|Past issues of Muste Notes
Thank you for your outpouring of support in response to my recent letter. We are grateful for your continued commitment to nonviolent resistance in these difficult times.
We’re proud to welcome three new board members to the Muste Institute. Johanna Fernandez is a professor of history, political economy, and social movements. She founded the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home and is working on a book about the Young Lords. Ynestra King is a longtime feminist anti-militarist activist, teacher, writer, and renowned ecofeminist theorist. Diane Tosh, the Institute’s new vice chair, is a longtime anti-war and social justice activist who served as acting executive director of the Institute in 2002-2003. All three began serving on the board in December. In February we bid goodbye and good luck to outgoing vice chair Brian Drolet, with gratitude for his seven years of service to the Muste board.
We are in the midst of a new grant cycle, and we received a record number of proposals—nearly 150! There is a lot of great organizing going on. With your help, we’re working hard to direct resources from the grassroots to inspired nonviolent action projects.
Farmworkers March for Milk with Dignity
On June 17, several hundred farmworkers and supporters marched 13 miles from the State House in Montpelier, Vermont to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury. Their demand? That the ice cream company make good on its two-year-old promise to implement the Milk with Dignity Program and commit to sourcing its milk from farms that uphold the human rights of workers. The CEO of Ben & Jerry’s greeted the marchers and promised the company was “ready to go” with the program. Marchers vowed to keep up the pressure until Ben & Jerry’s signs an agreement. Migrant Justice/Justicia Migrante modeled its Milk with Dignity program on the Fair Food campaign launched by the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which sent its founder, Lucas Benitez, to Vermont for the march. Later that evening, Border Patrol agents arrested local farmworker leaders Esau and Yesenia, pictured here during the march. Migrant Justice organized protests on June 19 to demand their release from detention. It was at least the third time in the past few months that Migrant Justice leaders were targeted for immigration arrests. The Muste Institute supported the Milk with Dignity campaign with a $2,500 grant last December. (Photo: Migrant Justice.)
Kansas City Cold
Fast-food worker and movement leader Terrence Wise crafted his personal story during his time with the Kansas City Speakers Corp, a 24-week class funded by the Muste Institute that trained low-wage workers in story-telling and argument methods.
Right now it is really, really, cold. It is a little after 10 o’clock and our purple Dodge minivan is parked for the night, right out in front of my job, Burger King. I can see the marquee still lit up, “24 hours–Drive Thru Now Open.” I look out the window; it’s dark. I can feel how cold it is outside just by touching the glass. Right next to me in the passenger seat is my fiancé, Myosha (I call her “Moe”). I can tell she’s cold and it’s bothering me. In the very back, I can see possessions stacked high - all of our clothes and anything we can carry with us. And in the row behind us, our 3 girls are resting, as comfortable as they can.
I angle myself in the driver’s seat, searching for comfort where it doesn’t exist. I let Moe put her feet underneath my coat. Her feet are strikingly cold and it sends a chill through my body. She’s shaking, trembling, and I can tell by her face that she’s really uncomfortable, really.
I haven’t eaten all day but this cold salami sandwich with this cold mayo, is not something I can stomach. I’m depressed. I’m irritated. I feel no hope right now. I can’t believe my family is homeless.
I wonder how Moe feels as a mother. I know she feels like she has failed, the same as I feel. I rest my head back and listen, eyes closed. I hear my oldest, DeZiana, trying to hold back her tears, whimpering. She hates the cold, she’s thin like me. What am I supposed to do? Say it’s gonna be okay, it’s gonna warm up?
I hear wheezing. I hear heavy breathing. Man, the cold weather takes a toll when you’re asthmatic, like my daughter DeJanee. Right now she’s just struggling to do the simple task of breathing.
The baby, DeAndrea, doesn’t understand. I know she’s uncomfortable, confused, scared, it’s dark, it’s cold. This has got to be a living nightmare for her. Panic sets in as I hear her crying. BE QUIET!!—of course, I can’t say that and I can’t make her stop.
This has got to be the darkest hour for my family. Who knew four weeks ago, we would be here. That is when Burger King decided to cut my hours. I told them the reduction would lead to our eviction but they did it anyway. We are just the cost of doing business and when corporate says labor is “too high” you cut.
You may think I’m a bad father. You might suspect I have a drug problem or that we are lazy parents. But we aren’t. We are hardworking Americans whose wages are so low and our jobs so unstable, one mishap leads us here. When we fight for living wages and voices on our jobs, it’s about much more than dollars and cents. We are fighting for our humanity and we are demanding the honor and respect due to all working people.
Camping Out for Tenant Rights
Ava Farkas, executive director of Met Council on Housing, speaks at a “Cuomoville” encampment in June, protesting high rents in New York City and demanding state support for housing justice. Met Council used the Muste shared space to make creative signs for the rally and overnight campout in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office. (Photo: Kidus Girma)
Free at Last!
Puerto Rican former political prisoner Oscar López Rivera (right) reaches for a hand squeeze with Muste Board member and Free Oscar movement leader Matt Meyer in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico on May 17. It was Oscar’s first day of freedom after close to 36 years behind bars. The Muste Institute supported a key solidarity demonstration in 2015 demanding the release of the jailed activist. A groundswell of support led President Obama to grant Oscar clemency just before leaving office. Since his release, the 74-year-old activist has traveled around Puerto Rico and the United States. He has testified at the United Nations, calling for a decolonization process that would meet the economic and political needs of all Puerto Rican people. Often called “the Mandela of the Americas,” Oscar is a beloved and unifying force across the island. (Photo courtesy of Matt Meyer)
Nat Hentoff, 1925-2017
Nat Hentoff, a pacifist, historian, free speech advocate, writer, and music critic, died on January 7, 2017—a month before the 50-year anniversary of A.J. Muste’s death. Hentoff wrote a biography of A.J. Muste, edited a volume of his essays, and served on the Muste Institute’s advisory committee. You can honor his memory—and Muste’s—by reading Peace Agitator and The Essays of A.J. Muste. Use the back page order form and for only $20 we’ll send you both books plus five Essay Series pamphlets of your choosing.
Where Your Money Goes – Year Ending June 30, 2016
Complete financial statements will be posted here.
2016 Grants – What You Helped Support
Social Justice Fund — 32 grants ($74,300) in the U.S. and beyond for organizing, mobilizing, and educating in favor of immigrant rights, racial justice, worker empowerment, health care access, educational rights, nonviolent movement building, transnational solidarity, land and housing rights, and justice for Palestine; and in opposition to war and militarism, criminalization and mass incarceration, the death penalty, nuclear weapons, and economic injustice.(Read more about our Social Justice Fund grants in 2016 and 2015.)
Shared space solidarity grants — $30,570 to tenant groups in the Muste shared space for undocumented youth organizing, media justice, anti-war and antimilitarism education, labor solidarity, tenant advocacy, and related work.
Sponsored and endowment grants — $204,852 in support for 13 projects in the U.S. and beyond promoting feminism, selfdetermination, human rights, international justice, and nonviolent resolution of conflicts; opposing war, militarism, imperialism, occupation, and displacement; and educating about climate change, nuclear power, and the environment. Read more about our sponsored projects here.)