Q & A with AfGJ National Co-Coordinator Chuck Kaufman
Q: Why should my organization spend our most limited resource – time — to organize and participate in the Nov. 1-3 Tear Down the Walls National Gathering?
Chuck: You shouldn’t unless you incorporate a plan for how TDTW National Gathering will grow your organization and build cross-movement relationships for future organizing.
Q: We’ve been to lots of conferences. Why would we get more out of TDTW National Gathering than we have in the past?
Chuck: Our vision for Tear Down the Walls is to bring together many of our “siloed” movements in ways that open spaces for them to network and strategize about how they can work together after the National Gathering to more effectively address their areas of overlap. In addition, we expect a large participation of activists who are part of the Occupy Movement. In the period since government repression drove Occupy out of public spaces, in many communities Occupy activists have initiated new projects and/or joined pre-existing group efforts. TDTW therefore provides a forum through which your organization can learn about what Occupy groups are doing and an opportunity to enlist Occupy activists in your program and campaigns – and for Occupy groups to enlist you!
Q: How will the TDTW National Gathering open spaces for networking and strategizing?
Chuck: We envision, in addition to many information and skills-building workshops, several longer “people’s power assemblies” organized by three or more organizations from across movements. In addition to the relationships built among the groups organizing a “people’s power assembly,” these sessions will identify cross-movement strategies and come up with Nationally Coordinated Local Days of Action.
Q: What is an example of a “strategy plenary”?
Chuck: A good example is the Drug War. The militarized drug war impacts many of our movements: Latin America solidarity, immigrant rights, border militarization and anti-war, criminalization and police brutality, the Prison Industrial Complex, sentencing disparity, legalization, race and ethnicity inequalities, and more. Our lack of a unified strategy is the perfect example of how we diminish our movement for transformational change by building walls between our movements. TDTW National Gathering will be a success if we can tear down some of those walls.
Q: What is AfGJ getting out of organizing Tear Down the Walls?
Chuck: Without a deliberate attempt to do so, AfGJ has discovered that in addition to our own core work that focuses primarily on US policy toward Latin America and US imperialism, we have become a provider of administrative and financial services to about 70 groups that don’t have tax-exempt status. These groups are in several movements. Since we’re not a business, but rather part of grassroots movement for transformational change, we are in a unique position to help bring together many different movements and provide a way for them to network and strategize. Obviously we think this will also grow AfGJ. We are committed to take the financial risk and take on the majority of logistical work, but the success of the Tear Down the Walls National Gathering will be dependent on many groups from multiple movements taking advantage of this opportunity to fill Nov. 1-3 with content and to commit to getting out of their silos to strategize together how we can build a grassroots movement that will be a powerful engine for change without regard to which political party of the 1% happens to hold power at any particular moment.