Breakouts: Facing our Challenges in Dangerous Times


The following breakouts will be run during the afternoon session of the Facing our Challenges in Dangerous Times conference, December 3, 2022.

Jean-Luc Pierite

Building Political Power with the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda

For the past two legislative sessions, Indigenous leaders, organizations, tribal governments, and non-Indigenous community based organizations worked in coalition towards the passage of the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda (MILA). Within each session, the coalition filed five common sense bills focused on solutions for racial, economic, and social justice in regards to Indigenous peoples. Furthermore, the intersectionality of climate justice and entwined Black liberation were central to those efforts.

Despite this important work, the state legislature continues to kick the can down the road and foster debate on issues of little to no controversy. This is not only particular to Indigenous issues, but is indicative of the broader push for progressive policies in Massachusetts. In this session, Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants will build upon insights from advocacy for MILA, strategize for passing legislation, and develop action steps for strengthening the coalition.

Convener: Jean-Luc Pierite, Tunica-Biloxi tribe of Louisiana; president, North American Indian Center of Boston.  Presenters: Mahtowin Munro, United American Indians of New England; Raquel Halsey, North American Indian Center of Boston

Paul Garver

Today’s Critical Labor Struggles

An update/reflection on several of the most recent and imminent labor struggles relevant to Massachusetts activists:
Starbucks organizing; Amazon warehouse organizing; the successful MTA educator’s strikes in Malden and Haverhill; Organizing grad student unions on campuses; The current state of railroad workers and the invocation of the Railway Labor Act in Congress; UPS and the Teamsters in 2023
Attendees will be invited to share their own experiences.

Convener: Paul Garver, Boston Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)

Mallory HanoraEnding Incarceration of Women and Girls in MA

Families for Justice as Healing is currently leading a campaign to stop the state’s plan to build a $50 million women’s prison. We’re mobilizing people all across the state to work in solidarity with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. We are organizing to bring women home from the oldest women’s prison in the United States, MCI-Framingham, so we can close it forever without rebuilding or replacing it.  We will cover the basics about incarceration in MA, our Reimagining Communities work on the ground so we can create healthy thriving communities, and how we can work together shift spending and investment into community-led solutions instead of more policing and prisons.

We’ll connect the ways the criminal legal system upholds the racism, sexism, and classism that’s rampant in MA. We’ll share the history and context for organizing led by directly affected women. And we’ll share concrete, immediate ways to plug into our organizing to stop the new women’s prison and decarcerate MCI-Framingham. We’ll also share how people can support the transformative Reimagining Communities work led by directly affected women who building community infrastructure and creating new ways to address and heal from harm. We will also take action together in the group.

Convener: Mallory Hanora, executive director, Families for Justice as Healing

Brian GarveyYouth Organizing

Convener: Brian Garvey, assistant director, Massachusetts Peace Action

Susan SeigelThe Conservative Right’s Influence on Public Education in the United States

This workshop is designed for all individuals, including educators, parents and those who support the notion that public education is key for sustaining a progressive, democratic society.  

Through a facilitated discussion participants will share their perspectives of issues in today’s public (K-12) education, including curricula topics, safety concerns, and freedom and agency for teaching and learning.

Expected outcomes: Enhanced recognition of public education issues and ways for potential involvement and advocacy on local schooling policy and practice .

Convener: Susan Seigel, Ed.D., Communications Coordinator, PDA Massachusetts 

Understanding How to do Effective Electoral Work in Disenfranchised Communities

Based on my electoral work as part of an alliance of community and labor groups, I will describe the challenges we face in engaging and empowering people and communities to participate in an electoral system which historically has not delivered for them. Our strategies include short term and long term goals. I will speak about the ways in which supporters and allies can engage in this work and address potential pitfalls as we move forward.

Expected outcomes: Sharing progressive strategies for change, increasing alliances, enhancing cooperation among progressive activists and groups to enhance our effectiveness in winning electoral power.

Convener: Jordan Berg Powers, executive director, Mass Alliance

The Movement to Get Money out of Politics

Nearly every issue you care about, whether it be healthcare, reproductive rights, the environment, prisons, policing, war, and more, is affected by our broken political system. Dark money, superPACs, and special interests have a stranglehold on Congress, and when our elected officials spend up to 70% of their time raising money, they are no longer able to do the work of the people. It does not have to be this way forever, and there are campaigns around the country working together to ensure that we get money out of politics to end corruption and ensure free and fair elections. Come learn about the powers that be that are corrupting our government, how to fix it, and how you can take action in Massachusetts and beyond by joining the movement to get money out of politics. 

Action Steps / Ongoing Organizing work: 

The Massachusetts State Legislature is planning to create a new Citizens Commission in 2023. Wolf-pac is looking for candidates who share their values to join the commission to study the issue of money in politics.

Convener: Bo Ye, Wolf-Pac

Building a movement to reform the Massachusetts Democratic Party

For better or worse, we live in a two party political system. In Massachusetts, the Democratic Party effectively controls state politics. And, the state party is largely controlled by corporate, neo-liberal elites. We saw this first hand in the undemocratic rules that governed our state convention, the smearing of a progressive candidate for Congress by Party officials, and the party’s governance structure that is also undemocratic.

Our break-out will focus on ways to democratize the party, hold its candidates accountable to its platform and open up the party to more candidates. This is a national movement and has shown success in Nevada, West Virginia and elsewhere. Let’s explore, together, how we can do it here.

Convener: Russell Freedman, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)

Unarmed Response to Crisis: Community-based Emergency Response Teams

Most people are not aware of the fact that the majority of 911 calls are not about violent crimes.  They mainly concern people who are in a social crisis.  This includes people having a mental health crisis, or have been reported as trespassing, or are in a moment of conflict.  When police respond to these calls, the result is often an arrest, incarceration and, too often, an act of police violence. 

In a search for better outcomes and greater community health and safety almost 100 cities across the country have committed to creating alternative Community-based Emergency Response Teams (CERTs).   This movement has taken hold in Massachusetts with new programs in Amherst, Cambridge, and Northampton.   Additional cities have now initiated the process.  

This breakout session is for people who want to learn how different CERTs operate, and what it takes to create a program in their city or town.

Expected outcomes: Provide information on Massachusetts and nation-wide CERT initiatives; Identify people interested in working to launch new CERT-support group in their city; Identify people interested in working on the state-wide CERT-support group initiated by ORMA and Cape Cod DSA

Convener/ Presenters: Henry H. Wortis, Our Revolution Massachusetts; Jacqui DiCicco, Cape Cod DSA; Earl Miller,  Director, Amherst Community Responders for Equity, Safety, and Service (CRESS)

Savina MartinWelcome to the Massachusetts Poor Peoples Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

 Find out how the Mass. PPC is uniting people across Massachusetts to hook up with Reverend Barber’s National Poor Peoples campaign to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality of religious nationalism. Find out how you can be part of this exciting “fusion” movement to end poverty and bring our country to its senses. Special focus now is on supporting efforts in Georgia to get poor people to the polls for the special election on December 6.

Expected outcomes: This workshop will serve as an introduction to the vision, goals, strategy, and moral agenda of the National Poor Peoples Campaign and the work here of its Massachusetts chapter. Attendees will learn how to bring their commitments and skills to this exciting national mobilization and join he PPC community here in Massachusetts

Convener: Rev. Savina Martin is a tri-chair of the Mass. Poor Peoples Campaign and is currently a doctoral candidate at the Boston University School of Theology. 

Important Climate Fights in Our Backyard: Why Preserving Local Trees and Forests Matters

Our Revolution’s members have identified the Climate Crisis as a primary issue for organizational focus. Through a series of online legislative lobbying campaigns and forums, we learned that deforestation, whether clearcutting hundreds of acres of trees in state and private forests or cutting dozens of local trees in municipalities, and the associated worsening of the climate crisis, inspired members and others to action in significant ways.

In response, we developed a new, statewide network of forest and tree-canopy protection activists: the Trees-as-a-Public-Good Network. It brings together the interests of urban, suburban, and rural communities in an effort to confront corporate, state, and municipal power.

The local and regional campaigns this Network supports demonstrates the need to understand the climate crisis as both a massive world-scale problem and as a hyper-local problem, requiring both global and neighborhood responses. We believe this Network can be an important vehicle for change at both levels. We think it is also an important model for building political power on a statewide level, by linking local activists and organizations across the state in a mutually supportive network.

The workshop will outline our experience and why we believe it is applicable to other issues. We plan to discuss the challenges of motivating action on issues that the broad public often sees as so massive that it is unassailable and yet experiences as so local that it is devastating.

Expected outcomes: Clarify for participants the importance of making trees part of EVERY climate discussion, and climate part of every tree discussion.  Identify other local struggles that could benefit from a networking model; Initiate a discussion of how to mobilize larger numbers of people in climate action; Recruitment of volunteers for ongoing work to change state legislation to protect trees (both urban canopy and forests)

Convener: Michael Gilbreath, Our Revolution Massachusetts.  Presenters: Melissa Brown, Robin Bergman, Glen Ayers, all of the Trees as a Public Good Network