Posted June-July 2011, by Wei-Yin, Midwest Rising: Convergence 2011, convergence2011.org
Ed Note: This “Only Ed” posting is composed of the Convergence July archives, the About page and the FAQ page. The home page link to Midwest Rising: Convergence 2011 is here. Please visit the original site for timely updates.
Back in April, 1000 people took over the Department of the Interior during Powershift to protest Earth-devastating energy extraction while 8 people committed acts of civil disobedience at the Wells Fargo Shareholders Meeting in San Francisco to protest banks gone wild. In May, over 800 people in New York faced policemen, police dogs, and mace as they sent a message to the JP Morgan Chase Shareholders. In June, 1000 people marched over 5 days to Blair Mountain in West Virginia to demand an end to mountain top removal and the coal industry’s assault on the Appalachians and their mountains. People around the country are coming together to fight foreclosures and evictions, dirty energy projects, and corporate agendas that put profit before people and the planet.
In August, we need your help to build a movement against corporate power. St. Louis, Missouri, headquarters of Monsanto and Peabody and Arch Coal. We will be hosting an Anti-Corporate Convergence to build this movement. The event will bring together a unique combination of community based organizations, low-income community members, environmental justice organizations, and climate activists. We will combine hard-hitting direct action with an opportunity to take a step back and do some collaborative training and visioning of a world we want to live in. This convergence could change the organizing equation in the Midwest.
During the heat of summer, 300 environmental justice and climate activists and 300 grassroots low income community members are converging in St. Louis for four action-packed days that could change the organizing equation in the Midwest. Climate justice and social justice activists are coming together to fight back against corporate power, engage in creative direct action, and envision a more sustainable world.
Objectives: It is important to realize that this convergence occupies a space that many people on the left identify the need for, but are unsure of how to approach. We identify our key objectives, why they are important, and how we seek to actualize them:
1. Creating a space that brings together different forces on the left: Economic justice and environmental movements have been separated from each other historically although both movements have common enemies. Because environmental movements have traditionally been disproportionately represented by white activists with class privilege, they have often failed to draw significant attention to the obvious connection between wide-scale exploitation of and disregard for natural resources and the exploitation and oppression of people. In order to begin to address privilege and oppression within our movements we will prioritize the voices and experiences of people of color and low-income people.
2. Developing a shared analysis of the moment and vision: Corporate interests and the right-wing agenda are on the attack and to imagine a movement powerful enough to reckon with these forces we must move beyond single-issue campaigns that are too easily framed as “special interests” and find a common ground that allows us isolate and call out corporate interests and develop a shared vision for a different world. Understanding the intersectionalities of our struggles allows us to build a more unified movement. We will both draw upon the knowledge of movement leaders and create together collective visions.
3. Grassroots organizing and base building training: Grassroots organizing and outreach are necessary for growing our movement and getting to the scale. We will engage in grassroots organizing trainings on 1-1s and door-knocking. In order to ground these trainings in work that is real, we will direct participants to plan out the 1-1s that will carry their group’s work forward and partner with a local community group to door-knock in targeted communities with a message that moves that group’s work forward.
4. Increased urgency and engagement in direct action: Direct action raises the level of urgency publicly and sows the seeds for the level of resistance it is going to take to see a movement take root, while directly challenging powers that be. We will conduct intensive trainings in direct action and root these in the actions we take together. MORE has organized direct action in St. Louis that targets big banks for more than a year, creating the public outrage that has led locally to dozens of individual homes being saved, increased willingness of banks to work with service agencies, and the drafting of local policy that would force hold banks to higher standard. Actions will advance this campaign and lay groundwork for local participation in national days of resistance planned for fall. Climate Action, a local group, and national groups like Rising Tide have been targeting coal companies for their role in climate change. Locally direct actions have focused on Peabody Coal. Headquartered in St. Louis, it is the world’s largest coal company. Locally we have been successful in pushing for $10 million in tax breaks to Peabody to be taken back, and see the possibility for actions that would further our local work and national campaigns against coal.
Why St. Louis?
St. Louis is centrally located and has a sponsoring committee made up of a wide range of community, labor and environmental activists. St. Louis is also the headquarters of Peabody Coal, Arch Coal, and Monsanto. St. Louis has hosted a wide array of anti-bank actions as well, including six people being arrested at Bank of America in December, and is home to Wells Fargo Advisors, the non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo that employs 20,000 people nationally.
Program and Training
We plan to offer a common curriculum rather than a hodgepodge of workshops. The curriculum will examine our shared struggle against corporate power and do some visioning of a world in which we want to live (i.e. underlying theory). We will also have organizing skills trainings, opportunities to caucus, and time for strategizing in which cities can plan follow-up steps. There will also be creative forms of fieldwork and direct action.
Everyone is invited to participate! We are also requesting that organizations sign-on as official sponsors. There is a strong host committee locally and lots of groups are getting involved nationally. There are national planning calls. We need and want people who can help be trainers, are willing to do outreach, do art, media, logistics, direct action and a range of other needs. Local groups that can link their work to an anti-corporate or anti-oppression agenda are especially encouraged to get involved in the planning committee to help ensure that the convergence can further our struggles. When you register, let us know what you can help with or email email@example.com to help.
Register on-line HERE. For questions or further information call Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) at 314-862-2249.
FAQs about the Convergence
- When is the Midwest Rising Convergence? August 12th~15th!
- What is the 2011 Midwest Rising Convergence? The Convergence is a unique event that combines training with action. Together, we will learn about the insidious nature of corporate power and envision a world in which we want to live. There will also be pragmatic grassroots organizing skills training. Finally, we will engage in collaborative direct actions that target major banks and St. Louis-based coal company headquarters, ensuring our voices to be heard.
- Who should attend? Everyone who cares about fighting corporate power should attend. Whether you are concerned about the rapaciousness of coal companies or banks crashing our economy, the Convergence is for you. For many of us environmental activists, working class laborers, and social justice activists who do not always work together; this is our chance to come together and fight corporate power.
- What will the schedule be? We will post a tentative schedule soon. However, we will start in the morning of Friday, August 12th and end on Monday afternoon the 15th. Friday will involve a plenary session and training combined with some direct action. The weekend will combine training and workshops with a chance to get out into St. Louis’ neighborhoods. Monday will involve considerable direct action in downtown St. Louis.
- What is included? We will reserve hotel rooms and will have camping facilities available. We are not certain if we will raise enough money to pay for meals so we encourage people to bring money for meals and/or food. We provide materials and transportation to actions.
- Is there a cost for attending? We are asking people to pay what they can, according to their ability to pay. We will help you make a fundraising plan for attending and meals when you are here.
- How can I get involved beyond attending? We need your help now. We need help with the arts, logistics, turnout and training and fundraising committees. As you sign up, let us know what you can do. We will find housing for people coming in early to do work! If there is something not on the registration form, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- May I run a Workshop? Yes! please contact us at email@example.com
Other questions? Drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org
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This is our current list of workshops and brief descriptions for each one of them. Please let us know what you think! Also, if you would like to help out, please email email@example.com
Racism & Oppression: Racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression and discrimination are ways that keep people from being able to have equal opportunities. We will talk about ways to better understand how oppression works, ways in which oppression affects our communities, ways in places and institutions reinforce oppression. We will talk about what privilege is and challenge ourselves to apply what we learn to our daily lives and interactions.
Coming Together for a Common Struggle: Can we fix the economy without addressing racism and the environment? We will talk about how many problems and forms oppression – whether it be about jobs, social security, the environment, racism, or access to quality education – are related to each other. We will discuss intersectionality. We will talk about the importance of coming together across different communities, movements, and struggles as a necessity to further our individual and collective liberation.
Money, Economics, and Corporate Power: Why are there no jobs? Why do so many people never get out of debt? Is it true that they can do away with social security? Have you ever wondered why the system is set up the way it is? We will talk about the big picture: our economic system, capitalism, wage exploitation, and neoliberalism. We will talk about the bail out, the economic recession, how corporations are using this crisis to become more powerful and how these changes are affecting our communities. We will also talk about changes we would like to see for our communities, our schools, our jobs, government, and economy.
Environmental Justice: Do you want to learn more about what corporations are doing to the environment? What does Green energy mean? We will talk about how corporations are affecting our communities through pollution and unsafe environmental practices that are making our children sick, disproportionately affecting low-income communities of color, and threatening our future and earth. We will talk about how corporations are warming up the planet and changing the climate, threatening our food supply and independent farmers, and other ways their short-sighted policies are affecting us.
Civil Disobedience & Creative Direct Action: Learn about the history of non-violent civil disobedience in this country and abroad. What are the pros and cons of organizing actions today? What is strategic and meaningful today? Learn tactics of creative action that bring public attention to issues when letter writing, meetings, and voting just doesn’t cut it. We need more people trained in direct action so that we can build a non-violent movement of people that can demand change and confront people in power that are responsible for problems we are fighting against.
Spread the Word! Organizing Our Communities: Learn about how to spread the word to more people in your community about the movement we are building together. How can you reach out to people? How can we motivate more people to get involved? We will discuss basic organizing skills that will help you be more effective at getting more people involved. We can’t make the changes we would like to see alone. We need to reach out to more people. We will then go out together to door-knock house to house to advance the work of the Organization for Black Struggle.
Meeting Facilitation and Group Decisions: Do you want to learn about how to facilitate a democratic meeting? Do you believe that everyone should have an equal voice? Learn about consensus building meeting facilitation techniques that you can use to come to decisions that include everyone’s voices. These skills help make sure that one person doesn’t dominate your meetings, that the group makes decisions that everyone feels good about, and that everyone feels included and listened too.
Note: The discussion sessions and small-group breakouts will be included within the workshops. The trainings are intended to be participatory rather than a series of lectures. Sorry for any confusions!
Sponsors 07/26 Update
Below are the current list of organizations that have officially sponsored our event:
Missourians Organizing Reform and Empowerment
Climate Action STL
St. Louis Instead of War Coalition
Organization for Black Struggle
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
Mountain Justice/ United Mountain Defense
North County Neighbors
The Rainforest Action Network: Chicago Chapter
Pick up America
Would your organization like to help us, too? Please call 314-862-2249 or contact us!
There are three options for housing for those of you coming in from out of town:
1. Camping: The campsite will be offered at 1610 S. Florrisant, St. Louis MO. It is about a mile from the JC Penney Center. A couple of rules and notices–
- There is no extra charge for camping, but please bring your own tents and toiletries
- We will be carpooling regularly between the site and the center
- Convergence staff will be stationed to assist you with your needs
- No alcohol is allowed at the campsite
- All buildings around the campsite are off limits at this time
2. Dormrooms at UMSL: There are available summer housings offered by the University around South Campus. For those who are interested, please contact Allyson Wilson at (314) 516-4399 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Local homestay, please note that the availability of homestay is VOLUNTEER BASED. You must find your own housing if you choose this option.
As always, please keep checking back regularly for more updates on the Convergence!