2008 Spring Features


by David C. Schwab, Green Party of New York

 

The Green Party of the United States (GP-US) is full of dedicated, bright and hardworking people. Despite this, young Greens in the country have yet to organize themselves into an effective group for advancing the Green values of grassroots democracy, social justice, peace and ecological sustainability. This year, however, young activists in the Green Party are working hard to fill the need for an effective youth organization. To ensure that the organizing process is as democratic as possible, these young organizers are inviting all Party members, especially those between the ages of 16 and 30, to get involved.

Young Greens often have the time and energy to work at the grassroots as well as the fresh perspective that can win new voters to the party. Other Green Parties around the globe have benefited from youth wings, typically known as Young Greens in the English-speaking countries. Young Greens organizations have been vital to the recent success of Green Parties in Canada and the United Kingdom. These dynamic organizations give promising young leaders a chance to take responsibility and help their party grow. In the interests of greening our country’s future, work is under way to inaugurate a Young Greens of America, including a Youth Caucus to the GP-US.

The intention behind Young Greens is not to replace Campus Greens and other existing Green youth organizations, but rather to coordinate, expand and improve them. Early in the planning process, Greens who had been active in Campus Greens identified a number of areas for improvement. Young Greens need forums for communication and networking, such as periodicals and online communities like the new Greenchange.org. There should be greater coordination among chapters and with the state and national organizations, so that Green parties all across the country have a sense of belonging to a greater whole. Both students and graduates should be included, so that newcomers can learn from experienced organizers and vice versa. Most importantly, young Greens should always have the resources they need to get involved with Green campaigns, no matter where they are.

     The structure that is currently being envisioned for Young Greens would consist of fifty state chapters, as well as an elected national leadership that would be responsible for coordinating organizational activities. On a local level, there would be Young Greens chapters centered around campuses, as well as regional chapters that would be integrated with existing Green Party locals. The elected state and national officers would comprise the Youth Caucus, which would have functions identical to current Green Party caucuses like the Women’s Caucus, Lavender Caucus, and Black Caucus. These functions include casting votes in the Green National Committee, voting as a delegate to the Presidential Nominating Convention, and having the authority to introduce proposals to the Green National Committee. 

The organizers of Young Greens are doing everything they can to make youth Green organization more inclusive and effective without insulating young people from the rest of the party or creating arbitrary divisions. The upper age limit of 30 is based on the precedent of international organizations like Global Young Greens, and that 30-year old Americans are eligible to run for U.S. Congress. To this end, the people organizing Young Greens are eager for input and participation from their fellow Greens in order to ensure that any new organization represents a positive step forward for the Green Party.

If you would like to help make Young Greens and the Youth Caucus a reality, there are several ways to get involved: 

Spread the word among your fellow Greens and start organizing state chapters by gathering contact information (name, address where registered to vote, phone, email, and date of birth). 

Join the conversation about prospective bylaws for Young Greens. Come to the 2008 Green Party National Convention in Chicago, where Young Greens will be electing officers to finalize the bylaws and get the organization rolling in time for campaign season. 

To become a part of this dynamic organizing team, please email Adrian Frost, euphoricpisces21@aol.com.

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Mumia Abo-Jamal has been on death row for 26 years. Photo by PeoplesVideo.tv

Mumia Abo-Jamal has been on death row for 26 years. Photo by PeoplesVideo.tv

All four Green Party presidential nominees—Cynthia McKinney, Kat Swift, Kent Mesplay, and Jesse Johnson—participated along with many Greens at a rally in Philadelphia, PA. The rally called for Mumia Abu-Jamal to be exonerated and freed from prison, where he has been on death row for 26 years despite a substantial amount of evidence proving his innocence.

Thousands rallied in Philidelphia this past April and even more attended a similar event in San Francisco this past May. McKinney was a keynote speaker. She talked about the importance of a new politics. 

“We know that emanating from Washington DC is a plan to destabilize the world,” said McKinney, “to take and steal the world’s resources and to neutralize our power to stop them here at home. I left the Democratic Party because the Democratic Party left me. For the twelve years that I stood in Washington DC in the United States Congress, I stood for dignity for our workers, freedom for our people, security for our seniors, education for our children, opportunity for our community and peace in the rest of the world. But there was no room inside the Democratic Party, nor the Republican Party, nor the halls of power for people who want truth and peace and justice. And thank goodness, 20 years ago some people had the wisdom to create a new political party where people who share our values can call home, and that is the Green Party. We need substantive political change. It was Frederick Douglas who said that power concedes nothing without a demand and we need to organize ourselves to put that demand forward. We have to search out the truth, search out justice, to stand for peace, think analytically, think critically, and vote independently. Thank you very much.”

Cynthia McKinney, Kat Swift and Kent Mesplay, presidential candidates, at a rally in Philadelphia to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Cynthia McKinney, Kat Swift and Kent Mesplay, presidential candidates, at a rally in Philadelphia to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.


Green presidential candidates Kat Swift and Jesse Johnson stand under the main banner at a rally in Philadelphia which drew thousands of protesters. Photo courtesy of the Kat Swift campaign

Green presidential candidates Kat Swift and Jesse Johnson stand under the main banner at a rally in Philadelphia which drew thousands of protesters. Photo courtesy of the Kat Swift campaign

Showing how it’s done at the 2008 Nominating Convention and Annual Meeting

By Ruth Weill, Annual National Meeting Committee Coordinator

The convention and annual meeting promise to be a great time being held in the exciting downtown theater district of Chicago, Illinois from July 10-13. In addition to Green Party presidential nominations, there are many inspiring activities and it is also a great opportunity for Greens to come together to share ideas and plans.

A main part of the convention will be the nomination on Saturday of one of these fine presidential candidates:  Jessie Johnson (jessie08.org), Cynthia McKinney (www.runcynthiarun.org), Kent Mesplay (www.mesplay.org) and Kat Swift (www.voteswift.org). 

But the weekend has much more to offer with amazing speakers such as Malik Rahim, former Black Panther and Green Party candidate who has been a long-time community activist on various social justice issues. Rahim also co-founded Common Ground Relief (commongroundrelief.org), an organization that provides short-term relief to victims of hurricane disasters in the Gulf region. Also speaking at the convention is our own Steering Committee member Cliff Thornton Jr., an activist who has won awards for his efforts on drug policy reform (www.efficacy-online.org). 

Another speaker is Kathy Kelly, a familiar name to many Greens. In 1996 Kelly co-founded Voices in the Wilderness, an organization trying to end sanctions on Iraq. Having visited Iraq and much of the Middle East many times, she has transformed the organization into Voices for Creative Non-Violence (www.vcnv.org). 

Attendees at the convention will have many opportunities for learning, as the workshop selection will be top notch, with expert activists from across the country discussing an array of issues. Workshop topics will include foreign policy related to the Middle East and Iran, immigrant and LGBTQ rights, and campaigning on a shoestring budget.  

Don’t forget Green nightlife.  A wonderful international reception is planned for Thursday evening to welcome fellow Greens from across the seven continents.  In 2004 there were over 40 international guests representing at least 15 countries. Friday evening plans include hearing from our candidates, and Saturday evening will be more of a social party. The city of Chicago has a lot to offer as well, from live music, theater, and outdoor gardens to walks along Lake Michigan.  

The main location of the convention is the Palmer House Hilton Hotel, a beautiful historic landmark built in 1871 (www.hiltonfamilychicago.com). The hotel is right around the corner from the location of the nominating convention, the Chicago Symphony Center (www.cso.org), which is  another historic landmark built in 1904.   

The meeting committee along with the Illinois Green Party is excited to host a world-class event, and The Green Party of the United States Presidential Nominating Convention and Annual Meeting promises to be an unforgettable event. We hope to see you in Chicago this July.  

Please visit http://www.greenparty2008.org to register and for all information regarding the convention.

Spotlight on founder Dee Berry

Dee Berry is a founder and still-active member of the Green Party in the United States. She took some time to answer questions for Green Pages on how the Green Party evolved in this country and where she thinks it should go in the future.

 

Why have you joined the Green Party?

I was attracted to the Greens, like so many others, by its ecological, holistic view of the world and its ten key values. During the 60’s and 70’s, I had participated in the various movements that were springing up across the country and the planet in that exciting and pregnant time—the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the environmental movement and the anti-war movement. 

1972, I was very active in the McGovern campaign, organizing the 10th ward in Kansas City. It was during that campaign I witnessed first hand how corrupt and unredeemable the Democratic Party really was. Soon after McGovern’s devastating defeat, I left the Democratic Party for good. I realized then how desperately our country needs a new third party. So I was very excited when I found the Greens and I threw my heart and soul into organizing a Green presence in this country. 

I saw the Greens as a place where all of my interests—peace, feminism, the environment, and civil rights came together. By working in the Greens I could be involved in all of them. But even more important, I believed that our society was in a deep crisis. The modern, industrial society has reached its limits to growth and is breaking down. All of the immense, seemingly unsolvable, worldwide problems are related and are symptoms of this dying order. Our very survival depends on our ability to transform the way we see the world and the way we live and play together, and of course, our politics. For me, the Greens are the ones who truly understand this and are inventing the blue print for a new compassionate, connected, sustainable society. 

   I joined the Greens in 1984 long before it was a Green Party. In August of ’84, Charlene Spretnak and David Hanke invited people from across our country to come to St. Paul, Minnesota to organize a Green presence in the U.S. Green parties were emerging in many countries in Europe, especially Germany and Sweden, and green ideas were capturing the imagination of people across the planet, people who realized there was a crisis of modernity and were looking for a new way. Charlene had just published her book Green Politics: The Global Promise, and found there was a great deal of interest in Green ideas in the U.S. as well. From that first meeting came the name, the Committees of Correspondence (CoC), the ten key values, and the organizational structure. 

The U.S. Greens would be organized into bioregional entities that would send delegates to an Interregional Committee (the IC)—and a clearinghouse was established in Minneapolis. The first IC meeting was held in the home of Fritjof Capra and the second was held in Boston, MA. At the third meeting held in Kansas City, it was decided to move the Clearinghouse there and I was named the coordinator, a position I held for over three years. Dur ing that time the Greens grew from a smattering of locals, no one really knew how many, to over 350. 

Some were organized into well functioning regions such as California, New England, and the Prairie; while others were loosely organized into bioregions. This organizational structure lasted for five years and was restructured in 1990.

 

What do you think are the pressing issues of the country?

 I believe our country is on the verge of a collapse beyond anything we have seen before. The pressing issues are all interrelated and the result of the breakdown of industrial society. Our best hope is that this crisis will awaken the American people to the need for fundamental change including a political realignment. Since both the Republicans and the Democrats are mired in the modern corporate culture, which is at the root of the crisis, they are unable to see beyond the tired solutions already proven to be inadequate. Greens have been talking about peak oil, alternative energy, food circles, single-payer health care, simple living, and community building for almost twenty years. A desperate citizenry just might begin to listen and take the Greens seriously. The Greens must be ready for the challenge.

 

What do you think the Green Party should focus on?

 I believe Greens should focus on the grassroots, community level. This is where most of the workable, practical solutions that we have been proposing for years can be more easily put into effect. Also, I doubt many of the huge institutions of centralized power will come through the crisis unscathed, be they  governmental, profit, or even not-for-profit. There will be a devolution of this concentrated power, not only because it is not working, but also because centralizing power and people is becoming prohibitively expensive with the end of the fossil fuel age. 

 

How has the Green Party changed over time?

The Greens, in the larger sense, have changed a great deal over time. We started out in 1984 as a bio-regionally organized movement, called the Committees of Correspondence (CoC) and later changed our name to Green Committees of Correspondence (GCoC). In West Virginia in 1990 the GCoC was restructured into what was called the Green Party/Green Party USA. However, this was the result of a very contentious, heavy-handed process and many activists simply voted with their feet and walked away, I being one of them. The GP/GPUSA continued, but lost much of the energy and exciting promise of the original CoC and slowly lost members. 

Some of us who left did not want to lose contact with the many good Green friends we had enjoyed over the years so we organized the Green Politics Network. This organization has been much maligned and little understood. But we never pretended to be more than what we said we were: a safe home where we could enjoy each other, meet together and discuss Green issues and ways to grow into a vibrant political party without being personally attacked. 

Most of all we wanted to be the catalyst for a Green Party in the U.S. We succeeded in doing that. Through the work of our members with the Third Force Conferences, the Nader run for President in 1996, and the organizing meeting of the Association of State Green Parties in December of ‘96, a new Green Party in the country was launched. 

With the birth of the Green Party, the Green Network’s mission was accomplished and we disbanded. But there was another legacy of the Green Network, this was our organizing idea of connected, separate but autonomous working groups. At present there are many exciting and autonomous Green organizations doing fantastic work like the Green Horizon, Liberty Tree, Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County, the Green Institute, and Mike Feinstein’s archival project. 

These groups are composed of strong leaders in the Green Party, but with the Green principle of turning over leadership, they have gone to other organizations. As a result, there are a plethora of organizations doing their bit to Green our planet. I would like to see a way for these organizations to be more connected to the Green party while still remaining separate and autonomous. I think they could be a real asset to the party and could help other Green leaders find leadership roles in the larger Green movement.  As I see the evolution of the Greens in the U.S., they began as a movement, re formed almost exclusively into a party, and now I would like to see an integration of the two. 

 

Could you please give a brief biography?

I am a wife of 58 years, mother of five, and grandmother of eight. Finding a balance between my commitment to my family and my equally strong desire to be involved in my larger family—the earth community, has always been a challenge for me. I am a graduate of the University of Iowa and received an MBA from the University of Missouri. I taught at various area colleges and liked exploring green ideas in my classes long before there was a green movement. 

My Green work includes: serving three and a half years as the coordinator of the national clearinghouse of the CoC, organizing along with Ben Kjelshus, the Kansas City Greens, which has been active for almost twenty-five years, helping to organize and coordinate the Prairie Region, participating in forming the Green Politics Network and editing its interactive newsletter “The Song of The Frog,” co-organizing the Missouri Green Party and later the Progressive Party of Mis souri. I just stepped down as co-chair of that party and as its delegate to the National Com mittee of the Green Party of the United States. I am presently secretary of the PPMo, alternate delegate to the National Committee and membership chair of the Kansas City Greens. I serve on the Platform Com mittee and the Committee on Bylaws, Rules, Policies and Procedures of the US/GP.

  One of my main concerns in the Greens has always been to make sure that women’s voices are heard. While I enjoy many things like sewing, reading, playing bridge, cooking for and entertaining my family and friends, my passion is the Green Party/Movement, which I fervently believe, is our best, if not only, hope for the future.

Dee Berry (on left) stands at a weekly peace rally with other Kansas City Greens, John Burris and Elise Kline

Dee Berry (on left) stands at a weekly peace rally with other Kansas City Greens, John Burris and Elise Kline

Early Party organizers gather to recall 1980s to early 1990s

By Mike Feinstein, Green Party of California

When and how did the U.S. Greens start? What were the early “salad days” like, in terms of dreams, goals and challenges? What choices were made then that helped lead to where we are today?

These questions and others brought 11 Greens who were active in the 1980s and early 1990s together for a weekend of reminiscing, recalling, and writing U.S. Green history. With no single place where this early history is chronicled, they hoped the product of their weekend would provide an enduring account of the origins of the Greens in the United States.

They proceeded chronologically, year by year, from plans for the founding meeting of U.S. Greens in 1984, through the key meetings and events up to the summer of 1991.

Ben Kjelshus and Charlene Spretnak talked of how the call for a Green founding meeting in the U.S. occurred at the First North American Bioregional Congress in Excelsior Springs, MO, May 1984. Spretnak and Howie Hawkins then recounted the founding meeting itself, when approximately 60 people met at Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minnesota and founded what later became known as the Green Com mit tees of Correspondance (GcoC).

Dee Berry spoke of being the first Coordinator of the GcoC Clearinghouse in Kansas City, MO and its operations after it was first established in 1985, and how after serving for four years, she asked the Interregional Council (IC) to appoint someone new because she believed in rotation of power.

The IC meetings that began in 1985 were also a prime discussion topic. These meetings brought together representatives from large regions of Green locals from across the country. It was at the IC meetings that decisions were made like where to locate the Kansas City Clearinghouse, and to launch the first national Green program process—the Strategic Policy Approaches in Key Areas (SPAKA), which was spearheaded by John Rensenbrink and ran from 1988 to1990.

by former California Green Coordinating Committee member Tom Bolema, the discussions were videotaped and will be used for video production and as the basis for written text. A website has been established at www.studygreens.org/history/us that will chronicle this product.

On Sunday, independent filmmakers Julie Eisenberg and Babette Hogan from Polidoc Productions who are doing a documentary on the 2008 U.S. Green presidential nomination process and campaign called “Seriously GREEN” did interviews of attendees for the film. 

Green History weekend participants plan to continue their work on-line, interactively recounting their history, and are involving other Greens active in the 1980s and early 1990s. They plan to meet next in spring 2009 in Kansas City, with the focus on the early 1990s through the 1996 election and the founding of the Association of State Green Parties.

This article is the first in a series exploring the history of the Green Party in the United States.

Danny Moses (CA), Charles Spretnak (CA).

Green History weekend participants. Front: Howie Hawkins (NY), Dee Berry (MO), Greg Jan (CA), Mike Feinstein (CA). Back: Ben Kjelshus (MO), Budd Dickinson (CA), John Rensenbrink (ME), Barbara Rodgers-Hendricks (FL), Betty Zisk (MA). Not pictured: Danny Moses (CA), Charles Spretnak (CA).

By Brian Bittner, Maryland Green Party

The next generation of Green Party organizers is on thousands of high school and college campuses around the country.

Brian Bittner

Brian Bittner

  Hundreds of groups are already organized and holding events, recruiting students, and offering hope for training future leaders of Green Party states and locals and the Green Party of the United States. They have spearheaded efforts for fair wages and labor standards for university employees, advocated for fair trade in university stores and dining halls, fought for improved environmental policies in residences, and resisted military recruitment on campus.    

  Yet there is no committee, caucus or working group within the structure of the GP-US whose purpose is to organize on their behalf. We have left the coordination of these hundreds of groups to an independent body called Campus Greens—an unaffiliated non-profit 501(c)(4) organization, which has provided some level of support, but is legally prohibited from partisan political organization. 

Many students know they have an affinity with Green Party values and want to make an impact, but have no experience in setting agendas and leading campaigns. National organization can provide advice from experienced Campus Green leaders and contact with existing student groups who can serve as models for successful campaigns. Campus Greens leaders can only contribute until they graduate. A network of contacts of experienced individuals who can facilitate this turnover of leadership or revitalize a once-organized group is absolutely necessary. National coordination can turn several separate projects into a regional or national success story. 

Organizational support from the GPUS can help Campus Greens thrive. Campus Greens can also help organize support that our national and state Green Parties need. College campuses are a massive, mostly untapped pool of progressive, creative energy looking for options beyond the corporate alternatives. Student groups can strengthen our local and state Green Parties by inviting candidates to campus, holding voter registration drives on campus, and sponsoring educational discussions, film screenings, and debates. A few volunteers can collect several hundred ballot access signatures in an hour in a student union during lunch.   

  The GPUS’s lack of campus organization is based partially on an idea that political groups are not allowed to organize on campus. This is not true. While hundreds of Campus Greens are organized across the country, thousands of college Democrat and college Republican groups have been working for decades. Karl Rove himself chaired the College Republicans as a student in the 1970s. If Greens remove themselves from campus organization, politically minded students have no choice but to join the campus affiliates of corporate parties. 

  There are a few simple steps students, faculty members, parents, and local Green Party leaders can take to provide opportunities for Campus Greens.   

  1. Contact your state and local Green Party and the Green Party of the United States. They can provide contacts to existing groups and resources for getting others involved.    

  2. Contact school administrators about the policies regarding new student clubs. Most universities have an office that coordinates student groups. The main office at your local high school can provide guidelines for starting a student club. Many offices have written the requirements up as an easy-to-follow checklist.    

  3. Find students who are interested in joining a Campus Greens group. Admin istrations may require a number of students to sign a petition to form a group. Talk to friends or use social networking websites to organize a group of students. Many members of a school’s College Democrat club might be willing to join. Look for members at environmental clubs, service groups, Amnesty International chapters, philosophy clubs, and GBLT groups. Most students who live on campus have their mail delivered to the same post office on campus—use state and local contact lists to find groups of people who are registered to vote from this address.   

 4. Advertise. Hang fliers around campus. Many schools allow groups to use university facilities to hold interest meetings. If not, advertise interest meetings at a local coffee shop or bookstore.    

  5. Most groups will need a faculty advisor to sponsor a Campus Greens group. Call local Greens you know who teach at universities or high schools and ask them to sponsor a group. If you don’t know anyone at your school, ask department heads or administrators to suggest someone who might be interested. 

  6. Ask your representatives to the Green National Committee to support efforts to organize Campus Greens under the framework of GPUS. If the Green Party works together to support the next generation of Green leaders and activists, no student will fall victim to Ralph Nader’s warning to the youth of America: “I hear you saying often that you’re not turned on to politics. The lessons of history are clear and portentous. If you do not turn on to politics, politics will turn on you.”

 

Brian Bittner was a faculty advisor to Towson University (Maryland) Campus Greens. He is Maryland Green Party membership coordinator and GPUS office assistant. brian@gp.org. 

Thinking of running for office but not sure how to start? Your Green Party support is right here!

For information on how to run a campaign visit: www.GP.org or contact the Green Party of the United States at 866-41GREEN.

Also campaign resources can be downloaded for free at: www.gp.org/committees/campaign/resources.shtml