Back to Support the International School for Bottom-up Organizing

ISBO needs your skills

Hey all you ISBO organizers and friends:

The International School for Bottom-up Organizing has made an amazing start. Since October, when organizers from five countries met in Caracas, we’ve been fighting and organizing! We had to fight just to get everyone to the meeting, almost creating an international incident at the Colombia-Venezuela border. That struggle built a spirited, unified collective that understood we have to be radical in order to build a school to train revolutionary organizers.

Since then, ISBO international organizers have traveled to Colombia to visit the local ISBO group, which is organizing in a mountain community of African- and indigenous-descended people. They met with three other groups connected to the ISBO organizers, all in Afro-Colombian communities. In one of these communities, slavery was still practiced in the 1920s, and just in the last month, we’ve organized international support to help them confront the racist landlord who was trying to evict them from their community center. We sent a strong letter denouncing racism, which gave them a morale-boost. It also resulted in a flurry of e-mails internationally about racism and militancy, which was a good learning and teaching opportunity. The end result was a large, long and militant confrontational meeting which forced the landlord to back down. The Colombian ISBO group will soon have a retreat to process and consolidate this victory, which will involve people from at least three organizing projects.

Meanwhile, in Jamaica, our organizing project has made several qualitative steps, on the heels of months of work which included a spirited roadblock protest demanding water that resulted in the arrest of an ISBO organizer. In recent months, the community group has overcome the tribalism of a few who wanted to divide in two by village. We’ve organized a highly successful Afro-Jamaican cultural activity that involved nearly two dozen costumed youth dancing through the community to everyone’s delight. A solid collective of people from the bottom has taken the reins of leadership and is facilitating meetings, doing house visits, and has a fundraising party, a community workday, and a protest for the return of the post office planned all in the next month. It has roofs under construction at two community centers and has established a relationship with a professor at a major university who will be sending students to the area on fieldwork assignments to help with the organizing work.

Things are moving so fast in Colombia and Jamaica it is taking our breath away.

In England, a dedicated group of young immigrants has been working hard to organize fundraising events for their ISBO friends in Colombia and for ISBO in general. They have stepped up, along with supporters in Chicago, to get our book published: it will be out within a couple of weeks, in English and Spanish.

At this moment, ISBO is focusing on our next scheduled session, planned for May. The Jamaican comrades are researching a way for us to carry out our agreement from last October to take a radical action against slavery during this session of the School. People held as chattel are the bottom of the bottom, and we are committed to organizing a new Underground Railroad! Our international representatives are about to embark on travel in Central and South America to recruit for the School.

However, all of this work and planning are in jeopardy. ISBO has a desperate need for financial and organizational support. Unlike the 1960s, when everyone was aware of the profound organizing and struggle going on in the South, today ISBO is still in its infancy, and many people, instead of looking to the bottom for inspiration and hope are looking to the president of the United States. Simultaneously, the financial crisis is drying up sources of donations, lowering the prices of many things in the US (but not air travel!), while in places like those where our front-line organizing is occurring, the currency is devaluing rapidly, causing immense hardship and...

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