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
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.