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Muste Notes Spring 2017Muste Notes
Vol. 24, No. 1 — Spring 2017

Friends: We face overwhelming challenges...
Sharing Space, Building Power
Fighting Back Against Police Profiling
Challenging Racism in School
¡Berta Vive!
Michael Ratner, 1943-2016

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March 3, 2017

Dear Friends,

I’ll be honest: the groups we support will face overwhelming challenges in the coming months and years. These challenges require more energy, more dedication, and more resources than we have available. It’s no longer enough to ask you just to sustain the work. Each of us needs to step it up to the next level.

We have just come out of a jam-packed grantmaking year. We gave away over $110,000 in Social Justice Fund grants in 2016—more than triple the previous year’s total! Your contributions have gone to support organizing by students and by people who are homeless, education about alternatives tomilitary service, mobilization for racial justice, and many other inspiring projects.

If you donated to the Muste Institute recently, you are a co-conspirator in this great work. Thank you!We really must do more. We have a new round of grants coming up. Will you help us meet the need by making a generous contribution today?

In gratitude,

Heidi Boghosian
Executive Director

Sharing Space, Building Power

What does the Muste shared space mean to you in these challenging times? We asked the groups that share our social justice hub, and these were some of their answers:

War Resisters League honored Iraqi feminist and organizer Jannat Alghezzi at its 2016 Peace Award celebration in the Muste Institute’s shared space, with performance by musical guests Alsarah and Sonny Singh. (Photo: Ed Hedemann.)

War Resisters League: “As we settle into our new home and face the challenges brought on by a despotic administration, we take the vow to love and protect each other as seriously as ever. It’s these spaces, which link economic justice with gender justice, militarism at home with imperialism abroad, and bring neighbors together as comrades, that will create the world we know is possible. In the next year we will continue to nourish resistance, create sanctuary where there is danger, and stand together. We hope you’ll join us!”

NYSYLC member Melissa Garcia Velez dances at an “Undocu Resistance Open Mic” event organized by NYSYLC at the Muste shared space in January. (Photo: NYSYLC.)

New York State Youth Leadership Council: “The new shared space is a place for NYSYLC members to organize ourselves: unafraid and unapologetic. We have also been able to meet and get to know our neighbors and their work, building our intersectional movements stronger. We host monthly general meetings, know your rights workshops, trainings on speaking to media, and scholarship information and legal clinics here. Our members know that coming to our office means coming to a safe space. The NYSYLC was founded in 2007 by undocumented youth who decided to step out of the shadows and advocate for our community, our families, and ourselves. We know first hand what the roadblocks are. Although our leadership, staff and members are all directly impacted by an unjust immigration system, we made a commitment to each other to keep the NYSYLC open regardless of uncertainty and threats in the political moment. We will not step back—instead, we will continue to organize within the power of our youth. Support us!”

Members of Met Council on Housing take part in the NYC Women’s March on January 21, 2017. (Photo: Met Council on Housing.)

Metropolitan Council on Housing: “Met Council is dedicated to fighting for safe, decent, and affordable housing for all New York City tenants. Our work intersects with issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Loss of jobs, deportation of family members, loss of rights all affect something as basic and universal as housing. Your home is where you should feel safe. Being able to share a space with other organizations that fight for social justice inspires us to work and fight harder. The accessibility that our shared space provides makes it easy to interact with other organizations and create collaborative projects. If you live in New York, we invite you to become a member of Met Council, participate in our events, show up to actions, and stand up for tenant rights. We have so much power in numbers.”

Breakout groups discuss strategies for defending tenant rights at a Met Council on Housing member meeting in February. (Photo: Met Council on Housing.)

New York State United Teachers: “NYSUT’s NYC Organizing Project focuses on organizing the unorganized: helping private sector education workers form unions to improve their wages, benefits, working conditions, and job security. Workers with unions make more money, have better benefits, and enjoy better job security than workers without unions. That ‘union difference’ is statistically significant across all job titles and in all industries and is even more profound for women and people of color. Unions offer workers and other ordinary people an important opportunity to have a voice in any political moment. It’s hard to think of a time in recent history when such a voice was so needed. We are in the middle of several challenging campaigns, so if you want to support workers’ efforts to organize, send your contact info to organize[at]nysutmail.org and write ‘NYCORG Solidarity’ in the subject line.”

More news from the hub: The Queer Workers Project held its first Organizer Training in January, developing strategies to protect workers from discrimination and workplace bullying. To share skills and promote digital security best practices, QUILTBAG++ held a “Practical Workshop in Digital Privacy for Queer and Trans people” in February; a similar “crypto-party” is being facilitated for our shared space partners by Palante Technology Cooperative. The National Lawyers Guild-NYC held a day-long Know-Your-Rights training, and radical attorneys from the Black Movement Law Project also held meetings at our community space. In December, the Muste Institute hosted a public event with activist speaker and retired US Army Colonel Ann Wright, reporting back on the Women’s Boat to Gaza and the Water Protectors Movement at Standing Rock.

Fighting Back Against Police Profiling

On August 2, 2016, Picture the Homeless members rallied to mark the deadline for the NY Police Department to respond to a landmark legal action for violating the Community Safety Act’s ban on homeless profiling. A Social Justice Fund grant to Picture the Homeless in 2016 supported the Campaign to End Unnecessary Custodial Arrests and Police Profiling of Homeless People. (Photo: Picture the Homeless.)

Challenging Racism in School

Parents and students participate in a “Nuestras Escuelas” (Our Schools) workshop to develop strategies to challenge racial disparities and structural racism at public schools in Asheville, North Carolina. “For people like my mother and myself who don’t speak English, it is very hard to have our voice heard at school and to express our concerns and ideas,” said Keyla, a high school student. The Nuestras Escuelas program, organized by the Center for Participatory Change and Nuestro Centro and backed by a Muste grant, means “we have been able to express ourselves, participate, and be leaders in this work against discrimination...our work is stronger, more informed, and will be more successful.” (Photo: Center for Participatory Change)

¡Berta Vive!

Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, founder of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), was shot to death at her home on March 3, 2016. Gustavo Castro, founder of the Chiapas-based organization Otros Mundos, was visiting Berta and was wounded in the same attack. The Muste Institute responded to Berta’s murder with an emergency grant to Other Worlds for COPINH. Despite constant threats and violence, COPINH’s members and leaders are honoring Berta’s legacy by continuing to defend their territory and its ecosystem, and they need our continued support. In the words of Berta’s son, Salvador: “They wanted to silence her with bullets, but she is a seed, a seed that is reborn in each of us, in her people who continue the path of resistance.” (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize.)

Michael Ratner, 1943-2016

Attorney, author and activist Michael Ratner passed away on May 11, 2016. For more than four decades he worked for human rights, linking litigation with political action to challenge government and corporate abuses and push back against injustice. From defending prisoners involved in the 1971 Attica uprising to confronting indefinite detention at Guantanamo, Michael fought for vulnerable populations. A longtime Muste Institute supporter, Michael helped found the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, a Muste-sponsored project that works to hold officials from all over the world accountable for acts of genocide, torture, deportation, and oppression. Since 2004 Michael was co-host, with Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith, of the weekly radio show “Law and Disorder,” which airs on WBAI and nearly 100 public radio stations across the nation. (Photo: Center for Constitutional Rights)