The 35 participants are involved in work for health care, environmental justice, an end to the war, reconstruction with justice in New Orleans, abolishing prisons, ending domestic violence, supporting youth social centers, reproductive justice, alternative media, and more.
Most of the participants work with social justice organizations as volunteer members or as paid staff. A key goal of the program is to support participants to be more effective leaders in their organizations and to strengthen anti-racist politics, vision, and strategy in their work. The group is more than two-thirds queer-identified, majority women, roughly one-third genderqueer, gender variant, and transgender, about one third working class or poor, a third Jewish, and participants range in age from early 20’s to late 30’s.
The Anne Braden Leadership Team: In addition to the Catalyst staff, who are the overall program leadership, we have additional coordinators of key components of the program.
Emily Thuma and Luke Newton are the co-coordinators of the volunteer placement component. Emily Thuma has years of experience working in feminist anti-violence and anti-prison movements and Luke Newton has years of experience doing solidarity work with Indigenous peoples’ grassroots organizations in Alaska and Palestine. Sasha Vodnik is the coordinator of the grassroots fundraising component, and he brings a history of work in the queer and anti-prisons movements to the program. Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward is a coordinator of the mentor circle component and has been a national youth organizer in the Unitarian Universalist Association, focusing on anti-racist education and action. Betty Jeanne is also interning with Catalyst Project for two semesters as part of her Masters in Religious Leadership for Social Change program at Starr King School for the Ministry.
Mentor Circle: Each participant will be matched with a mentor outside of the program who they will meet with at least three times. We have brought together an amazing group of mentors from social, racial, economic, gender and environmental justice movements in the Bay Area. Betty Jeanne, Clare Bayard, and Catalyst advisor Paul Kivel led a mentorship training for over 40 people on January 14th to help prepare the circle to support the participants in their personal and political development over the course of the program.
Training and Curriculum: The program will meet weekly for 4 hour training sessions. We will begin and end with 2 day opening and closing sessions. In addition to Catalyst trainers, we are bringing in leaders, organizers, and trainers from our broader community. We mention just a few examples here: The Indigenous Resistance and Colonization in North America session will begin with a panel presentation featuring Elizabeth ‘Betita’ Martinez, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Annette Jaimes-Guerrero, followed by Ariel Luckey leading a participatory cultural work exercise to help people draw insights from the speakers. Sharon Martinas of the Challenging White Supremacy workshop will present on white anti-racist history. Maria Poblet of St. Peter’s Housing Committee will lead a case study on anti-imperialist strategy looking at organizing working class Latino immigrants. Akua Jackson of SOUL (School of Unity and Liberation) and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement will lead a workshop on the history of the Black Liberation Movement. Alisa Bierria of INCITE!: Women of Color Against Violence and Emily Thuma of the Anne Braden leadership team will lead a workshop helping participants understand and use key analytical concepts from women of color feminism to think about the vision, strategy, and work of their organizations. There will also be sessions focused on organizing skills, family history, and leadership development.
Volunteer Placements: Participants will be volunteering 3-6 hours a week at community-based economic and racial justice organizations in the Bay Area. These will be opportunities for participants to both support and learn from people of color led groups working on a wide range of issues and utilizing a variety of strategies, organizational forms, and tactics. Many of these organizations, such as Just Cause Oakland, Critical Resistance, and the Day Labor Program, were part of the community input process that helped us develop the Braden program. We have twenty organizations lined up to take participants through the Spring of 2008.
This is an incredible undertaking and opportunity for growth. We will keep you posted on how the program is going. Additionally, your ongoing support for the program is critical. We need to raise an additional $30,000 through grassroots fundraising. If you want to become a monthly sustainer or make a one-time donation, you can do so on our website: www.collectiveliberation.org. If you know people in your family, workplace, or community who you think would like to support Catalyst, consider talking with them about the program and becoming a donor as a way of building the base of support for anti-racism and the left. We see fundraising as a key way to connect with people in our lives who aren’t activists and present them with an opportunity to get involved one-step at a time.
With love for our community,
Amie Fishman, Clare Bayard, Molly McClure, Ingrid Chapman and Chris Crass