AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND COLLEGE PARK
BLACK RESISTANCE MOVEMENTS
Tuesday 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Van Munching (VMH) 1314
Dr. Melinda Chateauvert
301 405 1158
Drop-In Office Hours
2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Thursdays
and by advance appointment
Instructor’s website: http://www.bsos.umd.edu/aasp/chateauvert
Prerequisite: AASD100, AASD 314 or graduate student status, no exceptions.
Consider this scene from “Crash” with Anthony (played by Ludracris) and Peter (played by Larenz Tate):
Anthony: You actually expect me to get on a bus?
Peter: Nah. I was hoping we could push a car across town. You know why? 'Cuz we just don't do stuff like that no more.
Anthony: You have no idea, do you? You have no idea why they put them great big windows on the sides of buses, do you?
Anthony: One reason only: To humiliate the people of color who are reduced to riding on them.
Peter: I didn't know that.
Anthony: You know, you could fill the Staples Center with what you don't know.
Fifty years ago, Black people in Montgomery refused to ride the bus; these days, we can ride, but it’s humiliating. Why? This semester in Black Resistance Movements, we will study several recent campaigns for transportation equity and the many strategic problems that activists confront in trying to win racial justice and economic opportunity.
Movements for African American freedom and for human rights are at the core of U.S. history and the content of today’s headlines. Whether studying Frederick Douglass’s organizing work in the black anti-slavery movement, Ida B. Wells’ anti-lynching movement, Marcus Garvey’s back to Africa movement, the Nashville sit-ins, the Free South Africa movement, or the recent alterglobalization protests, we are all fascinated – even awed – by the courage these men and women exhibited in their fight for social justice.
Black Resistance Movements examines protests since the civil rights and black movements to discover how people organize in their communities to empower citizens and achieve racial justice. Movements are never spontaneous eruptions brought about by charismatic leaders. They require commitment and vision, yet these two leadership qualities alone are not enough. To organize a movement, skills as well as technical knowledge are necessary: the ability to bring diverse people and communities together, an understanding of how the political system operates, the flair to effectively capture the media’s attention, a talent for devising direct action campaigns, expertise in negotiating with people in powerful positions, and the capacity for hard, unrelenting, but rewarding, work.
Our texts include hands-on guides written by activists, for activists, and case studies of recent campaigns to achieve racial justice. Through case studies of the strategies and tactics used by activists in other movements, we will critique their campaigns and consider how we might devise our own campaigns. Throughout the semester, working in small groups, students will create their own “Action Kits” for a contemporary issue campaign as a final project.
This is a multi-disciplinary course that uses well-regarded organizing and training manuals to analyze the strategies and tactics of contemporary racial justice movements. By the end of the semester, students should:
1. Understand elemental terms and concepts of social movement theory used in sociology, political science and history
2. Be able to identify several schools of liberation theory, their approaches to analyzing the role(s) of race, gender/sex, capitalism/class, and culture in policy formation and their relationship to various political traditions of African Americans
3. Develop basic skills in planning campaign strategy, the tactical deployment of resources, membership recruitment, public speaking, organizing educational programs, and related organizing skills
4. Become familiar with different types of advocacy tactics, including direct action, grassroots or citizen lobbying, ballot initiatives, class action litigation, drafting legislation, public commentary through regulatory hearings, holding accountability sessions, etc., and considerations for effectively choosing these tactics in various settings
5. Understand the role of media in contemporary politics, the framing of news stories, the media’s use of metaphors to shape perceptions of African Americans, and how to map and script media messages that, when necessary, lead with race
6. Develop basic skills in opposition research, public records research, opinion polling and survey analysis
7. Understand the history and objectives of the Environmental Justice Movement; the demand for Transportation Equity as a part of the EJM, and the role of transportation racism in urban planning
Organizing for Social Change: A Manual for Activists. Third Edition. Santa Ana, CA: Seven Locks Press, 2001
ISBN: 0-929765-94-X Price $23.95
Highway Robbery: Transportation Racism and New Routes to Equity. Robert D. Bullard, Glenn S. Johnson, and Angel O. Torres, Editors. Boston: South End Press, 2004.
ISBN: 0-89608-704-2 Price $18.00
Talking the Walk: A Communications Guide for Racial Justice. Hunter Cutting and Makani Themba-Nixon. Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2006.
ISBN: 1904859526Price $15.00
Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership, and Hip Hop Culture. Yvonne Bynoe. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press, Inc., 2004
ISBN: 1-932360-10-7 Price $13.95
The media – whether mainstream, alternative or otherwise – is a critical source for organizing. As a citizen in a democratic society, reading newspapers, watching foreign news shows, subscribing to news feeds and email lists, and engaging in other activities to keep up with current events and emerging issues is both your right and your responsibility. Your engagement in the world will increase your enjoyment and understanding in this class.
You are eligible for a discounted subscription to The Nation (a weekly newspaper, founded in 1865 as the successor to the Garrisonian abolitionist paper, The Liberator): 12 weekly issues for one semester for $6.97 online: www.thenationclassroom.com.
Course Requirements and Grading:
This course depends on the participation of everyone in the class. Students are expected to read and discuss the assigned materials, to carefully analyze their content, and apply the lessons within. Some readings may even move you to challenge the author’s conclusions.
Adequate preparation for each class discussion includes reading the assigned materials, keeping notes, and completing the exercises assigned. This should take between 3 to 5 hours per week. Research and meetings for the group project and educational forum will take additional time. Some class time will be allotted for group project meetings.
These activities and assignments contribute to the final course grade:
• The Action Kit, developed as a small group project, for a campaign as chosen by consensus (see separate handout)
• Two in-class presentations by each group on a specific component of the Action Kit, on the dates noted in the Course Outline
• The organization of a public educational forum on transportation equity or other racial justice issue (see separate handout)
• Homework assignments, other written exercises, and the occasional pop quiz – especially if it appears that too few have prepared for class
• An in-class midterm exam based on the assigned readings, lectures, and discussion
• Regular, engaged participation in class discussion and conscientious participation in the group project and educational forum
The Action Kit (Group Project)
In-class group presentation
Public Educational forum
Homework, in class exercises, quizzes
Discussion participation & class attendance
Grades will be determined on the following scale: 91-100% of possible points = A; 81-90% of possible points = B; 71-80% of possible points = C; 61-70% of possible points = D; less than 60% of possible points = F.
Notes on Grading:
*) Assignments are due on the date listed. Proof of a medical emergency (not a mere doctor’s visit) is required for extensions and to schedule make-up exams. Exceptions for personal emergencies will be granted on a case-by-case basis.
*) Regular class attendance is expected. Exams and quizzes will cover material presented in lectures, films and readings. Some test material will not be discussed in class; some lectures will not be covered in reading assignments. Absent students are responsible for obtaining missed material on their own; lecture notes will be shared only in rare cases.
*) The University's policies regarding cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, and academic dishonesty will be strictly observed. If you are unsure of what acts constitute cheating, they are defined in the Code of Academic Integrity in the Undergraduate excerpted in the Schedule of Classes, and is available online at: http://www.umd.edu/cheating
The University has a legal (and moral) obligation to provide appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities. If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contact me as soon as possible.
Also, if you are experiencing difficulties in keeping up with the academic demands of this course, contact the Learning Assistance Service, 2201 Shoemaker Bldg., X4-7693. Their educational counselors can help with time management, reading, note-taking and exam preparation skills.
OSC Organizing for Social Change
TW Talking the Walk
HR Highway Robbery
S&D Stand & Deliver
Week 1 August 31
I. Introduction: What is organizing?
Week 2 Sept 5 and 7
II. The Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis: A Case Study of Community Organizing
1. Handout: Levey and Levey, “End of The Roads” Washington Post, Nov. 26 2000
2. OSC, Introduction and Chapter 2, “The Fundamentals of Direct Action Organizing,” pp 2-21
3. TW, Foreword, Introduction, pp v-vii, 1-4, and “Mapping Goals, Audiences and Messages,” pp 126-127
4. HR, Foreword, and Introduction, pp viii-11
B. Film: Thursday: “Tango 73: A bus rider’s diary” produced, directed, written and edited by Gabriela Quirós, Graduate School of Journalism, Univ. of Cal., 1998
What's My Name Fool; Sports & Resistance in the US
Wed, September 13, 2006 -- 6:00-8:00pm
Busboys & Poets: 2021 14th Street NW WDC |U Street Green Line Metro Stop
Free: Register http://www.hotsalsa.org/index.php?cid=1000470
Join SALSA and Teaching for Change at Busboys & Poet's Langston room for a captivating talk and book signing with Dave Zirin, author of What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States and NBA player Etan Thomas of the Washington Wizards
Week 3 Sept 12 and 14
III.Briefing: Transportation Equity in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.: A Tale of Two Cities
1. OSC, Chapter 3, “Choosing an Issue,” pp 22-29
2. HR, Chapter 1, “The Anatomy of Transportation Racism,” pp 12-31
3. HR, Chapter 7, “The Baltimore Transit Riders League,” pp 145-159
4. HR, Chapter 8, “Building Transportation Equity into Smart Growth,” pp 178-198
5. TW, “Race, Racism and Media” pp 5-14
6. TW, Case Study, “Katrina: Race in Your Face” pp 118-121
B. Tuesday: Report: Results of Mobility Survey
C. Thursday: Sexual Harassment and Women Riders
1. Research assignment: find (print, read, and bring to class): Anemone Hartocollis, “Women Have Seen It All on Subway, Unwillingly,” New York Times, June 24, 2006
1. Introduction, exchange contact information
2. Start discussion on transportation equity issues, consider results of mobility survey
3. Discuss which specific transportation problems are important right now
4. Decide how to research these issues further using newspapers, websites, organizations, by talking to friends and people in different groups, investigate community transportation needs, etc.
5. Assign responsibilities among group members
6. May need to continue discussions outside of class or by email
Saturday, Sept 17 10:30 a.m.
Extra Credit: Bike Ride: Tour What DC I-595 Would Have Destroyed
reservations, questions contact: Sierra Club Metro DC Office:
(202) 237-0754 or email@example.com
Week 4 Sept 19 and 21
IV.The ICC Campaign: Tactics and Strategies of Organizing
1. OSC, Chapter 3, “Developing a Strategy,” pp 30-47
2. TW, “Leading With Race” and “Reframing the Debate” pp 51-56
3. HR, Chapter 4, “Burying Robert Moses’s Legacy in NYC,” pp 75-98
4. Web links:
B. On Demand at HBK: “Taken for a ride,” by Jim Klein and Martha Olson; Independent Television Service. Hohokus, NJ: New Day Films, 1996. (58 min.) HE203 .T35 1996
Examines how the auto and highway industry reshaped America, why sitting in stalled traffic seems perfectly natural, why our public transportation is the worst in the industrialized world, and why super highways cut right through the heart of our cities.
C. Tuesday: Chris Carney, Guest Speaker, Community Organizer for the Sierra Club on the ICC
1. Discuss campaign (issue) ideas of group members
2. Fill our “Checklist for Choosing an Issue,” (OSC p 28)
3. Evaluate and finalize campaign issue
4. Begin discussion of possible campaign tactics and overall strategies
Program of Interest
Volunteering Overseas: Alternatives to the Peace Corps and More
Wed, September 27, 2006 -- 6:45-8:45pm $30
IPS, 1112 16th St NW, Suite 600, WDC 20036 Red Line Farragut Square Stop
Find -- or create -- an overseas experience that matches your needs, time line, interest, and budget. This class will include pros and cons of the Peace Corps and details on other options. While emphasis will be on volunteering, paid opportunities are also explored.
Week 5 Sept 26 and 28
V. Tactical Research
1. OSC, Chapter 20, “Tactical Investigations” pp 232-274
2. HR, “Just Transportation” pp 161-178
3. TW, “Polling and Race” and “Ethnic Media” pp 61-68
4. Handout: Websites for Tactical Research, from http://comm-org.wisc.edu, The On-Line Conference on Community Organizing and Development
B. Thursday: Film, “The Coalition of Immolakee Workers v. Taco Bell,” from NOW with David Brancaccio, originally broadcast on PBS, May 27, 2005
1. See also: http://www.pbs.org/now/society/ciw.html
C. Groups: (2 tasks)
1. Identify the government agency or department responsible for the problem (issue) your group wants to address
a. Identify the official responsible for making final decisions:
(1)How does this person hold office? Is he/she a civil servant, and appointee (by whom?), or elected?
b. What government body has oversight of this person and agency?
2. Identify potential support for your issue in the community/among voters
a. Find polling data or election results relevant to your issue
b. Find census data relevant to your issue
c. Have discussions with people you know (and don’t know)
Week 6 Oct 3 and 5
VI. Interrupting the News, Unraveling Public Relations
1. TW, Part IV Stories from the Field, (esp. 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7)
2. OSC, Chapter 13, “Being a Great Public Speaker,” pp 140-155
3. The Nation, 10th Annual Entertainment Issue, 2006
4. The Nation, Ten Point Plan for Media Democracy, 2006
B. On Demand in HBK: “Toxic sludge is good for you: the public relations industry unspun,” producer, Margo Robb; Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 2002. (45 min.) HD59.6.U6 T69 2002
Tracks the development of the PR industry from early efforts to win popular American support for World War I to the role of crisis management in controlling the damage to corporate image. The video analyzes the tools public relations professionals use to shift perceptions including a look at the coordinated PR campaign for genetically engineered food.
1. Identify five (5) ethnic, independent, or alternative media news sources
2. Identify five (5) specialized media on issues, industries, occupations, etc. relevant to your campaign issue
3. Look at past coverage (if any) of your issue in at least three of these media sources
Week 7 Oct 10 and 12
VII. Action Plans and Tactics
1. OSC, Chapter 5, “A Guide to Tactics,” pp 48-61
2. S&D, Chapter 7, “Elements of Activism,” pp 99-110
3. TW, Communications Guidelines, pp 17-39
4. Toni Foulkes, “Case Study: Chicago: The Barack Obama Campaign,” Social Policy (Winter 2003/Spring 2004) Vol. 34, Nos., 2-3, pp 49-52
B. Homework: Outline the tactics used in the LA Bus Riders campaign
1. Find relevant government reports or databases and other expert studies for developing issue brief and for identifying alternative proposal
2. Research and evaluate tactics and strategies used in earlier campaigns
Week 8 Oct 17 and 19
VIII. From Bus Boycotts to Critical Mass: Non-Violent Protest Styles in the New Millennium
1. Gene Sharp, “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action,” http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations/org/198_methods-1.pdf
2. Gene Sharp, “Correcting Common Misconceptions About Nonviolent Struggle,” http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations/org/misconceptions.pdf
3. David Swanson, “How ACORN Fought the Bush Tax Cuts and What They Won,” Social Policy, Fall 2003, pp 11-17
C. Film: (We aren't blocking traffic,) We Are Traffic! A Movie about Critical Mass; Directed by Ted White; 50 minutes, Documentary, Video, 1999
1. Begin drafting Issue Brief and (public relations) Talking Points
Week 9 Oct 24 and 26
1. OSC, Chapter 7, “Designing Actions,” pp 70-80
2. OSC, Chapter 8, “Holding Accountability Sessions” pp 82-99
3. TW, Toolkit “Framing Racism,” p 123, “Reframing Debate” pp 134-135
4. (Optional) Jan Adams, “Proposition 187 Lessons” Z Magazine March 1995
5. (Optional) Applied Research Center, “Reasserting Justice Toolkit,” Oakland: 2002
6. (Optional) Wayne C. Johnson, “Defeating Proposition 223: how opponents of the "95/5" school funding initiative dramatically turned around public opinion to beat it 55-45,”Campaigns & Elections (Oct-Nov, 1998) http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m2519/n10_v19/21227951/print.jhtml
7. (Optional) Mary Bricker-Jenkins, “Legislative Tactics in a Movement Strategy: The Economic Human Rights Pennsylvania Campaign,” Meridians: Feminism, Race, and Transnationalism, Special Issue, International Feminism and Human Rights
B. Homework: How is an initiative put on the ballot in Maryland?
1. Strategy Chart, Action Plan: Explains the tactics and overall plan of the campaign. Tactics should allow people to participate at their comfort level, proposing a variety of tactics that supporters from diverse backgrounds can use. A calendar or a timeline for putting the plan into action that may include specific days for coordinated activities.
Week 10 Oct 31 and Nov 2
X. Using the News
1. OSC, Chapter 14, “Using the Media,” pp 156-171
2. TW, “In the News” pp 40-47
3. TW, “Spin Control,” pp 57-58
4. TW, “Interrupting Racism in the News” pp 69-75
5. TW, Toolkit, “Pitching Stories,” “Conducting Interviews,” and “Writing Materials,” pp 143-180
6. (Optional) TW, case study, “Reporting Race: A Tale of Two Series” pp 112-117
7. (Optional) We Interrupt This Message, “Soundbites and Cellblocks: Analysis of the Juvenile Justice Media Debate and a Case Study of California’s Proposition 21,” www.interrupt.org http://www.interrupt.org/pdfs/Sndbts&Cellblks.pdf
8. (Optional) www.interrupt.org, “In Between The Lines: HowThe New York Times Frames Youth
B. On Demand in HBK: “Media that matters film festival,” MediaRights.org. Distributed by National Film Network LLC, 2003; (74 min.) HN28 .M43 2003
The Media That Matters Film Festival celebrates films, videos, and new media that inspire people to speak out and take action for social change. The goal of the festival is not simply to showcase films and new media projects that bring important social, political and environmental topics to the forefront, but to encourage the use of these films as a springboard for discussion and even more importantly, for action.
C. Groups: Design a communications plan, consisting of four elements:
1. Talking points (or frames) for discussing the issue in the media and with decision makers
2. A list of 20 or more relevant media outlets (with names of journalists or editors) for free media from mainstream, specialized, ethnic, and “alternative” networks
3. Examples of letters to the editor, or letters to elected officials or corporate officers
4. Samples of flyers, advertisements, and other creative ways to inform the public and recruit supporters
NOVEMBER 7TH: ELECTION DAY
Week 11 Nov 7 and 9
XI.Cultural Politics and Internet Activism: Is it Politics? Is it Activism?
1. OSC, Chapter 10, “Recruiting,” pp 110-118
2. S&D, Chapter 1, “Who Shall Lead us?”pp 3-16
3. S&D, Chapter 2, “What Does Hip Hop Politics Stand For?” pp 17-24
4. S&D, Chapter 11, “How Ya Like Me Now?” pp 147-156
5. Teresa Wiltz, “We The Peeps” June 24, 2002 Washington Post, www.bsos.umd.edu/aasp/chateauvert/raptivism.htm
6. (Optional) Abdul Alkalimat, “Social Cyberpower in the Everyday Life of an African American Community: A Report on Action-Research in Toledo, Ohio,” March 2004, http://uac.utoledo.edu/Publications/uac_publications.htm or http://uac.utoledo.edu/Publications/cyberorganizing.pdf
B. On Demand in HBK: “Culture jam: hijacking commercial culture” Lynn Booth and Jill Sharpe; New York, NY : First Run/Icarus Films, 2001. (52 min.) P96.C76 C85 2001
Culture jamming is the movement in which commercial logos and advertisements are re-tooled and used as a form of protest. This documentary follows three culture jammers as they perform their form of protest. First, the Billboard Liberation Front modifies billboards and transit ads to portray a message other than what the advertisers had intended. Next, a young college student places stickers on transit ads and in public spaces, illustrating another point of view. Third, a street "preacher" loudly decries the commercialization of Times Square by Disney Corporation.
C. On Demand in HBK: “Batidania: power in the beat,” by Megan Mylan; Principe Productions, 1998. (50 min.) HQ799.B6 B28 1998. In Portuguese with English subtitles and voice-overs.
Explores music as a means of protest through the work of musical group, AfroReggae, an Afro-Brazilian youth drum corps from one of Rio de Janeiro’s most violent favelas or shantytowns who implement music and dance as a way to keep kids away from the drug trade and change the stereotypes of their favela.
1. Recruitment Plan for building grassroots power through volunteers and support development.
a. Identify those might support the issue, thinking in people in groups such as membership organizations, churches, neighborhoods, bus riders, etc.
b. Identify what method(s) would allow you to talk to them face to face, such as at church gatherings, bus stops, membership meetings, knocking on doors, wherever people might congregate
c. Identify other potential allies and coalition members (including “strange bedfellows”), that have already taken a stand on the issue.
Week 12: Nov 14 and 16
XII. Black Leadership: Traditions and Not
1. S&D, Chapter 3, “Lessons from Ella J. Baker” pp 25-31
2. S&D, Part II “Critical Breakdown on Black Political Agendas” pp 33-80
3. S&D, Chapter 6, “Reflections on the New H.N.I.C.” pp 81-98
4. S&D, Conclusion, pp 189-194
5. HR, “Principles of Environmental Justice,” Adopted at the 1991 People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, pp 217-219
6. OSC, Chapter 11, “Developing Leadership” pp 118-127
7. (Optional): Dwayne Marsh, et al, “Leadership for Policy: Strengthening Communities of Color Through Leadership Development,” Oakland, CA: PolicyLink, 2003
1. Herstgaard, “Green Grows Grassroots,” The Nation
C. Film: Street fight; directed, produced and written by Marshall Curry; a POV/American Documentary, Inc. Oley, PA : Bullfrog Films, 2005. Videodisc (82 min.)
1. Consider and discuss leadership styles in your group. Each person write a one-page summary describing how the process has worked, is working; make suggestions for change.
Week 13: Nov 21
XIII. Escalades v. Schwinns: Money, Power and Respect
1. Bynoe, Chapter 12, “Money, Power and Respect,” and Chapter 13, Ghetto, Striving and Bourgie,” pp 157-188
2. OSC, Chapter 26, “You Mean You’re Not Getting Rich?” pp 346-379
3. The Spin Project and Tides Foundation, “Words That Work: Messaging for Economic Justice,” 2005, www.spinproject.org
Week 14: Nov 28 and 30
1. OSC, Chapter 9 “Building and Joining Coalitions,” pp 100-109
2. HR, Chapter 3, “Dismantling Transit Racism in Metro Atlanta,” pp 49-74
3. HR. Chapter 5, “Transportation Choices in the San Francisco Bay Area,” pp 99-119
4. S&D, Chapter 10, “Still We Rise,” pp 133-144
5. OSC, Chapters 16, 17, 18, 19, pp 182-231
B. Groups: Presentations
Week 15 Dec 5 and 7
XV. Opposition Research
1. TW, Case Study, “The Fight for Affirmative Action in Houston, pp 83-89
2. Niyi Shomade, Jared Ball, Harold Scott, Mila Blackwell, William Reed, “Towards African-America’s Interest: Assessing and Challenging the Congressional Black Caucus,” August 2005, http://cbcmonitor.voxunion.com
3. Handout: Ten Tips for Opposition Research, http://www.researchops.com/
4. HR, Chapter 6, “Transit Activism in Steel Town, USA” pp 121-143
5. Stanford Research, (Austin, TX), Case Studies http://www.oppresearch.com/casestudies.html
6. Mark Martini, “How to Get Your Opponent to Do Your Opposition Research” http://www.politicalresources.com/Library/Opposition.htm
7. Scott Henson, “Sun Tzu and Opposition Research Strategy: Part I” 7/07/05 http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2005/07/sun-tzu-and-opposition-research.html
8. (Optional video) “Digging the Dirt” uncovering the tactics used in the US Presidential race, BBC Panorama News, by Peter Marshall, Produced Tom Giles, October 22, 2000 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/archive/981759.stm
9. (Optional) Eveline Lubbers, “Field Report: Panel Discussion on Corporate Counter-Strategies Against Activists’ Campaigns” Next Five Minutes Tactical Media Conference in Amsterdam, 12-14 March, 1999, Cybersociology Magazine: Issue Five http://www.socio.demon.co.uk/magazine/5/5panel.html
1. Where do Maryland’s elected officials stand on
a. The Inter-County Connector?
b. Smart Growth?
c. Funding for Public Transportation?
d. Other civil rights issues?
C. Groups: Directions for further research:
Surveys and other materials for activists to collect data relevant to their local conditions, to track community opinion, or to research corporate decision making and government regulations, etc. This section may include information about developing alternative policy proposals that reflect the needs of the campaign’s grassroots membership.
XVI. Dec 12 Wrap-Up
THE GROUP PROJECT: THE ACTION KIT
This is an assignment such as you’ve probably never had. The Action Kit is the major work expected of students in this class and, with the oral presentation, constitutes 45% of each student’s final grade. Because this is a group project, grades will be assigned collectively, unless there is a serious, unresolvable conflict.
Action Kits are a “do-it-yourself” set of instructions, relevant information on the issue, and useful advice for activists committed to working on the issue (and related causes). I will have examples of recent action kits from earlier campaigns, but such kits have been around for years (I will bring in one published by SNCC in 1967). The class website also provides links to several recent examples.
The Action Kit is not a “paper” in the traditional academic sense. It requires development and project management. Working in small groups of no more than 4 people, you will collectively chose the issue you want to address. As a matter of process, I strongly recommend you do this through consensus decision-making. If you are unfamiliar with consensus building, refer to pp 304-5 of the Organizing for Social Change manual; the website also provides some links.
The Action Kit requires research that is both “traditional” and non-traditional. Library research on the issue using government documents, information databases, scholarly research, policy papers and news media reports will be necessary to write the issue brief. Devising effective strategies and direct actions may required tactical investigations of the decision makers and the agencies who make those decisions (see the chapter in the OSC manual). Doing mini-“focus-groups” – by talking and listening to fellow students, friends, neighbors, folks at church, relatives, and people on the street – may be necessary for “test-marketing” your ideas and media messages. Analyzing and adapting materials developed by existing social change organizations for other campaigns is permitted so long as you do not sample wholesale or plagiarize!
Action Kits contain a variety of materials, depending on the complexity of the issue and the depth of the strategy advocated. They combine elements of an outline for action and a grant proposal; they are designed to both persuade the reader to take up the cause and provide guidelines for achieving a specific public policy (or social change) objective.
The Action Kit will have these sections:
1. An issue brief. This is a persuasively-written essay that explains the problem, its history, its impact, why people should care, and what the group wants to fix the problem. The brief should also identify the primary target of the campaign, as well as potential secondary targets so that readers understand who and what they will fighting. Between 1000-1200 words.
2. The Action Plan: This tells the reader describes the tactics and overall plan of what can and should be done. The plan should allow people to participate at their comfort level: a variety of tactics that supporters from diverse backgrounds can use. A calendar or a timeline for putting the plan into action that may include specific days for coordinated activities.(*)
3. An Organizing, or recruiting, Plan for building grassroots power. The plan should discuss how and where to identify people who will become involved in the campaign. The organizing plan must make recommendations of potential allies or coalition members, and provide a list of of groups that share an interest in this issue.
4. A communications plan, consisting of four elements:
a. Samples of flyers, advertisements, and other means for informing the public and recruiting supporters
b. A list of relevant media outlets for both free and paid media, both mainstream and “alternative”
c. Talking points (or frames) for discussing the issue in the media and with decision makers
d. Examples of letters to the editor, or letters to elected officials or corporate officers
5. Ideas for research: sample of surveys to collect data relevant to local conditions and to track community opinion. Guides for researching public records, corporate ownership, or government regulations, etc. This section may include suggestions about developing alternative policy proposals that reflect the needs of local campaigns or members.
6. Resources for more information, lists of websites, reading materials, government reports, etc., as well as sources cited in the Issue Brief.
Each group will present on the items with asterisks for general classroom discussion and development; see the course outline for specific dates.
The final Action Kit will graded based on originality, concrete demonstrations of critical thinking and creative strategizing, and the quality of writing in various forms. Your group could be very creative, developing eye-catching graphic designs and original artwork, or use drama or music to present information. Other groups may decide a website is the best way to present the issue. In the end, however, final evaluations will be based on substance, not style.
Samples of action kits can be downloaded or viewed on the class website.
CLASS PROJECT: THE EDUCATIONAL FORUM
If you have ever belonged to an on-campus organization, or to a church or mosque, or a local community group, you know the importance of holding programs open to the public. Indeed, the purpose of many organizations is education. For this assignment, the class will produce an educational forum.
You will be responsible for all aspects of preparing and producing the forum. You will decide on the program content, find and chose speakers, raise the necessary funding and sponsorship, publicize the event, provide outreach to the campus and to the community, provide the necessary services, such as childcare, food preparation or service, transportation, or language or ESL translation, and any other logistics. An adaptable planning guide, “Meeting Checklist” may be found in OSC, p. 139.
The program content should focus on a transportation equity issue. However, some unanticipated political development may push another racial justice issue into the forefront. If another topic is chosen, the decision should be made by consensus.
You may decide to break into smaller groups to handle the many tasks needed to produce the forum, or chose another approach. Some tips on handling these responsibilities and keeping track of tasks can be found in Chapter 22 of OSC.
Speakers may be recruited from anywhere you can find them. It is up to you to decide whether they should receive an honorarium, or transportation, or a simply a nice handwritten thank you note. In identifying potential speakers and moderators, don’t overlook yourselves!
You will need to develop a budget for the forum, including speakers’ fees, room rental, food, translation services, and childcare (if offered), publicity and media materials, transportation and other related expenses. To cover the costs, you may need to find sponsors from the University, from community organizations, or by passing the plate at the event and soliciting in-kind donations.
Publicity and media for the forum may take any form you decide. In addition to event flyers and posters for the public, you might want to map out which organizations or other events where you could promote the forum. You may decide to contact local media to cover the event, and designate one or two spokespeople to do interviews.
The date, time and place of the forum is up to you. The forum may be held either on-campus or off-campus. However, attendees must be a good mix of campus and community people. You should take a headcount of the audience, and you should create and distribute (and collect!) an evaluation form or survey for forum attendees.