Tag Archives: Activism

Freedom School Announces Classes on The Civil Rights Movement



The Mohawk Valley Freedom School will have three classes on the Black Freedom (Civil Rights) Movement this month. Local activist and Freedom School educator Alicia McWilliams will teach the classes. The first class on March 11th at 7:00pm will give an introduction to the Black Freedom Movement. Class will start with a screening of part of the powerful documentary on the subject Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965.  This will lead into a discussion that compares the Civil Rights Movement with various social movements today. The second class on March 18th will continue this discussion. Students will be encouraged to do their own research before coming to class and present their findings on the Black Freedom struggle to the class at large. The next class on March 25th will go over the history of the FBI’s counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) which was created to destroy the Black Freedom, Black Power and New Left movements of the 1950s-1970s. As always, this history and these movements will be brought to the present as we ask the questions: how is this relevant to us today, how can we learn from this, and how do we move forward?

Alicia McWilliams is a dedicated activist and organizer who has been active in New York City, Utica and across the state and country. She has been very active in fighting for civil liberties, defending the Newburgh 4 and others unjustly targeted by the War on Terror, ending mass incarceration and the New Jim Crow, and with the Mohawk Valley Freedom School.

The Mohawk Valley Freedom School is located at Cornerstone Community Church, 500 Plant Street in Utica. Classes are from 7:00-8:30pm with a free dinner at 6:30pm. Please contact 732-2382 or mvfreedomschool@gmail.com. This class is free and open to the public and to people of all ages and backgrounds.





Scholar, activist and socialist Joseph Schwartz will speak at Hamilton College this Wednesday, March 3 at 7:00pm on the subject of mass incarceration. Schwartz is Professor of Political Science at Temple University where he teaches political theory and American politics. He has been active in the fight for affordable urban housing. He is the author of The Permanence of the Political and The Future of Democratic Equality. Schwartz also serves as a National Vice-Chair of Democratic Socialists of America. He will give a talk on mass incarceration in the U.S. and will give attention to the plight of people of color and undocumented immigrants. While many activists and critics point out the brutality of the racialized system of mass incarceration in the US, few provide alternatives to this major problem. Schwartz will address this in his talk as he offers an alternative vision to combat the New Jim Crow. That vision is socialism for the 21st century.

The event is being organized by the Hamilton Democratic Socialists, a student group at Hamilton College. The Mohawk Valley Freedom School will provide transportation to the event from Utica. Cars will promptly leave Cornerstone Community Church at 500 Plant Street at 6:30pm. The event will take place at Hamilton College in Kirner Johnson 102.

IWW Union Meeting – Saturday, November 15 – 4:00pm



There will be an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union meeting this Saturday, November 15 at 4:00pm at the Freedom School office. If you are a worker, or even unemployed, and are interested in getting involved with labor and union activism then this is the organization for you. It is open to all workers of any background. The delegate of the union will be present to sign up new members, distribute the most recent newspaper, and discuss the upcoming elections within the union. There will also be an opportunity to discuss current campaigns within the union and how you can improve conditions at your workplace.

Email maslauskas@riseup.net or call 732-2382 if you have any questions.

An injury to one is an injury to all!


Freedom School is Back in Session! – Thursday, October 30 at 7pm



Freedom School is back in session! Come to our first class this Thursday, October 30 at 7:00pm. A free dinner will be served at 6:30pm. We are located at Cornerstone Community Church (500 Plant Street in Utica). The topic for the evening will be “Changing the Education Paradigm” where we will discuss the philosophy of Freedom Schools, education and schooling. We will have a discussion centered around the function of schools in modern society. Are they places that encourage students to question authority? Are they places that encourage regimentation and obedience? Come join us for the first of many exciting classes and discussions. We will meet Thursday every week. Same time, same place.  This is open to people of all ages, backgrounds and “education” levels. See you there!

If you have any questions, please call us at 732-2382 or email us at freedomschoolmv@gmail.com.

An Interview With Green Party Gubernatorial Candidate Howie Hawkins on Activism and Social Movements



(This interview was originally published in 2010 on Znet and in the Industrial Worker. The full interview can be found here: http://howiehawkins.com/2010/index.php/interviews/399-interview-by-brendan-maslauskas-dunn)

Brendan Maslasuaks Dunn (BMD): I understand you spent some time in the Bay Area growing up. What were you politically involved with back then?

Howie Hawkins (HH): Well, Willie Mays was a San Francisco Giant and he was my hero and this was in the Bay Area and this was in the 60s so… I cut school one day when they were doing the ban the draft week and went over there and was on the periphery of one of those demos that week. The next year the big thing was the San Francisco State strike so I went to some of those activities that was basically trying to get autonomy for the black studies program so they could serve the community so I learned a lot from that and got familiar with a lot of the different tendencies in what was called the New Left back then. One of the things that influenced me was there was something called Ecology Action West which I later learned was all written by Murray Bookchin. So that Post Scarcity Anarchism with an ecological orientation and libertarian socialism – that was probably one big influence on me back then. [I] also ran into Hal Draper’s Socialism From Below pamphlets that the independent socialists were circulating and understood the distinctions between statist socialism that was authoritarian and socialism from below which was democratic. I’m in high school and new to all this and they’re sure not teaching us much about this in high school.

I remember on Earth Day, 1970 I organized the Earth Day at my school and wrote up a sort of handbook on the issues and called for corporations basically to be run as public utilities without the profit motive but to serve production for use and not try to grow endlessly like capitalism makes companies do endlessly in order to survive and I sort of got to the conclusion without understanding the whole analysis of how to get to it. There were demonstrations over at Berkeley and I went over to one I remember when Peoples Park was breaking up and I was there the day before the kid was shot to death. I cut school and went there so I was absorbent of a lot of this stuff as sort of a truant who was really going to political protests which was sometimes just a library across the railroad tracks from the high school because high school was kind of slow and there was a lot of antiwar demos in the Bay area that I went to so I absorbed a lot from the movements there.

BMD: I also understand you’re a socialist. Given the dark history of what was done in the name of socialism, why do you call yourself one?

HH: Well, any word is contested. I mean you have democratic republics that are dictatorships so democracy – do you want to abandon that word? Do you want to abandon the idea of a republic? I think we need an alternative to capitalism which most people understand to be profit oriented enterprise and appropriation of surplus by the owners. So what is socialism? It’s democratic appropriation and allocation of economic surplus by the people. I would say a little different from some socialists who say the producers because in any economy in any one time it’s something like, at most, you have about 40% of the people actually working. You have young people, children, you have old people, you have injured people so everyone should have some say in how the surplus is distributed and the forms that those socialist economic institutions could take can be public in the sense of like a municipal power utility, they can be cooperatives where the users (the people that contribute to the enterprise) dispose of the net income and you have consumer you have producer or worker you have marketing coops you can have hybrids of producers and consumers… but the point is that what is produced is how you dispose of it, is the democratic decision – it’s not just to those who happen to own the property and I think that that’s an important idea that America, out of all the countries of the world, has just sort of erased form discussion. So I think it’s important to keep that on the table. Now when I campaign I don’t campaign for an ideology – socialism or even ecologism or green – green’s a label we use but, I campaign for concrete reforms that more people can understand on their own terms. Now a lot of those reforms; for example, a right to a job and a living wage which requires direct public employment to ensure everyone there has full employment, is not compatible with a capitalist economy, not because you couldn’t with government help have a market to get everyone employed between public and private employment because the vested interests who own the capital in the capitalist sector, they want unemployment to discipline the workforce and keep wages down. So, for me socialism for me is an extension of democracy into the economic realm.

BMD: I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about, maybe one or two movements you’ve been involved with in your life that have really had an impact on you.

HH: Well, I think the anti-Vietnam War movement, in particular the GI movement… and when I got drafted I did enlist in the Marine Corps before the draft letter got me. My number came up – it was the last call for Vietnam – July ’72 and the Defense Secretary Laird(sp???) called up numbers 35 through 70 and I was number 65, so… you know I had looked at my options and decided rather than going into exile or underground I would go into the service and first thing I did was join the American Serviceman’s Union which was actually the front for Workers World Party, you know they really ran it, but it was an effort to unionize and resist imperialist war. And by the time I did it, I wasn’t sticking my neck out so much, I mean I can remember one of the things that I saw, this is when I think I was a freshman in high school was the Presidio 27 refusing to go to Vietnam out of San Francisco and they really paid a price for that. And there was the GI Coffee House movement… Anyway, by the time I was in the resistance, particularly in the Army, I mean Nixon had to Vietnamese the war as they called it – bring the troops home and let the Vietnamese fight with our funding because our soldiers, in the Army in particular, they weren’t fighting, they were refusing, they thought… they didn’t like the war. And it even affected the Marine Corps. I went in – this was officer training – I was in college and it was an off-campus program. And actually the veterans who had been there as grunts and then come back to college on the GI Bill and were now coming back into the Marines to be officers, they were pretty anti-Vietnam War. It was amazing. The “gung ho” Marines were the kids that were just coming straight out of college and wanted to be Marines; you know the whole image around that. So I just think that’s an underestimated but powerful movement that’s a more working class movement than a lot of the movements of the 60s because it was working class people that tended to get drafted and go fight and resist.

So that was something that really stuck with me and made me understand also the importance, when you’re getting back to domestic affairs, the importance of building a strong labor movement. So what I ended up doing after college was construction up in northern New England where none of the jobs were union except really big projects and those guys came in from out of state. You know, nuclear power plant, sort of big college dorm construction, although I did some of that but it was a non-union shop. So I joined the Wobblies just so I had an affiliation. There were no other Wobblies anywhere around, except we had a couple of guys, we had a worker co-op for a while – we were all Wobblies but I wanted some affiliation, at least in spirit. I’ve kept that affiliation since then. And I’ve been involved in a lot of labor support struggles – the JP Stevens textile struggle in the South, I was really involved with the Phelps Dodge struggle, the miners in Arizona. The same thing happened today as what happened to miners in Namibia, owned by the same company – Phelps Dodge, they struck when it was in Namibia, they were sent… this actually happened a long time ago in Arizona. In both cases they just put the workers on a train and sent them out to the middle of the desert and just dropped them off in the desert. And I got involved with that because the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Dartmouth was the President and CEO and Chairman of the Board of Phelps Dodge. So we did a lot of work around that and even the AFL-CIO national office came in and we did a whole corporate campaign around that. There were UFW grape and lettuce boycotts. And then since I’ve been in Syracuse, there’s labor actions, there was one [recently] at Coyne Textile Services a couple blocks from here, and I’ve been out at the Motts strike in Williamson and out at the Momenta Processed Materials rally back in June. And it’s a big part of my campaign for governor. So I think I’ve been inspired by the labor movement – not so much the official labor movement but the real labor struggles that people have when they get attacked by employers. And we haven’t won a lot, I mean one thing, before I came to UPS and became a Teamster I was really supportive and glad to see they’d won that UPS strike in 1997. It was one of the few big strikes that the labor movement won in a generation, going back to the 60s.

BMD: What exactly attracted you to the Wobblies and how has an IWW analysis of the labor movement and the economic system we live under had an effect on your outlook?

HH: The Wobblies are an inspiration given their history. I mean, they organized people that the AFL wouldn’t organize – the migrant workers, the minority worker, the workers in dirty, dangerous jobs like mining. They were relatively antiracist in a time racism was really strong in this country, in the nineteen-teens – this is when they were strong and they’ve kept that spirit alive. They also are very big on democracy at a time when the mainstream labor movement is bureaucratized. And the Preamble, the Wobblies’ classic document that’s inspirational to this day. So, all those things attracted me to it and it has informed me, you know, I have not really been engaged in any Wobbly activities because they haven’t been where I live at. And I think that [construction] is an industry where Wobblies can make really big inroads because there’s a lot of small construction, home construction that’s being done. Even in New York City which is a union town a lot of the rehab work is being done by immigrants who are being paid less than a minimum wage and that’s been going on for decades. I did some construction work down there in the 70s and 80s and most of it on rehab stuff. And I saw that it was disheartening. But in the organized building trades, they have a tradition in this country of sort of being exclusive and trying to keep their numbers small so they can keep their wages up. It’s not a class movement – it’s a movement for their members. So I think there’s a lot of room there for the Wobblies to organize and I wish them all the best luck. And there are other sectors like that where the IWW is organizing right now like Starbucks. Even the nonprofits they were trying to organize. Some people criticize that and there may be some merit in some of the criticism from some of the real small groups but on the other hand, I know, for example, SEIU organizers up here in Upstate New York were really overworked and underpaid by 1199. They tried organizing a union, they got fired right away. So I think there’s definitely a role for the IWW. And for me it’s more of inspiration and, you know, I pay my dues out of solidarity.

BMD: Do you think there’s an upsurge in the labor movement with undocumented workers in particular but with workers in this country in general?

HH: Well certainly undocumented workers and even the documented immigrants – they were in solidarity with each other. They’re coming from countries where there’s real changes going on  -Venezuela, Bolivia, at least, you know, the Latin American Spanish speaking countries I think inform a lot of those peoples’ activities and understanding of what’s going on. So I think that could have a much broader influence and I think the AFL is in a lot better position than it was, say, 15 – 20 years ago in its relation to those workers, at least formerly. So I think that’s going to be a source of renewal for the labor movement. The workers centers that are organizing those folks and things like Jobs with Justice, community-labor alliances, you know it varies from town to town and place to place but I think those are all areas where renewal of the labor movement will come. And the reform caucuses in different unions – I’m in TDU – Teamsters for a Democratic Union – and that’s probably the biggest and it’s had its ups and downs but those kinds of things are popping up. So I think the potential is there and the need is there and we just got to try to make it happen.

Heart-to-Heart Letter Writing to Prisoners – October 22



WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2014 at 6:00pm




This Wednesday, October 22 the local prisoner justice organization Incarcerated Flavors is having its second letter writing to prisoners event, with many more in the works. October 22 was chosen as a date for this event as this is the very same day that two young men, Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, in 1966 formed the Black Panther Party in Oakland, CA. Because of the Black Panthers’ political activism, their vision for a more just world, and their community survival programs such as the Free Breakfast for Children Program, Free Busing to Prisons Program, and Free Medical Clinics to name just a few, the organization was virtually destroyed by the FBI and multiple police forces in a covert program later reveled to the public as COINTELPRO. Multiple Panthers were targeted for their beliefs and sent to prison. Many still sit in prison cells today for crimes they did not commit. Although the US government consistently denies having political prisoners, these Panthers are included in a list of hundreds of political prisoners in the US.

Although the prison system affects political dissidents like the Panthers, mass incarceration affects all of us. Let us create a caring community to stand up for justice and heal. Join us as we share stories, share food and write letters to friends, family members and political prisoners.


I have been locked by the lawless.

Handcuffed by the haters.

Gagged by the greedy.

And, if i know anything at all,

it’s that a wall is just a wall

and nothing more at all.

It can be broken down.

-Assata Shakur


Brought to you by Incarcerated Flavors.

Contact: ifclub.utica@gmail.com, 240-1888

Running Down the Walls! – Fundraiser for Political Prisoners & Local Community Group Incarcerated Flavors – October 19



WHAT: Running Down the Walls – 5k Run/Walk/Jog/Bike/Skate
WHEN: 1:00pm, Sunday, October 19th
WHERE: Proctor Park– Culver Ave/Rutger St. in Utica, NY.
COST: $10 donation (people will not be turned away for lack of funds)

Countless political prisoners languish in prison cells around the world. The US is no exception – 100s of political prisoners, many of them who were targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program during the Civil Rights and New Left movements of the 1960s-70s, are locked up in prisons across the US. Thankfully, organizations exist to raise awareness of these political prisoners and support them. One such group is the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC).

Every year, prisoners and supporters of political prisoners organize solidarity events with a 5km road race called Running Down the Walls. Last year, runs were held in in Albuquerque (NM), Arcata (CA), Ashland (OR), Bellefonte (PA), Boston (MA), Denver (CO), Elmore (AL), Inez (KY), Los Angeles (CA), Marion (IL), New York (NY), USP Navosta (TX), Pelican Bay (CA), Phoenix (AZ), Tucson (AZ), and Toronto, Ontario. This year we hope to expand the amount of runs in prisons and other cities, as well as increase the amount of funds raised for community projects. This is the very first time that Utica will have this event.

This year’s run in Utica is taking place later than other runs but it is still in the spirit of solidarity and conjunction with runs that took place in cities and prison yards across the country.

Over $70,000 has been raised over the years by ABC, both through Running Down the Walls and other events. Local activists will split the raised funds from this event with the local prisoner justice organization Incarcerated Flavors which is organizing the event.


* Run/walk/bike/roll in the 5k – We need participants who can run/walk/bike/roll the 5k and are able to collect financial pledges to offer as donations to the run.

* Volunteer for the run – We need people who are willing to staff a registration/literature table, hand out water, and help chalk the route beforehand.

* Donate to the run/sponsor a participant – If you are not able to attend, but want to support this fundraising effort, please email maslauskas84@gmail.com and someone will meet you to pick up your donation.

If you have any questions, please contact maslauskas84@gmail.com or 315 732 2382. See you at the race!

For more information on ABC, Jericho Movement (another political prisoner support group) or Incarcerated Flavors, please check out:




Until the Rulers Obey: Voices From Latin American Social Movements – October 3



Until the Rulers Obey: Voices from Latin American Social Movements

A book talk by editors Clifton Ross and Marcy Rein of the new book Until the Rulers Obey.

Where: Mohawk Valley Freedom School (500 Plant Street in Utica at Cornerstone Community Church)
When: Friday. October 3 at 7:00pm

Sponsored by the Mohawk Valley Freedom School, CNY Citizen Action, and others.

Ross and Rein will give an overview of social movements in Latin America – what they are, their history and current struggles – and dialogue with the audience on the lessons these movements have to offer to people here in the U.S. engaged in working for a better world.

Here is a bit of information about the book itself:

Until the Rulers Obey: Voices From Latin American Social Movements includes interviews with more than 70 organizers, activists and scholars from 15 countries, Mexico to Argentina. The movements they’re part of helped bring new governments to power after decades of austerity and dictatorship. They’ve mobilized on a broad range of issues, fighting against mines and agribusiness and for housing and land; for rights as women, workers, LGBT and indigenous people; for the survival of their communities and our planet. Their organizing runs the gamut of nonviolent social change strategies, from land occupation to electoral participation to creating alternative communities.

Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein say, “This is the book we’ve been waiting for. Anyone interested in the explosion of social movements in Latin America—and the complex interplay between those forces and the ‘Pink Tide’ governments—should inhale this book immediately.”

Until the Rulers Obey is a profoundly necessary book. Little has been published about Latin America in the way of an overview from 1989 to the present, even less in the voices of the protagonists themselves. The great experiments of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s failed, but new and in many cases less dogmatic approaches to social justice have taken root in a number of countries south of the border. This book explores those efforts, often in the words of the change-makers themselves. Clifton Ross and Marcy Rein have done us a great service. Read this book for access to what the U.S. corporate media still doesn’t want us to know.”
—Margaret Randall, author of Sandino’s Daughters Revisited, When I Look Into the Mirror and See You, and Che on My Mind
For more information, please call 732-2382 or email maslauskas84@gmail.com

Observer Dispatch Covers the Mohawk Valley Freedom School!


Mohawk Valley Freedom School Promotes Social Activism


Brendan Dunn introduces the class to the syllabus as The Mohawk Valley Freedom School holds its first class Thursday evening at the Plymouth Bethesda United Church of Christ, Mar. 6, 2014, in Utica, N.Y. The school focuses on social and economic justice. (Photo by Mark DiOrio / Observer Dispatch)

Used to affect social change during the Civil Rights Movement, freedom schools are back with a renewed focus on intergenerational social activism.

And the Mohawk Valley Freedom School already is starting the discussion.

“It’s open to everyone,” said Brendan Dunn, school educator and founding member. “We really want to have a serious discussion about economic inequality, politics, about racism, about all of these things that affect us.”

Spawning out of the Occupy Utica movement, the school, operating at Cornerstone Community Church in Utica, is offering a three-month program geared toward high school students called “Social Movements, Social Change.”

The goal is to identify the needs of the community and empower students to influence change, Dunn said.

“That’s one thing that we see as really key to a successful freedom school is having students have a very direct say in their education and be part of the process of shaping their education.”

The group next will offer a summer program, and is discussing the possibility of opening a private school accessible to low-income students in grades kindergarten through 12th, Dunn said.

Freedom schools came out of the Civil Rights Movement in 1964 in Mississippi, providing summer education that was culturally and politically relevant to black students, and encouraging them to become active in the movement, he said.

In 2013 there were 181 sites nationwide, including six in New York, to offer a six-week summer program through community agencies, schools and the Children’s Defense Fund, a nonprofit child advocacy agency.

Each program is different based on the needs of the community.

The Chicago Freedom School, which started in 2007, focuses on creating new generations of independent, critical-thinking young people, said school Coordinator of Youth Programs Tony Alvarado-Rivera.

“(Throughout) history, young people have always been at the forefront of movement building and social justice,” he said.

Thomas R. Proctor High School senior Marquis Palmer, 17, has been instrumental in the formation of the school and is taking the first class.

Palmer, who was part of a student rally to protest Utica school cuts in 2012, said it’s his duty to help his community find solutions when problems arise.

“I really thought this was my way to help the progression of Utica, of the community,” he said.

Follow @OD_Clukey on Twitter or call her at 792-4956.
Read more: http://www.uticaod.com/article/20140306/News/140309542#ixzz2vOZjZilx

* The school is at Cornerstone Community Church, 500 Plant St., in Utica.

* It’s a community-lead school dedicated to social justice and social change.

* The school has after-school and summer programs and is free to the community. Classes are listed on its website (mvfreedomschool.wordpress.com).

* Those starting the school include educator Brendan Dunn; Thomas R. Proctor High School student Marquis Palmer; and Susan Johnston, Mohawk Valley Community College, College Science Technology Entry Program project assistant.

* Activists from Occupy Utica, local educators and high school students also are involved with the program.

* To get involved as a volunteer, or for information call 732-2382 or email mvfreedomschool@gmail.com.

Freedom schools

* The Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964 was organized by leading Civil Rights organizations to engage black students and community volunteers in a variety of strategic activities to ensure basic citizenship rights for all Mississippians.

* The freedom schools provided reading instruction; humanities curriculum emphasizing English, foreign language, art and creative writing; and a general mathematics and science curriculum.

* The schools were structured to motivate young people to become critically engaged in their communities and to help them identify and design authentic solutions to local problems.

* The movement was reborn in 1992 with leader Marian Write Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund’s Black Community Crusade for Children program. It included an increased focus on literacy, parent involvement, conflict resolution and social action.

* In 2013, there were 181 sites nationwide, six in New York, to offer a six-week summer freedom school program through community agencies, schools and the Children’s Defense Fund, a nonprofit child advocacy agency.