Center for Third World Organizing (CTWO): All Power to the People

Vijay Prashad


Friday, January 28th at 1:41am, Cornell Young Jr. was shot to death in

Providence, Rhode Island. This 30-year-old African American was a police officer

and the son of the Providence Police Department’s first Black officer to

become a Major.


as Cornell was known to his friends, was off-duty and in a restaurant that

evening, enjoying a few moments of peace. An altercation in the parking lot drew

him out, this to assist his fellow police officers. Jai identified himself as a

police officer and held his gun into the air. The two white cops on the scene

shot him four times in the head, the chest, and the stomach. Another Black man

lay dead.


Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) in south Providence, the folks got

to work immediately. Jai was a childhood friend of many of the members. Besides,

Rafael Nunez, a DARE member, had been shot twice in the legs only four months

ago by one of the two white cops. ‘We are oppressed in our community,’

Rafael says. ‘I actually feel lucky he only shot me in the legs, but Cornell

Young wasn’t so lucky. If the police department had responded to our demand to

get rid of the officer who shot me, this young man would be alive today.’


was on the streets, taking control of the situation. Protests filled Providence,

most of them under the leadership of DARE or feeding off its campaign against

police brutality that has been ongoing since at least 1992. Even NPR picked up

on the story, but it, like most of the media, neglected to mention the central

role of DARE.


Julius Wilson has a new book out in which he makes much of the Industrial Areas

Foundation (IAF) model of organizing. Many unions are garnering coverage from

the mainstream media (Steven Greenhouse at the Times, for instance). And with

the WTO blowout, it looks like the general swell of the movement against

globalization may be taken somewhat seriously. However, movements that put

‘race’ front and center of the organizing model do not seem to get the same

kind of play. I’m thinking partly of the NAACP South Carolina demonstration

(50,000 people), but also of the organizations that work within the network of

the Center for Third World Organizing (CTWO) out in Oakland, California. DARE is

one such organization.


began in 1980 under the leadership of Hulbert James and Gary Delgardo, both

veterans of the National Welfare Rights Organization. ‘The initial

conceptualization of the organization had three main ideas,’ Delgardo notes.

‘The first was to bring together organizers of color to discuss the strategies

and tactics that had been developed and successfully employed in our respective

communities. A lot of that history was being lost and most organizers of color

were not aware of work in other communities. Second, we wanted to look at issues

as they affected people of color. So we examined welfare, immigration and

gentrification from the perspective of organizations of people of color involved

in organizing around those issues. We were also interested in the connections

between people of color in the US and people in the international Third World.

We traveled to Nicaragua and Cuba and began to talk about organizations of

people of color in the US as a sort of domestic "non-aligned

movement."’ It was a bold idea. Delgardo’s book on ACORN (Organizing

the Movement, from Temple University Press) offers a strong account of the

different model adopted by CTWO as it constituted itself as the left pole on the

ground, one that was put ‘race’ prominently into the mix.


January 2000, Mark Toney, one of the founders of DARE, of the National

Organizers’ Alliance and a long-time fighter for social justice, will run CTWO.

I’ve read many statements on what a progressive agenda should look like, some

in <The Nation> and others in fatuous books by people like Richard Rorty.

But Mark said it best at his inauguration address at CTWO on 9 December. He made

a list of those things to which CTWO should say ‘no’ and those to which it

should say ‘yes.’ First the ‘no’ list:


The rising tide of dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, free market philosophy

stripping away welfare, daycare, affordable housing, health care, and other

basic human services from our communities. 


Those who would use the political process to whip up public hostility toward

immigrants, toward women, toward Blacks, Latinos and Asians, toward lesbians and

gays, and working class and poor people. 


Redlining, zoning, and other policies of racially segregated housing. 


Substandard housing and widespread homelessness in the midst of the richest

country in the world. 


Racial profiling and misconduct by law enforcement agencies sworn to serve and

protect our communities. 


A public education system in our inner city communities in which a precious few

are placed on the college track, a few more on the vocational track, but the

majority are placed on the prison track.


here is Mark’s ‘yes’ list made by a ‘vision that declared that by

working together, we can bring to birth a world’:


Free of hunger, where people are not categorized or oppressed by race, gender,

class or sexuality. 


Where everyone has a place to live, gets a quality public education, has access

to health care, and is part of a family and community based on principles of

mutual respect, love and justice. 


Where the human potential to develop multiple talents for creative expression

triumphs over being forced to specialize in a single occupation to



Where working together to produce and share food, shelter, culture and art

replaces an individual need to sell one’s labor for someone else’s profit.


words. CTWO ran an impressive campaign on Community Safety and Police

Accountability. The DARE struggle of this year was built by that campaign of

1992-95. This year CTWO inaugurated a campaign called Grass Roots Organizing for

Welfare Liberation (GROWL). 25 organizations from across the country will

participate in building a common progressive welfare liberation agenda and built

the fight against structural adjustment in our world.


backbone of these campaigns was the organizations spread out across the country

that share CTWO’s left philosophy. But the campaigns are also given spirit by

the Minority Activist Apprenticeship Program (MAAP) run by CTWO, wherein young

organizers of color can come to gain valuable insights from the training run by

CTWO. Tell all your friends about it. CTWO is also part of the Chataqua network

that includes the Applied Research Center (who will hold a major conference

called Race Rules: Equity, Justice and Public Policy, in American University,

May 19-20, 2000). <The New York Times> (1 March 2000) ran a story on an

ARC report that established racism in the public schools (we <do> need

reports to make the case!). CTWO and ARC publish the magazine <ColorLines>

that I hope everyone has seen and will subscribe to. This is not an

advertisement. It is just an invitation to get involved. To reach CTWO, call

510-533-7583. Ask for anyone. If you get an answering machine, everyone is out

on the streets, fighting for justice.


Leave a comment