June 28, 2012
Last month, in the streets of Chicago, I took part in a beautiful, nonviolent outpouring of protest against the NATO war profiteers who were gathered at a summit there.
The protests were massive, diverse, energetic, and creative. I witnessed young “Occupy” activists coming together with anti-war veterans, local community organizers and ordinary people fed up with war and injustice, connecting across movements, to raise their voices, bear witness and resist.
I am writing today to tell you about how, thanks to the generous funding of grassroots organizing over nearly four decades, the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute was there with us in Chicago.
I hope you will give to the Muste Institute today to help us build on what we accomplished in Chicago, and deepen our links with other social justice movements.
I am the field organizer for the War Resisters League, this country’s oldest secular pacifist organization. Since 1974, the Muste Institute has supported WRL in developing grassroots educational and organizing strategies opposing war and promoting social and economic justice.
The Muste Institute supports us:
• with office and meeting space at the “Peace Pentagon”;
In this past year alone, your gifts to the Muste Institute helped WRL to:
• Develop “You Can’t Take What’s All of Ours,” a workshop dissecting the connections between NATO’s military invasions and occupations (think Afghanistan and Libya), and G8-driven financial austerity measures in places like Greece and Iraq, through the stories of people who have experienced these brutal policies first hand. Community-based groups used the workshop in Chicago to engage their members on the importance of these issues and mobilize them for the protests.
• Organize the Bayard Rustin Centennial, commemorating the life and legacy of distinguished former WRL staff member Bayard Rustin. Freeman intern Lesley Pairol helped get the project started, and our very first Bilezikian intern, Nikki Rankine, took it from there, working closely with organizing coordinator Kimber Heinz to research and put together the centennial event and a traveling exhibit. It couldn’t have happened without the Freeman and Bilezikian internship programs, which are funded through special endowments created at the Muste Institute by donors like you.
• Document the people’s movements resisting U.S. militarism in Iraq and Afghanistan. By publishing much-needed interviews and news updates from inside Iraq, and working with the diaspora group Afghans for Peace, WRL is educating people about what’s really happening in these war-torn nations.
• Strengthen the National G.I. Coffeehouse Support Network, so that G.I. coffeehouses around the U.S. can continue to provide a safe place for soldiers to gather, to speak freely about their experiences with war and the military, and to get access to information, counseling, and legal referrals on G.I. rights. A 2010 grant from the Muste Institute’s Social Justice Fund went for an internship program to support the functioning and sustainability of existing coffeehouses.
With continued support from the Muste Institute’s sponsorship and internship programs, we are currently developing an innovative campaign to end the manufacturing and trade of U.S.-made tear gas, and stop its use as a weapon against people resisting oppression at home and throughout the world.
Your contributions to the Muste Institute help WRL and other peace and social justice organizations worldwide raise their voices about the interconnected themes of militarism and economic and social injustice:
• Many of the veterans who joined us in the streets of Chicago are members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), which was not yet a year old in 2005 when it got its first Muste Institute grant to train regional coordinators in organizing skills and strategies.
• In April 2009, over 1,000 people blockaded the NATO Summit in Strasbourg, France. War Resisters International (WRI) helped organize that action, and plays a leading role in the European campaign against NATO, with support from Muste Institute grants and sponsorship.
• We were joined in Chicago by several busloads of activists from Wisconsin, who came to press the message: “bring our war money home.” Last year the Muste Institute boosted the “war $$ home” campaign with a grant to the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.
As a Muste Institute contributor, you understand the importance of sustaining this wide range of grassroots efforts: not only against war, militarism, nuclear weapons and the death penalty, but for immigrant justice, prisoner rights, labor organizing, and a sustainable economy and environment.
Your gifts today help fuel the creative strategies and actions which build our movements into the future.
Please donate generously to the Muste Institute. Thank you!
Field Organizer, War Resisters League
P.S. Donate online by clicking here or mail your check to A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012. As always, your contributions to the Muste Institute are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.