Thursday, September 23, 2010

 You are Invited to A Peoples Tribunal on Public Education!
A NYC Human Rights Truth Trial

The Coalition for Public Education/ Coalición por la Educación Pública is sponsoring a Peoples Tribunal on Public Education for the crimes, frauds and incompetency that the BloomKlein dictatorship is passing of as "Education Reform." we will have peoples Judges, Prosecutors and witnesses from just about every sector of the problems existing within the NYC public education system.

The Tribunal will be on Saturday 20 November from 9AM to 6PM. We want to hear from you! And we want you to then join us as we build a REAL Board of Education: A Peoples Board of Education whose only allegiance is to the children, parents, community and dedicated educators as opposed to big business and the super-rich.

(click on image to enlarge)
We are NOT Waiting for $uperman!

Here's a six minute Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) trailer for their documentary that counters the pro-charter/pro-privatization documentary, Waiting for Superman.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why CPE-CEP Needs to Remain an Autonomous Grassroot Organization

The Non-Profit 
The Autonomous Grassroots
by Eric Tang
from Left Turn Magazine
A must-read book for all activists
that backs up this essay (see book review below)

Once upon a time, being labeled an affiliate of the state was a nasty indictment in radical movements. Today some of the movement’s best and brightest openly and proudly claim membership in organizations whose link to the state—either through direct public funding or mere tax-reporting—are unambiguous and well-documented. I am speaking of the impressive number of radical-minded grassroots groups that, while continuing to sincerely abide by the ethos of “our movement,” have assumed the form of a Non-Profit (NP) entity.

Non-profits, also known as non-governmental organizations (NGO), are often stripped down to their barest and most essential nature as an IRS tax category: the 501(c)3. This official registration with the government grants the accreditation needed to receive government funding and funds through private philanthropic foundations. In exchange, the grassroots non-profit must adopt legally binding by-laws, elect a board of directors modeled after corporations, and open board minutes and fiscal accounting to the public. Previously considered anathema to the grassroots Left, these practices are accepted governing principles of many community organizations. While we have yet to precisely assess the effects of incorporating an autonomous movement, experience suggests the non-profit poses as many challenges to organizing as it solves.

Fractured Left

“We, the Left, have been described as being, weak, fractured, disorganized. I attribute that to three things—COINTELPRO. 501(c)3. Capitalism,” deadpans Suzanne Pharr at a conference, entitled “The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex” in May 2004. Few grassroots organizers can claim a tour of duty more impressive than Suzanne Pharr, whose work traverses the past thirty years. She is an author, founding member and director of the Arkansas Women’s Project for nineteen years, and former director of the Highlander Research and Education Center. During her days in Arkansas she participated in the internal struggles that eventually led her anti-domestic violence organization to adopt the non-profit model.

After years of effectively organizing a grassroots core, Pharr had reached an impasse. She struggled with the need to have a greater impact in the movement to end violence against women, which required working with the array of political forces outside the grassroots. Becoming a non-profit represented one major step in that direction, facilitating the political goals of “credibility...the approval of churches, clubs, and even law enforcement.” Yet, she debated if registering as a non-profit would deliver these goals or take them away. Time would tell. “I’ve seen the loss of political force and movement building,” says Pharr, reflecting on the over-saturation of non-profit models within today’s New Left struggles. The most troubling aspect of these losses, she says, is that they were not so much based on sharp difference on key political issues, but rather “the dreadful competition among organizations for little pots of money.”

Years ago the Left made a decision to go down a certain road towards non-profit incorporation. There were some victories but also a good number of political casualties, according to those who took part in that turn. Yet open dialogue on the complex challenges posed by the non-profit has often taken a back seat to the immediate need of getting important work done. Resultantly, a new generation of leaders inherit the unresolved dilemmas.

Heavy legacies

New activists in community, labor, and justice struggles are soon made aware that they bear heavy burdens. They must carry forth movements that ended Jim Crow, created environmental justice, and inspired mass anti-war protests. The young organizer can take a course that covers Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the United Farm Workers and learn that all union members, even the lowest paid, contributed regular membership dues. Chavez insisted, “this is the only way the workers will ‘own’ the organization.” Young activists will inevitably take a hard look at grassroots organizing that lives on foundation grants, hires a development director to raise funds to free others to do the real work, and adopts management systems which are foreign, if not alienating, to the values and skills-set of the grassroots base. Contradictions will be analyzed:

Why do we apply for a police permit to protest the police?
…Because if we break the law, our board is liable.

Why can’t we lobby?
…Because that would violate our 501(c)3 status and the conditions of our grant.

Why not just take the streets?
…Because insurance doesn’t cover it.

The non-profit is cast as the straw man against a multitude of political frustrations. With the severe limitations (shackles) placed on the Left today, defense against right-wing attack must be accompanied by the exorcising of ‘untidy’ internal contradictions.

Nonprofit blues

Indeed, the majority of organizational leaders I’ve sat down with over the past year and a half—whose work ranges from defeating the onset of neoliberal policies in public schools, to the ongoing struggle against police violence, to defending the rights of immigrant communities—have experienced, to varying degrees, an onset of the NP blues. They are concerned about the ways in which the priorities of philanthropy tamper with the organizing work, or how NP governance makes impossible the principle of unity which calls for youth and working class people at the center. Worse still is how hiring and promotion policies have led to competition and individualism among the ranks.

Still, despite the seeming ubiquity of the dilemma, a broad and consistent public discussion is absent. Each finds his or her own way to manage the contradictions. In my conversations with participants who attended the “Revolution Will Not Be Funded,” many lefties talked of participating in the NP as a tactic on the “down low,” a temporary ride toward a more radical end. Yet candid discussions on just how long we ride this Trojan horse, or how far we’ve actually traveled, are few and far between. For those who have steadfastly refused to go NP, they too maintain silence—for the most part.

Perhaps it would be beneficial to return to the historical moment in question. The origin point can be found at the dawn of the Reagan era, somewhere in the early to mid 1980s. This was the juncture at which significant strands of the New Left decided to turn down the NP road. What were the internal conditions that led to that turn? There are three interrelated factors that standout— the deconsolidation of the party-builders and the proliferation of New Social Movements, Baby-boomers with loot, and the question of legitimacy. What ensues is a very rough sketch of each.

New movements

Throughout much of the 1970s, there was a strong current within the New Left that sought to harness and consolidate the political energies of the late 1960s into the revolutionary party. The years 1965-1969 were those mercurial years, which saw the rise of numerous liberation struggles led by groups such as the Black Panther Party (and the ensuing “Panther effect:” Young Lords, I Wor Kuen, Brown Berets), the Women’s Liberation Movements (some led by white women, others by Third World sistas), Lesbian and Gay Liberation struggles and the meteoric rise of the anti-war movement. Max Elbaum describes the period as “Revolution in Air”—it was a feeling, a texture, of multiple resistances, each with its own brilliance and complexity.

By the 1970s many of the self-identified revolutionary forces within this New Left turned their attention to party building efforts aimed at consolidating the many movements in an effort to strike a unified revolutionary blow against the establishment. But for some, party-building came at the cost of extracting valuable time and attention from community-based struggles. For others, it meant erasing or subordinating the particular character of race, gender, sexual, and class oppression for the sake of a “higher degree” of unity. And for others still, party building would mark the beginning of deep sectarian fighting between different cadres, not to mention the abuses of power within parties and revolutionary organizations.

The troubled efforts of the party-builders paralleled the rise and proliferation of “New Social Movements” (NSMs)—led by those who had either departed from, resisted, or simply ignored the push to consolidate the revolutionary party. By the early 80s, with many party building efforts in decline, the NSMs continued to grow and proliferate, codifying their struggles under semi-new banners such as: Environmental Justice, Racial Justice, No Nukes, Housing Organizing, Youth Development, Community Development and Anti-poverty. These would provide for the new social justice categories that would eventually be adapted by the philanthropic foundations.

Baby boomers

Yet who are the people behind these mysterious foundations who donate a portion of their excesses to the grassroots? And since when do the wealthy give generously to progressive, even radical, causes? The New Left described above was one part of a broader countercultural movement whose core consisted largely of middle-class youth with an occasional sprinkling of the children of the wealthy. By the 80s, many of the baby boomers born to wealth were inheriting portions of their families’ estate. And those still partially faithful to movement values became reliable individual donors to NSM struggles close to their hearts.

Yet those with serious loot established “family foundations”—non profit institutions that do the work of finding and funding worthy projects. The vast majority of these foundations can only give grants to groups with NP status. Between 1975 and 1988, the total number of philanthropic foundations jumped from 21,887 to 30,338. By 2000, that number would reach 56,582. Many of these were small family foundations, signaling a new, albeit small and selective, funding source for the grassroots. This was much needed respite for community based struggles weathering the cutbacks to federally funded anti poverty programs that were originally designed under the Kennedy-Johnson “Great Society” era and narrowly resuscitated under Carter, before being cut down by Reagan.

Institutional power

During this same period, it got in the heads of some on the left that in order to have impact, the movement needed to take on the sharper image. It needed to get with the times (or the Times) and make an impression on institutional power as opposed to being its incessant pain in the ass. Instead of “mau-mauing” the suits for big promises that amounted mere bread crumbs, it was suggested that the left try donning a suit and grabbing a seat at the table to win big.

The penultimate examples of this are the former new lefties who ran for political office during the 80s and 90s, deciding to work with instead of against the Democratic Party. For those with slightly smaller egos but no less ambition, the mission became to start influential non-profit organizations that could press for the incremental gains that would perhaps lead, finally, to those Marxian qualitative leaps.

Of course, there were those who pleaded in vein with their erstwhile comrades to not go the route of legitimacy—to hold out just a little longer. For many of them the story abruptly ends here. Their generation simply “sold out,” as the crabby expression goes, forever abandoning the good idea of revolution. But sell out talk—which is absolutist in both its form and intent—does little to guide us through our present-day dilemmas.

Alternative Spaces

The “whole sell out theory crowds out the discussion of burn-out,” remarks Makani Themba-Nixon, director of the Washington D.C.-based Praxis Project, referring to those who were exhausted by the internal political processes and abuses of institutional authority in various revolutionary parties and collectives. Many people sought alternative spaces to carry out their work. According to Themba-Nixon, “women in particular needed a way to get away from the sexism, the exploitation, the rough stuff” found within revolutionary organizations. Internal problems were “more the issue behind people leaving than the external politics,” she says. The emergence of the non-profit, Pharr explains, provided the opportunity to continue to “do smart work, practical work, in a way that allowed you to survive. This was especially important after witnessing those who did not survive.”

Themba-Nixon’s observations would caution against sweeping calls for the New Left’s full retreat from non-profits. Autonomous movements are not inoculated from sharp power imbalances (typified by middle-class leadership), competitiveness, and internal exploitation. In fact, the New Left’s failure to implement and sustain anti-hierarchal principles, to care for the long-term development of all members, and to promote a diverse movement culture of participation led many to create non-profits as alternative spaces for effective organizing.

Civil society

These days, there’s a small movement storm brewing in Atlanta, Georgia. In the summer of 2006, the city will play host to the first United States Social Forum (USSF), a gathering projected at 20,000 participants from a wide cross section of the grassroots including labor, environmental justice, immigrant rights, racial justice, anti-war, youth and student, women, LGBT, international solidarity. Although the USSF will not take up resolving the NP dilemma as a stated objective or “thematic area” it may provide a space to shed some much-needed light on the matter.

The USSF is an official regional forum of the World Social Forum (WSF) which, for the past six years, has coalesced social movements from around the world to discuss an array of locally derived “global strategies” to defeat the agendas of world trade, war, and the new imperialism. The groups that comprise this new global movement are not political parties or government representatives of left leaning nation states. Rather they consider themselves part of a new “civil society”—an array of locally based struggles and supporting NGOs.

On January 1, 1994, the world caught a glimpse of this new civil society in action, as a relatively small band of indigenous Mayan freedom fighters from the Southwest state of Chiapas known as the Zapatistas led the once improbable people’s uprising against globalization. The Zapatistas would advance the idea that those who were to defend the people in this “Fourth World War” were not the national liberation armies of old but rather a new Mexican civil society comprised of indigenous social movements completely independent of the public and private sectors.

This concept of civil society included non-indigenous Mexican civilian groups who saw their own futures inextricably linked to that of the indigenous struggle against neoliberalism including NGOs. Under the auspices of Mexican civil society, the autonomous social movement and the institutionalized NGO strive for balance—each understands the specific and complementary role it plays in articulating the new social formation.

Complementary role

The NGO is not the subject of the social movement, but rather the political and technical support for the struggle. The NGO leverages funds to the autonomous grassroots groups, helps the movement build connection to those beyond the borders of the nation-state, provides training, education, and infrastructural support (the development of health clinics, schools, alternative media centers, etc.), and serves as a liaison between government officials and autonomous movements.

Yet, before we take heart that the new paradigm of civil society and its WSF provide a solution for our generation, it is worth noting that, here too, contradictions abound. The WSF has been criticized for its heavy presence of NGOs—most of whom can afford to send large delegations by plane—while the members of their nation’s autonomous movements have less access, often arriving to the forum after weeks of traveling over rough terrain.

There are indeed NGOs throughout Latin America, Asia, and Africa that have come under fire for at times tipping the balance, eclipsing the autonomous movements. Writer/activist Arundhati Roy, for example, has been a particularly harsh critic of NGOs operating in India, noting the ways is which they can often serve the neoliberal “developing nation” agenda.

US context

But for the US left, the concept of civil society may still prove valuable to those attempting to navigate their way through today’s NP dilemmas.

“We never had it from the beginning,” says Jerome Scott of his organization’s 501c3 status, as he reflects on its twenty year history. The organization is Project South based in Atlanta, and it will play the role of an anchor organization for the USSF. An autoworker and shop floor organizer from Detroit, Scott once participated in the famous “wild cat” strikes of 1973, led in part by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. In the late-1970s, he relocated to the Southeast, where things were a bit “more raw.”

By the early 80s, the Southeast was experiencing major political backlash against the gains of the Civil Rights movement. Scott along with several comrades from Detroit, who had also surreptitiously made their way down South, began organizing campaigns to bring attention to the profound poverty, unemployment, and racism that characterized the post-Civil Rights era. The founding of Project South can be viewed as the continuation on the part of Scott and his comrades to build the independent movements that characterized their days back in Detroit.

During the first ten years of its existence, Project South was not a NP, nor did it receive significant grants from foundations or individual donors. The work was carried-out through a collective of volunteer activists, organizers, and visionaries. It was only in 1995, long after the organization had been on the radar of many progressive philanthropy eager to fund it, that Project South decided to incorporate as an NP.

Today, with approximately a half dozen staff members, a large office within a community-space, and the support of several foundations, Project South continues to be guided by the principles upon which it was founded. From salary parity, to an uncompromising people-centered mission, to engaging in a range of tactics (including lobbying), to anchoring the USSF conference, Project South is a successful example of an autonomous movement’s successful transition to non-profit status.

Perhaps some activists who, unlike Project South, consciously and deliberately founded NPs two decades ago, did so with the confidence that other forms of autonomous struggle would continue to grow and push forward. The role of their NP institutions would therefore be only complementary, supplemental, or supportive to it—one of many means of tilting the broader political spectrum toward liberation politics.

Today however, US based non-profits find themselves awkwardly at the movement’s center. We must address the imbalance between autonomous movements and non-profits. This is an ontological question: can a non-profit give life to that which is a precondition of its own existence? The non-profit can clear the path for revolution by dismantling its own policies and practices that prevent grassroots movements from truly impacting political institutions—from the electoral college, to the denial of proportional representation, to the collapse of the social welfare state, to the roll-back on civil rights.

No, the revolution will not be funded. We would need to find it first.



Born, raised, and living in New York City, Eric Tang is a community organizer, teacher, and occasional scribe. Working in the Southeast Asian neighborhoods of the Bronx, he helped to found the first Asian-community-based youth organizing project in the New York City. He currently provides training and capacity building support to grassroots youth groups across the country.



The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Behind the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

Mon, Mar 29, 2010

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (Ed.)
South End Press (2007)
Reviewed by Noel Hawke

This book review was originally published by Theory in Action, Vol. 3, No.1, January 2010 (© 2010) DOI:10.3798/tia.1937-0237.10011

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded confirms and explains the strings attached to philanthropic grants while presenting a global cross-section of modern political discontent. This book of sixteen essays edited by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence following their 2004 conference of the same name, lays out the history of the development in the U.S. of philanthropic entities whose eventual tax-favored status increased their size and influence worldwide. Revolution was published as George W. Bush's second term was ending and the worldwide recession had begun. Progressive thinkers were reeling from years of conservative social policy, erosions in affirmative action and cultural backlash against multiculturalism.

The introduction by Andrea Smith, co-founder of INCITE!, includes a clear and concise history of the American non-profit system which provides essential context for the rest of the book. Missing from the introduction is guidance as to who besides social justice organizers and activists should read this book. Though it is not a blueprint for action, the book could benefit socially conscientious investors, workers in social service organizations, and students of political science. How strongly and clearly the writers make their case isn't uniform, which affects the book's impact. Readers must persist through essays less well organized, some of which imply but do not substantiate significant assumptions, and abandon the opportunity to offer guidance or issue a call to action.

Part I, titled "The Rise of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex," begins with Dylan Rodriguez' polemic essay connecting the racist state designed to maintain brutal inequalities with the incorporated organizations of the alleged Left, between which he sees symbiosis that supports the state's ongoing absorption of organized dissent. His emphatic concern is that the assimilation of "the establishment Left" into a non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) enables more vicious forms of state repression. Citing two dozen books, articles and speeches, Rodriguez lays out a pattern of criminalization and repression of people of color through federal and state initiatives from the FBI's Counterintelligence Program to the more recent California anti-gang statutes. He decries George Soros' Open Society Foundation, despite acknowledging its "breathtaking number of left-of center grants over 20 years," as "formulaic, naïve and conservative" because it marginalizes radical forms of dissent and exerts a disciplinary force on social movement organizations. Rodriguez does not comment on how the Open Society Foundation does this, but implies that it is by selective funding. Rodriguez lists the incentives available to the NPIC including postal privileges, tax exempt status, and quick access to philanthropic funding apparatuses. Ties of financial and political accountability keep the NPIC's organizations tethered to the state. The state, in turn, uses clandestinity and deception to persuade people that violent enforcement are necessary to preserve a free way of life, and teaches them that consent is necessary. Further, control of social movements by neoliberal state and philanthropic organizations is accomplished by forcing upon them reactive planning due to policy changes, and stringently quantified monitoring, which compels organized dissenters to replicate the bureaucratic structures of businesses and government agencies. The murkiness of Rodriguez' writing nearly undoes points he wants to make. He shrugs off the opportunity to present a guiding conclusion, asking instead what activists, scholars, writers and intellectuals enmeshed in the disciplinary restrictions imposed by the NPIC should do. Just before closing with five more pages of polemics on colonialism, he suggests that "We might, for a fleeting moment, conceptualize the emergence of the NPIC as an institutionalization and industrialization of a banal, liberal political dialogue that constantly disciplines us into conceding the urgent challenges of a political radicalism that fundamentally challenges the existence of the US as a white settler society."

"In the Shadow of the Shadow State," by Ruth Wilson Gilmore, expands our understanding of the NPIC by discussing other industrial complexes, military and prison, which have been promoted by ideologists who wish to gain or keep state power, becoming "antistate state actors." Gilmore says these aggression agencies become so accepted that "people imagine that locking folks in cages or bombing civilians or sending generation after generation off to kill somebody else's children is all part of human nature." She points to the increasing shift of non-profits away from supporting people's pursuit of full incorporation into the body politic and toward supporting people in the throes of abandonment, using "twice-stolen wealth – (a) profit, sheltered from (b) taxes."

In a chapter reprinted from his book Black Awakening in Capitalist America, Robert L. Allen contributes a history lesson on the takeover in the late '60s of black political momentum by the Ford Foundation. Allen describes coalitions and struggles among groups representing both black masses and the black middle class. The new liberalism endorsed black power, black separatism and black capitalism as a means of sidetracking revolution. The Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) published a radical agenda including revolution, but by 1967, CORE's agenda had been recognized and dismissed as angry words that were not accompanied by conspiracy to commit violence. "The reformist or bourgeois nationalism…will not ease the oppression of the ordinary ghetto dweller."

In the final essay in part I, "Democratizing American Philanthropy," Christine Ahn quantifies the widening gap between the richest and poorest in this country. She calls piecemeal volunteering no substitute for a systematic public approach to eliminating poverty because inequality, not scarcity, is at its root. The wealthy escape a disproportionate share of taxes through creating and contributing to charitable foundations which are, in turn, allowed to distribute only 5% of their assets annually. She quotes a report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy: "It is as though philanthropy exists for its own sake, rather than for the communities it is intended to serve." Ahn cites cases of negative outcomes of the use of philanthropic power – conservative foundations' influence on the media, the undoing of a traditional agrarian model through its replacement by scientific farming techniques, and the prevention of shipments of free AIDS drugs to Africa due to U.S. intellectual property rights laws. Ahn concludes with a few proposals: requiring foundations to pay out more of their assets, providing closer government monitoring, and diversifying foundation boards and staff.

Eight essays in the second part of the book, "Non Profits and Global Organizing," are the distillation of years of experience within movements for social change and organizations for social service. Writers draw on experience in both settings as they describe the nfluence on mission and methods exerted by sources of funding. Of these eight, Madonna Thunder Hawk states in "Native Organizing Before the Non-Profit Industrial Complex," how the American Indian Movement operated without grants, accepted in-kind donations, traveled without expectations of comfort, shared resources communally, did not organize on the basis of single issues, developed links and traded support with other groups. She observes, "Once you get too structured, your whole scope changes from activism to maintaining an organization and getting paid, [and] people start seeing organizing as a career rather than as an involvement in a social movement that requires sacrifice."

Tiffany Lethabo King and Ewuare Osayande explain in "The Filth on Philanthropy" how people of color are used to maintain the status quo by progressive philanthropists, and that philanthropy is not and never has been progressive. Amara Perez, in "Between Radical Theory and Community Praxis," narrates how SPIRIT in Portland, Oregon, struggled with funding dependency with a resulting clarity of mission and methods.

In an upbeat, short article, "Fundraising Is Not a Dirty Word," Stephanie Gilloud and William Cordery describe Project South, an Atlantabased organization founded for racial and economic justice which balances grassroots and foundation funding sources with fees for service and non-foundation dollars. Forty percent grassroots funding mitigates exposure to the fickleness of foundations' grant-giving and the competitive pressure among applicants. Project South shares the cost of community events with other local groups. Building a support base committed to social justice is key to their ongoing success.

A different voice, that of Ana Durazo in "We Were Never Meant to Survive," takes the stand that all violence toward women is political, interconnected, and an attempt to mark domination. In her work with battered women's groups over more than a decade, Durazo calls it an act of racism to sequester concern for a particular population in one program of an organization. She also warns that treating violence against women of color as an intracultural phenomenon ignores the source, which is the racism of the state and of society. Furthermore, forcing doctors to report domestic violence exposes immigrant women to instant impoverishment and deportation. Durazo's essay does not put forth remedies or alternatives.

Social service workers may pay special attention to "Social Service or Social Change," by Paul Kivel. As a worker for 30 years in agencies addressing men's role in domestic violence, Kivel questions whether such work will ever effect lasting change. He draws an economic pyramid, at the bottom of which 80% of Americans get by on 9% of the nation's wealth while producing wealth retained by others. This 80% includes the middle and working classes, the unemployed, welfare recipients and the homeless The average annual household income of this 80% is $41,000. Of the rest of Americans, 19% of households average $94,000 annually and 1% average over $374,000 a year. Kivel says, "The role of the NPIC is to keep our attention away from those in power and to manage and control our efforts to survive in the bottom of the pyramid." He posits the existence of a "buffer zone" of people at the bottom who are employed in jobs which carry out the agenda of the ruling class and keep them from having to deal with those on the bottom. Kivel urges struggling for a redistribution of wealth and power, and refusing to serve as buffer-zone agents against our communities. Throughout, Kivel poses questions to raise awareness of work, roles and opportunities for change, and he closes with a call for accountability.

Closely embracing a radical vision of social change while holding onto government funding was the accomplishment of Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA) in Seattle. Alisa Bierria writes that CARA found ways to represent the organization to funders by creating a dual identity and by developing solidarity with other community groups who advocated for them during critical funding campaigns. Acknowledging that there are contradictions inherent in their practice, Bierria defends it as resistance and creativity which enables continuation of a program that employs, empowers and transforms the lives of people in their communities, rather than just dealing with isolated incidents of assault.

Readers unfamiliar with the personal impact of sudden landlessness and voicelessness will find insight in the essay, "The NGOization of the Palestine Liberation Movement." Interviewing four Middle Eastern activists who work and write in the U.S., Andrea Smith provides a history of the Palestine Liberation Movement, then asks how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have impacted it. Most Palestinians can barely find paid work except in NGOs, where donor dollars shape policy in favor of allowing Israel to control land Palestinians used to own and inhabit. International law securing the rights of refugees to return to their homeland, which was upheld in Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere, is being ignored in the case of Palestine. The Left movement has become stagnant there, leaving an opening for the promises of Hamas. Meetings of NGOs are closed under the excuse of concern over infiltration, which cuts off access to decision-makers and blocks dissent.

"Rethinking Non-Profits, Imagining Resistance" is the third and final part of The Revolution Will Not Be Funded. Four essays address ways to remain progressive despite the hegemony of the NPIC. "Radical Social Change: Searching for a New Foundation" by Adjoa Florencia Jones de Almeida declares the need to return to being accountable to constituents, not funders; to diffuse solidarity to all involved; to opt out of the state's systems (as with the Zapatistas' creation of their own schools in the peasant revolt in Chiapas, Mexico); and to avoid replicating the damaging, hierarchical behaviors of corporations and the state when crafting policy and practice in social change movements. Paula X. Rojas lays out in "Are the Cops in Our Heads and Hearts?" the spirit of inclusive responsibility and sharing ("entre todos, todo" – among everyone, everything) that permeates recent Latin American uprisings. Rojas warns against internalizing capitalist notions, and offers the contrasting Latin American model of diffused and consultative consensus-building achieved in the streets. She espouses compensating paid staff according to need only, and reminds organizers to avoid a patriarchal, hierarchical style in a confused drive for militancy. "Ultimately," she holds, "political involvement that comes at the expense of our relationships with loved ones and the larger community is not truly liberatory."

Eric Tang identifies in "Non-Profits and the Autonomous Grassroots" the ways in which social change has been derailed in organizations that have adopted a management style which is antithetical to the base. Board liability, limits on tactics due to terms of a grant, and coverage limits on an organization's insurance are but a few examples of the funding ties that bind the hands of a movement which accepts the red tape that comes with foundation funds, posing as many challenges as it does solutions. Tang delivers a capsule history of changes wrought by the availability of funds from family foundations begun by "baby boomers with loot," to fund antipoverty programs in the Kennedy-Johnson "Great Society" before being cut off by Reagan. The Left then tried "donning a suit and grabbing a seat at the table to win big." Tang mentions a resulting burnout felt especially by women faced with the internal politics and sexism of self-identified revolutionary movements. Tang takes the example of Project South (described in the earlier essay, "Fundraising Is Not a Dirty Word") as an organization resistant to foundation funding for its first ten years, then resistant to changing its mission or methods despite obtaining 501(c)(3) status, insistent on salary parity for all staff, and bent on publishing ideas in bold and unequivocal language which cautious nonprofits might eschew. Jerome Scott, of Project South, declared, "We made a conscious decision to keep on doing the work in the way we believe it needs to happen. If this means that we're not following the 501(c)(3) rules, well then they can just come right over and take our status away from us."

The final essay by Nicole Burrowes, Morgan Cousins, Paula X. Rojas and Ije Ude, "On Our Own Terms: Ten Years of Radical Community Building with Sista II Sista," provides a summation of the book's message in describing Sista II Sista (SIIS), the Brooklyn, N.Y. organization that combined social change with social service by providing a space in which young women of color take leadership in transforming themselves and their communities. SIIS evolved from an all-volunteer organization to an incorporated non-profit which received its first grant in 1999. They saw their constituents faced with a "braid" of oppression—racism, sexism, capitalism, ageism and more—which was complex to challenge and required creativity to cut through. They learned to offer many types of actions and activities to engage constituents in their own liberation and put into practice how communities should address violence, childcare, health care, education and other pressing issues. For ten years they accomplished community projects with the help of foundation grants, expanding their reach and their staff. After Sept. 11, 2001, however, the funding world changed. SIIS decided to stop pursuing foundation grants in favor of continuing their work against war and police brutality, which some foundations found distasteful if not downright "unfundable." Its organizers gradually acknowledge the drain on their human resources of grant writing, administration, site visits and reports, "the rejections, the waiting, and the constant explanations of our work to people who just didn't get it, yet greatly influenced its direction." SIIS returned to their roots as an all-volunteer organization, operating again through grassroots fundraising and the support of those who believe in their work. Slower, smaller, still extremely busy, SIIS with its core organizers and volunteers credits this conscious return to the grassroots with the deeper satisfaction they feel once more. Leaders continue to emerge from their programs. They continue to enjoy occasional support from a few program officers with foundations, but spend fewer days on the chase for dollars and devote more time to the mission of social change.

With volunteerism being supported by the Obama administration's agenda, and foundations' loss of endowment value in chaotic global markets, the insights and counsel contained in The Revolution Will Not Be Funded can help a new generation of activists stay true to their missions and decide carefully before seeking funding which can undermine them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Don’t Know About the Sex, But There Are Plenty of Lies, and Videotapes to Prove It!

 Loretta Prisco- CPE-CEP Member, Educator & Columnist 

·        Using rising test scores, Klein/Bloomberg have insisted that schools are improving and went to Washington to brag about the “miracle” of NY.
The recent realistic NYS calibrations of the standardized test scores nixed that miracle.   People of faith know that turning water into wine and curing leprosy requires Divine intervention.  Educating children first requires an understanding of what it means to be educated.  And that bears no relation to raising test scores. 
·        Klein/Bloomberg are still boasting about the increase in HS graduation rates.
Another farce.  As mentioned before in these columns, in addition to the dumbing down of the Regents, woefully poor scores have been calibrated (a 38 has been made into a passing 65!).  A feat easily accomplished by guessing some multiple choice questions.  In addition, students who have been failing courses, even truant for the semester, are given a passing grade if they do a make up project. Voila – a graduate onto college! The result:  CUNY must offer more remedial classes for incoming students from NYC high school graduates and SAT scores continue to go down.  

·        Another boast (or can we call it a lie?):  the achievement gap between White and African American students is narrowing.
According to the National Assessment of Academic Performance, (NAEP), the gold standard of tests, there has been no significant closing of the achievement gap among NYC students, in any grade or in any subject since 2003.  As a matter of fact, the NYS tests results show that the gap between White and Black students in ELA grew from 22 percentage points in 2009 to 30 points in 2010, and in Math the gap grew to 30 points from 17 points.
·        Another boast:  Klein/Bloomberg claim to have recommitted the schools to the arts and offer the proof that they have hired 139 music and art teachers in the last 3 years.
The materials budget for art has been cut by 68%.  Teachers without materials are like surgeons without scalpels. Though known for their creativity, this challenges the best of art teachers.  In 1997, Project ARTS had earmarked funding for the arts.  Under the current regime, this money can be moved, and is, to areas evaluated by high stakes tests.
·        In response to questions raised in a weeklong series on NY 1, “Bars to Education”, the DOE said that it didn’t have the funds for summer school for incarcerated youth, yet maintains that one of its major goals for this population is “education”. 
Definitely a “liar, liar, your pants are on fire”.  Rikers Academy alone was $485,270 in the black at the end of the 2009-10 school year.  Check it out online at NY1.  
·        One more for this column:  The DOE claims it is “accountable, transparent and open to parents”.
Oh – those noses are growing right before our eyes.  You’ve just got to go to the videotape here.  Go to ednotesonline.  Watch the Chairperson of the PEP (sitting right next to Klein) refuse to allow parents to ask questions about the changed test scores and shut down the meeting. Watch the guards escort a young child, who was attempting to ask a question, right off the stage and down the stairs.
And there must be some sex in all of this – we just haven’t heard about it.