It has been five years since I joined the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute's Board of Directors. A lot has changed for both me and the Muste Institute, but one thing has not: your contributions are urgently needed to support and build the Institute's programs.
When I came to the Board in 2000, I was serving as Coordinator of the United Nations Liaison Office of the International Indian Treaty Council, working with grassroots indigenous peoples who struggle daily for their inherent rights and for protection of the natural world. In the 1980s, I was also part of the nuclear freeze movement. I joined the Muste Institute because I admired its long history of support for social, environmental and economic justice, and wanted to be a part of strengthening those efforts.
Serving on the Board, I learn more about local groups throughout the world whose work has a direct impact on peoples' daily lives, and how such groups connect to the broader movement. I've also seen that while the Institute office is in New York City, its work is sustained by the contributions you send from cities, towns and rural areas across the US (and beyond!). It's like a great circle, with your support flowing into our office and our support flowing back out again, feeding and nurturing grassroots groups which are really making a difference.
Two years ago I decided to make a big change and leave New York for Chickaloon, Alaska, to live and work among the citizens of Chickaloon Village - a small, indigenous community about 75 miles from Anchorage. Things are a lot different here: I can't walk to a corner store for a snack at two a.m., but I've traded that for wild salmon, blueberries and mountain goat. My closest neighbors are lynx and bear, and outside my window I hear a roaring river instead of the N train.
From my perspective here, I see the impact a small grant can have for a local group. If ten people get together in Chickaloon Village and decide to do something, it has a tremendous effect on the whole community. When we get the resources to meet and plan with people from surrounding areas, it sends out a ripple effect to other communities and even the whole state! I see the same thing with the Niger Delta Project of Rivers State, Nigeria, which used a 2003 Muste grant to mobilize local residents to nonviolently confront the big oil companies polluting their land, and has now received a second grant to extend the project into a neighboring state. I see it again in the J.K. Education Council - a women's organization in a rural village of India's Orissa state, seven miles from the nearest fax machine. In 2002, the Council used a Muste grant to train its members to become human rights promoters, nonviolently confronting race, gender and caste discrimination. A 2004 grant is now allowing the group to reach out to other districts with new trainings.
As I continue to participate in the Institute's grantmaking meetings (now over the phone, from Alaska), I have come to realize that our grant program is truly unique. What other funders would take a chance on small groups, those just getting started, or those located halfway around the world, a day's walk from a phone? How else could you make a difference to a Nigerian community taking on "big oil" - or an Indian women's group fighting caste discrimination - just by putting a tax-deductible contribution into the mail? If not for the Muste Institute, would you even know of such projects? Not to mention the hundreds of US-based grassroots groups that have used Muste grants for efforts to end war, oppose the death penalty and organize around social justice issues.
We urgently need your help to expand support to more such groups, and to carry out our other important programs. Please send the largest donation you can to the Muste Institute at 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012, or click on the donate now button at the top of the page to make your contribution online. (As always, your contribution will be tax deductible to the extent allowed by the IRS.)
Thank you in advance for making it possible for the Muste Memorial Institute to continue to extend its support to communities similar to Chickaloon Village and local areas like yours across the United States and around the world.