Organizing around September 11, 2001

colist-admin at colist-admin at
Thu Sep 13 14:42:01 CDT 2001

Hello COMM-ORG.  This post contains a list policy question 
to you all, and a response to the September 11 messages 
posted so far.

I begin with the list policy question. I need your help on 
deciding how the list should handle the September 11 tragedy. 
 Messages are beginning to arrive that include statements of 
reaction.  All are heartfelt and carefully composed.

My concern is, given the magnitude of this tragedy, and the 
number of such messages I know are out there, we could 
quickly become overwhelmed.  That, to me, would defeat the 
goals of the messages to help us console and reflect.

What I would like to propose is that we use this list to focus 
our thoughts and reflections on what we do best--community 
organizing and its related activities.  We are witnessing acts 
of violence against people of Middle-Eastern descent or 
Muslim beliefs.  We are witnessing not only a feeling of 
vengeance against those behind the violence of September 11, 
which I share, but less-than-reflective demands for retribution 
at any cost to anyone. We are witnessing a willingness to 
suspend constitutional protections in hopes of recovering what 
may have been a mythical sense of safety and may in the 
long run make us even less safe.  

We are also witnessing incredible examples of spontaneous 
community organizing as ironworkers show up and demand 
(successfully) entry to the WTC disaster site to help with the 
rescue and recovery; as people come together across race, 
religion, and ethnicity in ways they have never done before, 
and as people show up to donate bood beyond the capacity of 
the Red Cross to handle them.  We understand these acts no 
better than we understand the acts of hate and retribution.  
People everywhere are wondering what they can do and they 
are packing the blood centers partly because they can't think 
of what else to do.

We can help.  This list can be a place to discuss how to 
organize around this tragedy.  It can be a place to identify 
community organizing needs--around issues of community-
based hatred, crucial policy questions, or simply the fears that 
underlie our more visceral reactions.  It can be a place to 
understand the good and bad community-based expressions 
we are witnessing or part of.  It can be a place to discuss 
strategy to make sure whatever comes of this builds stronger 
communities and a world where groups or nations of any size 
or perspective no longer feel compelled to commit 
unspeakable acts of violence.

If you feel it is important to post the many expressions of 
reaction out there, please let me know.  I do not in any way 
mean to impose my will on the list.  These are just my 
thoughts, as your moderator and a list member.

In the interest of promoting some discussion of organizing 
around this tragedy, I offer the message below from Rick.


From: "Rick Keller" <rkeller at>

What can we do in the aftermath of September 11 to work 
toward breaking the cycle of violence and retribution?  

How can we organize the folks who have expressed these 
concerns over the last few days so that their voices become a 
powerful influence in setting our national agenda?  

R. Keller

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