In April and May, the executive committee of our chapter sponsored two leadership summits, inviting board members, committee leaders and longtime members to discuss the state of the chapter as it relates to the current political climate and the movements we work in. Our discussions began with an assessment of key trends that should both guide and ground our political work over the next period.
1. Extreme Rise in Wealth Inequality: The top 1 percent of America’s income earners have more than doubled their share of the nation’s income since the middle of the 20th century. In the early 21st century, the economic boom driven by the real estate bubble more than tripled top 400 average incomes before the 2008 economic collapse. Excerpted from: http://inequality.org/income-inequality/#sthash.sB1jywse.dpuf
2. Racist Warfare and Repression: In order to contain oppressed communities and dissenters within the U.S. and its other colonial possessions, the United States settler‐colonial government has built the most full‐spectrum network of repressive enforcement structures in human history. They include the Police, Sheriff’s, Rangers, Customs, FBI, Homeland Security (including INS), CIA, Secret Service, prison guards, as well as the numerous private security and other protective services. It has also created the largest and most invasive surveillance system in human history. This system includes everything from satellites, police, FBI, and DHS operated surveillance drones, and electronic tracking and monitoring via our cellphones, computers, tablets, email, Facebook, Twitter, and chip‐filled passports, driver’s licenses, and identification cards. These forces of occupation and repression have been strategically deployed over the last 70 years to wage a grand strategy of “domestic” pacification to sustain the colonial occupation of North America via a never ending series of containment campaigns that amount to nothing less than a “perpetual war”. This “perpetual war” has been known by many names over the last seven decades such as the “Cold War”, COINTELPRO”, the” War on Drugs”, the “War on Gangs”, the “War on Crime”, and most recently, the “War on Terrorism”, and has largely targeted people of color and dissenters. Excerpted from: http://www.operationghettostorm.org/uploads/1/9/1/1/19110795/new_all_14_11_04.pdf
3. Dramatic Expansion of the American Empire During the Obama Presidency (brief inventory, not exhaustive):
- The toppling and lynching of Qaddafi in Libya
- The re-establishment of the military dictatorship in Egypt after uprisings
- The division of Sudan
- The sending of troops to Cameroon, Uganda, the Seychelles, Nigeria and other parts of Africa
- The establishment of new bases all throughout Africa
- Drone warfare/targeted killings across both Africa and Asia
- Dramatic expansion of U.S. trade with Africa
- The proxy war in Syria, of which the US is a central part
- The bombing of Iraq and the expansion of ISIS
- Multiple, deadly invasions of Palestine by U.S.-backed Israel
- The political neutralization and economic opening of Iran through the nuclear agreement
- The Asia Pacific Pivot, the Trans Pacific Partnership
c. The Caribbean and Latin America
- The American backing of the Martelly dictatorship in Haiti and U.S./U.N. occupation of the country under the guise of post-earthquake development
- The expansion of state and paramilitary violence in Mexico resulting largely from the American “War on Drugs”
- U.S. Backed Coup in Honduras and assassinations of activists
- U.S. Backed Coup in Brazil
- Destabilization of Maduro government in Venezuela, Morales government in Bolivia, and Correa government in Ecuador, etc.
- The neutralization and economic opening of Cuba
4. The State of the Planet is in Peril: Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are at a record high, and Earth is facing a 40 percent shortfall in water supplies by 2030. We continue to decimate 18 million acres of forest land and dump 19.4 billion pounds of plastic into the ocean each year. Animal populations are in dramatic decline, largely as a result of human activity. In sum, the habitats that we exploit in order to survive will soon have nothing left to give.
After collectively identifying these devastating political trends, we conducted an internal assessment of the chapter. We came to the conclusion that, regardless of who wins the upcoming election, the need for radical lawyers to support and defend movements demanding justice will increase dramatically in the short term. Specifically, this means that the demands on our organization, our resources and our time will increase. Thus, we must prepare ourselves to meet these demands.
Our board and leadership is undergoing plans to begin strengthening the organization. These plans include:
1. Revitalizing and expanding the sustainer network: Our objective is to develop more sustainers, while simultaneously building new financial leaders for the chapter.
2. Expanding the Membership: In addition to building financial leadership, we also need to develop new political leadership. We seek to broaden our legal worker and activist membership, and to engage more deeply and effectively with racial justice, gender justice, and anti-imperialist movements that share our values and goals.
3. Board Engagement with Committees: Our committees are the heart of our organization. They are the primary location of our political work, and the board needs to do a better job of supporting them. Over the next period, the board will prioritize engaging with each committee in order to determine what steps the board needs to take to better support every single committee in our chapter.
We invite you to join us as we begin this new chapter in our organization’s work in advancing justice. Please contact me if you would like to get involved.
In Strength and Solidarity,