Fall 2007 Features

Anti-Racism Workshop In Reading
Green Party Still Has A Long Way To Go, Say Participants

by Diane F. White and Isabelle Buonocore, Green Party of Pennsylvania

“Attendees at the workshop shared their experiences of how people of color and white people are treated when the need to address racism is brought up in predominantly white organizations like the Green Party.”

At a workshop on dismantling racism Greens determined that the Green Party straddles between being a “passive institution” and a “symbolic change” institution in the way it deals with racism. The workshop, held at the 2007 Green Party Annual National Meeting in Reading, Pennsylvania in July, reviewed the six stages in which institutions deal with racism from exclusive/racist to anti-racist/multicultural. The lesson learned is that the Green Party has a lot of work to do and a long way to go on the continuum of becoming an anti-racist, multi-cultural institution/political party.

Rita Harris, an African American woman from Tennessee, and Bill Price, a white man from the Appalachian coal region of the newly affiliated Green Party of West Virginia, facilitated the workshop. Both were highly skilled, knowledgeable and effective as a team. They presented attendees with a six-stage continuum towards becoming an anti-racist, multi-cultural institution:

Stage 1—Exclusive: A segregated institution; Stage 2—Passive: A “club” institution; Stage 3—Symbolic Change: A multicultural institution; Stage 4—Identity Change: An anti-racist institution; Stage 5—Structural Change: A transforming institution; Stage 6—Fully Inclusive: A transformed institution in a transformed society.

Most Greens at the workshop felt the Green Party straddles stages 2 and 3. The details of a stage 2 institution (Passive) include: being tolerant of a limited number of people of color with “proper” perspective and credentials; may be secretly limiting or excluding people of color in contradiction to public policies; continuing to intentionally maintain white power and privilege through its formal policies, practices, teachings, and decision-making; often declaring, “We don’t have a problem.”

A stage 3 institution (Symbolic Change) includes: making official policy pronouncements regarding multicultural diversity; seeing itself as non-racist institution with open doors to people of color; carrying out intentional inclusiveness efforts, recruiting “someone of color” on committees or office staff; expanding view of diversity; including other socially op pressed groups such as women, disabled, elderly and children, lesbian, and gays, third world citizens, etc. But in stage 3, an institution does not include those who “make waves,” shows little or no contextual change in culture, policies, and decision-making, and is still relatively unaware of continuing patterns of privilege, paternalism and control.

This intensive 18-hour workshop was held over three consecutive days and was open to the public. Attendees shared personal stories, watched videos and had meals together. Of the 29 attendees, 13 were persons of color, including African Ameri cans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Asians, Mayans, Mus lims and immigrants, and 16 persons identified as white. 61% of the attendees were Green Party members. At one point Harris and Price split the group into separate color and white caucuses. This was a powerful exercise giving people a chance to “work” within their own identity group.

Everyone shared his or her experiences or lack of experience on racism and white privilege. People discussed the grinding effect of racism on the lives of people of color, the lack of awareness of white privilege by whites, and the impact of both. The workshop examined racism and white privilege in assumptions, in communications, and in practices from the personal to the cultural and institutional. For some this was very emotional, yet liberating; for others it led to closer self-examination.

A Class Divided, a powerful documentary which was shown at the workshop, demonstrated the influence of bigotry through an experiment with a second grade class conducted by a schoolteacher a few days after the murder of Martin Luther King. The class was divided into groups of blue-eyed and brown-eyed children. On the first day, the teacher told the children all the blue-eyed children were smarter, cleaner, and superior to the brown-eyed children and they were not to play with the brown-eyed children. The brown-eyed children assigned to the inferior group did poorly in their schoolwork and were upset that day. The blue-eyed students for the most part enjoyed their elevated status and some taunted the brown-eyes students.

The next day the teacher put the brown-eyed children in the superior position. Then it was the brown-eyed students who did better and the blue-eyed students did poorly and were sad and angry.

This film showed that within a few hours there could be a devastating impact of racism, discrimination, oppression, and bigotry on the psyches of these children. Today many adults, especially whites, deny the damage the system of racism has inflicted for hundreds of years on all of us — whites included.

What can white Greens do? They can become allies for people of color, meaning white persons who do not remain silent, but confront racism. Attendees at the workshop shared their experiences of how people of color and white people are treated when the need to address racism is brought up in a predominantly white organization like the Green Party.

Attendees, with few exceptions, felt that when a person of color brings up racism he or she is seen as self-serving by most whites. When a white person brings up racism he or she is seen as troublemaking by most whites. To be a white ally to people of color one has to be willing to risk not being liked by other whites, but that risk must be taken if any progress is to be made on the continuum.

At the end of the workshop each attendee vowed to take personal responsibility for actions towards dismantling racism and made plans to work together to transform the Green Party and other organizations into fully inclusive institutions. Some commitments from the workshop were:

  • Become better educated about people of color.
  • Read publications by people of color, outside the white canon of writers.
  • Listen to what people of color have to say.
  • Interrupt jokes about people of color and ethnic groups.
  • At all Green Party meetings, have racism and/or white privilege on the agenda.
  • Have strategic meetings with Greens who say, “We don’t have a problem” with racism.
  • Do not stifle the anger expressed by people of color. It represents something that needs to be heard. Take the time to determine what it is about.
  • Change the way one does things; progress cannot occur if things keep being done the same way.

For more information e-mail Diane F. White at diane@dlighten.com or Isabelle Buonocore at isabellebuonocore@hotmail.com.


Getting Ready For 2008 Campaigns
Political Director’s Address To The Annual National Meeting

By Brent McMillan

Challenge 2008: What would it look like if Greens ran 1,000 candidates in 2008? One of the lessons learned by Cuba after the collapse of the Soviet Union was in order to have political autonomy; there must be economic autonomy and energy autonomy. These issues need to be major focuses for the 2008 Green Party campaign.

On energy policy, the connections between wars of imperialism, global warming and peak oil should be the number one focus of our federal level candidates. We have an opportunity to have a dialogue with Greens in Europe throughout this cycle. They are very concerned about an immense, worldwide corporate green washing campaign and feel a strong Green voice in the U.S. is needed.

The other issue is economic. We need to focus on building a black/brown coalition, increasing our efforts in reaching out to and becoming relevant to disenfranchised communities. We should focus on the reconstruction of New Orleans and be more supportive of the work of, among others, Malik Rahim and the Common Ground Collective. Strong op portunities are also present in Detroit, Oakland, Washing ton, D.C. and Baltimore. Many people in these cities are being dropped from basic services. This is an opportunity to address economic justice.

In addition to these two issues Greens need to advocate election reform whenever we are accused of being spoilers. We will once again be under a lot of pressure to not run a presidential candidate.

In many ways 2004 was GPUS’ (Green Party of the United States) first really competitive convention, but the 2004 campaign cycle was problematic for Greens. Before the convention approximately 70% of the national party’s donor base either went ABB (Anybody But Bush), or didn’t want to run a candidate for other reasons. We didn’t do our work going into the convention and we left it with unfinished business.

Next year will present another chance to the American public. There is an immense political vacuum with a level of opportunity that we haven’t had since 2000 and a level of acceptance in the general public that Greens haven’t felt since then. It’s hard to forget the excitement that super rallies created in 2000. We went from being a little fringe party to where we are now on the national political map.

GPUS Political Director Brent McMillan waves his political/ fundraising report while speaking at the annual meeting.

So what would it look like if the Green Party were to get serious about 2008? I make the following suggestions:

1: We need more time for the process of approving the platform and for the presidential nominating process in 2008 than in 2004 by scaling back competing programs, such as the ambitious campaign school we had during the 2004 convention.

2: Allow nominees to fundraise at the convention. In 2004 they were prohibited from fundraising at the convention. With the national party in dire financial straits, it was seen as competition. This fact was not made public, but we asked our potential candidates in essence to spend every last dollar they had to get the nomination and sent them away broke. Regardless of the financial state of the national party, the nominees should walk away with a chunk of cash. What if 100 people donated $100 to a fund so the candidates would have $10,000 to re-seed their campaign? This is not a lot of money, but it would be progress.

Money should not be raised through the National Committee. There is competition among so many programs for the general funds, that fundraising for the presidential campaign needs to be an independent effort, perhaps a 527 group set up for this purpose.

3: Impeccability is needed in the rules process so that people trust it. In 2004 representatives of the candidates had too much influence in the rules process, but not enough trust in each other. With not enough active greens on the national level, people who work on the rules are also likely to be working on some campaign. Do we keep the two separate or do we work to keep a balance of representation of various interests. I hope we can develop a trans-partisan model, as was evident in the former Delegate Apportionment Committee, where people are willing to transcend ideologies in order to find successful solutions.

4: We need to have better informed delegates. In 2004 many states did not have a plan in place on what to do after the first round of voting. State delegations need to have a template, before they come to the convention. Nationally we are working on guidelines suggesting how state parties can proceed. We need people willing to work on this. We also need to answer the question, “how does the nomination process work?”

5: Questions state parties must answer: How can a better job of communicating with potential candidates take place? Who is the initial point of contact for potential candidates? To whom do they talk about the ballot access process? Who can they contact to help them with fundraisers or hosting an event? Each state party needs to have clearly defined initial points of contact.

6: Security: If we become serious enough in 2008 to threaten modus operandi of the existing political structure, we will need to address the issue of security. Some in leadership positions from 2000 can personally attest to this need. In Seattle, both Joe Szwaja, who was running for Congress, and myself had our homes broken into and political materials and money stolen. I received threatening phone calls late at night and twice I had to get postal inspectors to stop the dead lettering and returning of campaign contributions.

7: In 2004 Democrats raised $10,000,000 to keep third party candidates off the ballot. The independent Nader campaign faced much opposition in 2004. In 2006 we began to see this directed at Green Parties. A ballot access legal defense fund is needed. I advocate that at least $10,000 be earmarked for engaging in up to three lawsuits in 2008. This would be not unlike COFOE, The Coalition for Free and Open Elections, for which I was a former director. It regularly engages in three to five lawsuits at any given time and wins about half. The money would be for filing fees and printing costs. We also need to identify attorneys willing to work pro bono.

8: In 2006 we created the Green Senatorial Campaign Committee (GSCC). It became the first congressional committee to be recognized by the FEC since it was formed in 1975. We held off forming the Green House Campaign Committee so that we could incorporate the lessons learned from the GSCC in its formation.

9: Have the 2008 convention as early as possible and settle on the convention site sooner rather than later. [Chicago, July 10-13, 2008 has been picked.]

10: Challenge 2008: What would it look like if Greens ran 1,000 candidates in 2008? I did an exercise based on each state party’s record for the actual number of candidates run and developed a formula for this. For example California fields about 16% of our candidates. Therefore, GPCA would be expected to have 160 candidates. If anyone would like a copy of the schedule please email me at brent@gp.org.

Our tickets were top heavy in 2006 with too many candidates running for congress and state wide-races relative to the number of candidates running for state legislature on down. We need more local candidates. Although there were less candidates running for congress in 2006 than in 2004, we got more votes. The quality of our campaigns and candidates improved in 2006, partly due to the number of campaign schools we ran in 2005. Unfortunately in 2007 there has not been that level of commitment. There is time to correct that by acting to restoring the Coordinated Campaign Committee.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Power is the ability to achieve a purpose.” We need to walk into our power. We need to emerge out of our fragmented impotence and get serious about being agents of change in the world.
Brent McMillan is the Political Director for the Green Party of the United States. He can be contacted at brent@gp.org

The Color Of Green
Getting To Know People Of Color Across The Country Active In The Green Party

dsc_6950.jpg Ms. Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry
“From a long-term view, Greens will have to deal openly and honestly with white privilege.”

Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry (SKCM Curry) is currently a vice presidential nominee for the 2008 Green Party of the United States national slate. She has five years of involvement in the Green Party at the local, state and national level. SKCM Curry believes the way forward must be for Greens to emphasize tactics and traditional electoral politics to women, peo ple of color, and progres sives in a clear and measurable manner.

SKCM Curry wants to ensure that the Green Party of the United States’ 12th Anniversary in 2008 will be declared the year of the Green Women. She said, “the goal is to encourage and seek 50 Green women in each state to lead campaigns for public office. We Greens can all help make our July 2008 Annual National Meeting be Green Sister Time!”

“I shared with folks that I was born, ‘raised’ and ‘rose’ in the Pueblo Del Rio Hous ing Project, South Central Los Angeles, and given my family’s strong involvement in ensuring that justice and peace prevailed in our village, I have never “not’ been active in politics.”

Green Pages asked SKCM Curry why she joined the Green Party, what issues of diversity need to be addressed and how the party can accomplish that.

“When former Vice President Al Gore back in 2000 did not take the blatant cases of voter fraud occurring in the Florida elections to the International Court of Justice, I could no longer depend on political parties who accept corporate money to lead our nation; the GP does not and will not accept corporate money. Given both parties are really one party, my objective in joining the GP was and is about establishing a permanent non-corporate funded second political party in the United States of America.

“From a long-term view, Greens will have to deal openly and honestly with white privilege and build on all the workshops we have had in the past toward dismantling all “ism’s” within our leadership and ranks. I have observed that because we Greens have not yet figured out a clear long term vision for ourselves, folks of color have not joined our political party on a massive basis on any level (national, state and local.)

“Also, I am working to ensure we ‘Greens’ become major sponsors of next year’s 9th Annual White Privilege Conference (www. uccs.edu/~wpc/index.htm). Thus we Greens are a real part of the solution. Having European Americans speak to their own experience in a real, personal, political awareness can do more then any person of color can to move our nation, given the numbers of voters who are of European ancestry. From my own observations, the work is difficult because whites (Euro Americans) are so brainwashed by our ism-filled society that they are in denial of their own ism’s. Yes, even here in the Green Party.”

theresa_el-amin-small.jpgTheresa El-Amin
“I look forward to building the North Carolina Green Party and other expressions of progressive independent politics.”

Theresa El-Amin began her journey as an activist in 1966 with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Tuskegee and Atlanta and from there she never stopped. Since then she has accumulated over 40 years experience in labor and community organizing. El-Amin has now committed to mentoring a new generation of social justice activists.

Before El-Amin moved to North Carolina, she was a union organizer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in the Midwest and Northeast, organizing clerical and health care workers into democratic unions. In 1998 she came to Durham to work for Southerners for Economic Justice (SEJ) as program organizer.

A year later, El-Amin became founding director of the Southern Anti-Racism Net work (SARN), which among a long list, organizes low-income families and trains them in many aspects of education. From 2002 to 2007, they reached 264 low-income families with basic computer literacy training and provided all families with home computers. In addition, SARN is credited with organizing the coalition that successfully passed the Durham anti-sweatshop ordinance in August 2000.

El-Amin is organizing the Ella Baker Tour and Retreat to bring together veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Com mittee (SNCC) with young activists in a 30-month campaign to support organizing projects for labor rights, health care, in dependent political action and other social justice causes.

Green Pages asked El-Amin why she joined the Green Party.

“I joined the Greens in fall 2006. I teased the chair of the meeting that it was so hard getting in the Greens. No one asked me to join. I asked, what does it take to get in the Greens? I find that many white-led formations have low organizational self-esteem based on the whiteness of their groups. There is an assumption that people of color will be reluctant or not interested in being in a nearly all white group. I joined for the politics.”

“I first worked with members of the Green Party in Rhode Island in the late ’90s. I support independent political action and have been a registered independent for years. I look forward to building the North Carolina Green Party and other expressions of progressive independent politics.”

Contact theresaelamin@aol.com or (919) 824-0659

Greens Join Soldiers In Protest Against Iraq War

By David Doonan, Green Party of New York State

More than three thousand Greens and other peace activists participated in two rallies and a march through Syracuse, New York on September 29. Not only was this the largest anti-war rally in up state New York since the Vietnam War, but also active-duty soldiers from nearby Fort Drum initiated the event. This was a unique example of outspoken anti-war sentiment among the troops.

Soldiers of the Iraq war, along with Greens and other peace groups, planned the protest specifically for Syracuse as it is close to Fort Drum military base. Fort Drum has the highest number of soldiers serving in Iraq and the highest number of casualties in the country. Not only was the location of the rally meant to highlight the situation of Fort Drum, but was also a way of reaching out to soldiers who visit Syracuse while on leave.

A group of spirited Greens from around the state gathered for a Green rally in front of a home belonging to a Syracuse Green and then marched through city streets to the first rally a mile away. Among the speakers at the Green rally was Bob Gumbs, a disabled veteran and Green candidate for congress from Harlem.

dsc_7260.jpgThe main rally was held at the plaza in front of the Everson Museum in downtown Syracuse, followed by a mile and a half long march through the city to a second rally at Walnut Park in front of Syracuse University.

Along with Greens, those participating in the day’s events were Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, the Campus Anti-War Network, Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families Speak Out and SEIU 1199.

Speaking at the second rally, Rebecca Rotzler, a New York Green and former deputy mayor of New Paltz, expressed her anger at marching past a center for homeless veterans earlier in the day. “Those are two words — homeless and veteran — that should never go together,” she said. (For more information on this issue contact: National Coalition for Homeless Veterans at www.nchv.org).

Following the second rally was a series of networking meetings for activists and a panel discussion on the Petraeus Report featuring veteran Jimmy Massey, Dr. Dahlia Wasfi and veteran and former weapons inspector, Scott Ritter.

Despite the good turnout of protesters and coverage by local media, the parks and streets where the rally was held were mostly deserted. The lack of people in downtown Syracuse is due to business going to the suburban malls. Planners should considering protesting closer to where more people gather in the future.

More photographs from this event can be found here