Where do We Go from Here? Breakout Sessions

The following Breakout Sessions will be held at the Where do We Go from Here? Preparing our Movements for the Next Four Years conference, December 5-6, 2020, by Zoom.

Breakout Session #1 – 11:05 am to 12:05 pm

BreakoutWhat’s the Matter with Massachusetts?

A survey of the policy landscape in Massachusetts will belie our state’s liberal reputation. We have some of the highest inequality in the country, a racially biased criminal-legal system, voter protections that pale in comparison to neighboring states, and an overreliance on fossil fuels. What explains this contrast between reputation and reality, and what can we do in the next legislative session to fix it?

Convener: Jonathan Cohn

Presenters: Dalida Rocha, SEIU 32BJ; Gina Christo, Rivera Consults; Anabel Santiago, MA COVID Response Alliance.

Raytheon: Bringing the war on Yemen home to Massachusetts

Members of the Raytheon Antiwar Campaign will show the group’s official slide show which describes U.S. support for the Saudi war on Yemen and the extensive connections that Massachusetts based Raytheon Technologies has to this “most serious humanitarian crisis in the world” now taking place in that country. Slides followed by questions and open discussion.

Presenters: Alice Pote and Brian Garvey

Promoting Nuclear Disarmament

The world’s nuclear powers continue to maintain obscene and dangerous levels of nuclear weapons. The US is proposing a $2 trillion dollar nuclear weapons upgrade program over thenext 30 years. This is deeply destabilizing, and enormously expensive. Panelists will describe ongoing campaigns to rein in the continuing nuclear arms race.

Conveners: Jerald Ross and Susan Mirsky

Presenters: Elaine Scarry and Steve  Gallant– No First Use; Kea van der Ziel – Back from the Brink; Timmon Wallis – Nuclear Ban Treaty; Joseph Gerson – Nuclear Treaties

Building Solidarity with People’s Struggles for Democracy and Progress in Latin America and the Caribbean

Inspired by the profound victory of the Bolivian People, the peoples of Venezuela (Dec.), Ecuador (Feb) , Peru (Apr), and later in the year Nicaragua, Paraguay and Honduras will have electoral opportunities to resume forward progress . In 2022, Brazil and Columbia will be contested. The Biden administration has given every indication that it will continue the regime change policies of the Trump regime.

What role can the peace and  solidarity movement play in restraining the interventionist policies of the US under Biden and helping our brothers and sisters of Latin America and the Caribbean find space to fight for their democratic  and sovereign future in the face of COVID, a world economic crisis, and US interference.

Convener: Isaiah Johnson, New England Witness for Peace collective

Presenters: Leonardo Flores, Code Pink; Avi Chomsky, Professor of History, Salem State University.

Responding to the Pandemic: Fund Healthcare Not Warfare

The pandemic has spotlighted the deep inadequacies and inequities of the US healthcare and public health systems. Significant new investments are needed at the State and Federal Levels to alleviate the worst aspects of the current crises. Panelists will describe the failures of state and federal responses, and programs needed to move forward. This includes efforts to organize political support for increased  State and Federal expenditures in the coming budget battles.

Conveners: Amar Ahmad and Jonathan King

Presenters: Sandy Eaton – Massachusetts Campaign for Single Payer Health Care; Vaughn Goodwin -1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and Mass. Poor People’s Campaign; Carlene Pavlos – Mass. Public Health Association; Rep. Jon Santiago – Emergency Room Physician and State Representative (D-Boston).

Where do I Go and What can I Eo: Engagement in the Climate Emergency

As each year passes we come closer to the point of no return. As it is, we’ve already caused irreversible damage to our earth and the species that inhabit it. Climate change is upon us and anything we do on a systemic level will keep it from becoming worse than it otherwise would have been.

We need all hands on deck. There are numerous roles for each of us to play, from making calls to legislators to working on the municipal level to showing up in the street and so much in between. It may feel like a daunting task and as a whole it is. That’s why 350 Mass needs you. Every part, no matter how large or small, is integral in this challenge we face. Today we will talk about what we are doing and how you can get involved. We’re also here to answer questions and concerns.

Convener: Diane Fine, 350 Massachusetts

Presenter: Carolyn Barthel, 350 Massachusetts Executive Committee, Statewide Steering Team, Node leader

Organizing for Climate Justice in Massachusetts

Massachusetts and local climate justice initiatives, next steps and intermediate plans.  Outcomes will include action steps and ongoing organizing on Massachusetts GND planning, Melissa Cass Blvd. Trees, and pushing Climate bills stuck in MA legislative conference committee.

Convener: Paul Garver, Boston DSA

John Prusinski, Just Green Stimulus, MA DSA; Melissa Brown, ORMA GND committee; Cabell Eames, Better Future Project/350 MA.

The Economy, The Recession and Getting us Out of It

A discussion of the realities of the current economy, the situation of the working class, strategies for organizing in the current climate.  A discussion of how to build working class solidarity in the movement to win single-payer healthcare through solidarity.

Convener: Maria Smalley, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)

Presenter: Randolph Shannon, member of the PDA board

The Fight for a Fair Rideshare Industry

The Boston Independent Drivers Guild (BIDG) has launched a bold legislative program to address the needs of rideshare drivers AND to benefit the wider working class. We have adopted a 10-point Rideshare Driver Bill of Rights which includes a guaranteed minimum wage for drivers, the right to unionize, and protection from passenger harassment.

But our plan doesn’t stop there. We are calling for a tax on Uber and Lyft with 50% of funds going to the benefit of driver organizing, and 50% the public, including public transit, affordable housing, and grants for transitioning rideshare to electric/hybrid vehicles.

Convener: Henry De Groot, Executive Director of BIDG

Presenter: Erika Uyterhoeven, State Rep-Elect (D-Somerville)

Defund the Police and the Pentagon: Moving from Predatory Capitalism to the Green New Deal

For many of us, defunding the police is a campaign that has just emerged this year. What would be the effect of defunding the police? On the other hand, the campaign to move money out of the bloated Department of Defense has been going on for decades. Although there are differences between local police departments and national military services, they also share common characteristics. Both are instruments of the state where weapons and violence can be used to terrorize, control, or kill people. Also both consume inordinate amounts of taxpayer monies at the city, state, and federal levels.

We will review the history of policing in the US, the struggle for community control of policing, how “defunding” would reallocate tax payer monies, the 1033 program, cuts to police budgets this year, and the outcome of the 2020 national legislation to cut Pentagon spending 10%. The close connection between predatory capitalism and traditional policing and using the military to “police” the world will be outlined.

Convener: Rosemary Kean, co-convener of MAPA’s Racial Justice/ Decolonization Working Group

Presenter: Quinton Zondervan, Cambridge City Councilor; Mallory Hanora, Families for Justice with Healing

Beyond DACA & TPS: How Do We Create a Just and Humane Immigration Policy?

Using human rights as the framework for understanding and setting goals for renewed U.S. Immigration Policy, the presenters will speak to the major immigration issues that need reviewing, reevaluating, reinstating, and – especially – strengthening.

Starting with a short review of how U.S. policy at home and abroad has strongly shaped the mass immigration now occurring, the presenters will offer a summary of current asylum, DACA, TPS, Zero Tolerance, Child Separation, Remain in Mexico, Deportation, and COVID policies, noting the racism imbedded in these policies and the coming impact of the climate crisis on them.

Current actions needed locally and nationally will be addressed. For an overview of the breadth of immigration policy that is truly needed see Julian Castro’s People First Project.

Convener: Sunny Robinson of MAPA’s Latin America Working Group (LAWG)

Presenters: Alexandra Piñeros Shields – Exec. Director Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), Amira Al-Subaey, Field Organizer, Mass Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA).

Supporting Indigenous Issues and Land– What is happening now and in Future

There are numerous appropriate ways to show solidarity with Indigenous People in Massachusetts and beyond.Three local Native American activists from the state will join the discussion. issues, land issues, local and national. There will be an emphasis on how to get involved to work on racist symbols i.e, Commonwealth Flag and seal, racist mascot imagery, Columbus statues; preserving Native Heritage, Supporting Indigenous Peoples Day; The National Day of Mourning. We will talk about challenges facing local tribes in getting land back for Massachusetts Nations, and raising awareness that Indigenous are here and will always be on the land.

Convener: Craig Simpson, MAPA Racial Justice/Decolonization Working Group

Presenters: Kristin Wyman-Nipmuc artist and activist; spoke recently at forum on “Decolonizing Thoreau”; Faries Gray- Sagamore of the Massachusett tribe at Ponkapoag- spokesperson of many Indigenous issues and advocate for land justice for the Massachusett tribe; Kisha James, president, Wellesley College Native American Student Association and active member of UAINE (United American Indians of New England).

Breakout Session #2 – 2:40 to 3:40 pm

Organizing: The Inside/Outside Strategy

A discussion of a strategy for working with “outside” groups while strategizing with and lobbying members of Congress to advance the progressive agenda.

Convener: Patti Serrano, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).

Presenter: Alan Minsky, Executive Director, PDA; Dan O’Neal, PDA National Fi8eld Team Director

Fixing the Massachusetts Legislature

Despite having some of the largest Democratic supermajorities in the country, our Legislature leaves important progressive bills on the table session after session — including ones that purple and red states have already passed. What are the obstacles to change in the State House, and how can we advance progressive policy in the next legislative session?

Convener:  Jonathan Cohn

Presenters:  Jay Kaufman, former State Representative; Lindsay Sabadosa, State Representative; Cabell Eames, 350 Mass/Better Future Project; Erika Uyterhoeven, co-founder of Act on Mass and State Representative-elect.

Confronting Polarization: A Critial Task for the Left?

This breakout will explore what organizing model the American left is following when it comes to engaging “the other side”. Should our strategy be “We fight them and they fight us to the political death” (though we also try to “free them” from their “false consciousness” that would lead to some of “them” to “come over” to our side, the good side). This certainly seems to be our approach to the election we just had, each side fighting a pitched battle for its political life. But can this battle possibly lead us to success in creating justice and peace?

Or is some type of partial reconciliation possible, wherein we both learn a way to turn down the volume of the rancor between red and blue mentalities, and to start to listen to each other, perhaps still fighting each other where necessary, but also joining together where possible. In this model both sides would have to be willing to understand the other sides’ perspective and admit its own perspective is not the whole truth. Is it really possible to do this without compromising our core values around race, immigrants, environment – even truth itself?

So what happens when we feel the issue is a basic clash of values?   Can we still find underlying commonalities nonetheless? For instance, our attitude toward the police: Are they the enemy or is some kind of dialogue possible in which the legitimate perspectives of both sides are acknowledged and the few areas of agreement can be built upon. Do we have any responsibility for the police lining up lock stock and barrel with Trump or is that inevitable?

An interesting place to start might be for us to ask the question: Why do they (the red folks) hate us so much? Does the Left bear some responsibility for that antipathy and for the deep divisions that it bolsters? Or is the task rather to make a distinction between the Left and liberals and their Democratic Party elites against whom Trump’s attacks rightly strike a chord with many people?

Complicating communication between the sides is the cult-like nature of the vast army of adherents that Trump has pulled together, making it virtually impossible to have rational interaction with those who have pledged allegiance to the “greatest president in history”. But is it worth considering whether there are cult-like characteristics on the left that get in the way of relationships with much broader sectors of the population.

Interesting questions? Or pure nonsense as the fight between good and evil rages?

Convener: Paul Shannon

Presenters: Rosalie Anders, Jeff Klein

Movement Building to Prevent a New US-China Arms Race & US Cold Wars

For the past two decades the U.S. has sought to contain China’s rise and its inherent challenge to U.S. Asia-Pacific hegemony.  US-China tensions are mounting dangerously in what many understand to be a new Cold War, and the peace movement is just now beginning to play catch up. Tensions between a declining and rising power need not result in conflict or a devastating – potentially nuclear – war. Most dangerous are the military tensions, with provocative military actions in the South and East China Sea and in relation to Taiwan where an incident, accident or miscalculation could quickly escalate beyond control. China and most U.s Americans do not want a war. Each side is building its military forces, with the U.S. currently maintaining  military dominance. China’s strategy includes area denial and asymmetric weaponry. To maintain its dominance, the U.S. is attempting to create  an “Indo-Pacific NATO” with U.S. forces reinforced by the Japanese, Australian and Indian militaries; anti-China weapons development is driving the already gargantuan U.S. military budget. Meanwhile, to protect its vulnerable seacoast, access to trade routes and resources, China has reiterated its nationalist-era claim of 80% of the South China Sea – much of it also claimed by five other nations – and created island military bases.

The confrontation and its consequences are not limited to the military.  Scientific cooperation has been seriously undermined by the Trump administration expelling Chinese scientists working and studying in the United States and by preventing many Chinese from studying or even visiting the United States. Progress in stanching the pandemic, the climate crisis, and nuclear weapons proliferation has been obstructed by Trump’s hate-filled scapegoating of China, with the Biden campaign not far behind.  Anti-Chinese rhetoric coming from the President and other U.S. leaders has fueled anti-Chinese and Anti-Asian racism which cannot be tolerated.

This breakout will provide background about these growing tensions and the possible impact of the presidential election.   Also discussed will be alternative policies, and the range of initiatives being developed by U.S. and international peace movements, including a new formation initiated by Massachusetts Peace Action.

Presenters:  Joseph Gerson, Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security (CPDCS); Duncan McFarland; Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK); Emily Rubino, Director of Policy and Outreach, Peace Action New York State.

Guantanamo Prison: Symbol of US Islamophobia

Since 9/11 in 2001, the U.S. “war on terror” has targeted Muslims at home and abroad. On January 11, 2002, Guantanamo Bay Prison was specifically opened to detain Muslim men who were deemed “suspected terrorists.”   If Guantanamo Bay prison is emblematic of anything, it’s institutionalized Islamophobia in the War on Terror.

Guantanamo has been open for close to 19 years, with no real hope of shutting it down.  In this presentation,  Dr. Hilal will talk about the institutionalized Islamophobia as manifested in Guantanamo, in addition to discussing the steps necessary to closing the prison, providing reparations for former prisoners, and accountability for torturers.

Convener: Christopher Spicer Hankle, Witness to Torture

Presenters: Dr. Maha Hilal, co-Director of Justice for Muslims Collective, Organizing Team for Witness Against Torture.  Responder: Imam Asif Hirani, Islamic Culture Center of Boston.

Sanctions Kill!

The growing opposition to direct US military intervention has led to calls for the use of sanctions as a “more peaceful” form of coercion. This breakout will reveal the fallacy of this position. Sanctions kill! They have in the past and they will continue to do in the future. After reviewing the history of US sanctions, this breakout will also consider their legality in terms of both US and international law. It will also consider the growing movement against the unbridled use of sanctions by the United States—dozens of countries today are subject to them—and legislative measures that have been proposed in Congress to rein in the executive branch, which has the power to impose sanctions.

Convener: Prasannan Parthasarathi, MAPA; Molly Nolan, Brooklyn for Peace

COVID and the fight for Single Payer

A discussion of strategies to pass H.R. 1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019 on a national level

Convener: Donna Smith, co-chair of the PDA Healthcare Not Warfare campaign

Presenter: Dr. Bill Honigman

Aligning for the Decade of the Green New Deal

The decade of the Green New Deal is here. In January 2020, democratic politicians scoffed at the scale and scope of demands. By July, after seven months of organizers targeting democratic primary candidates, Biden adopted a plan that will be the most ambitious climate and social services plans in history if passed. This is only the beginning. We must be organized and ready to push in the first 100 days of the new presidency and beyond.

This breakout will review Sunrise’s theory of change in fighting for the Green New Deal. Sunrise Movement is centered around building people, political, and aligned organizational power. We’ll draw from historical examples to show the ideologies and alignments necessary to build an equitable, just and sustainable world in this critical moment – and why equity, justice and sustainability must be fought for hand-in-hand.

We will use this theory of change to show where we stand today, and make a plan for how to move forward. Participants will be encouraged to discuss how this framework can apply to efforts at their organizations, the benefits of building greater alignment and how to do so, and to imagine how their organization could plan simultaneous action (if applicable). We hope that participants will see the opportunities before us, and be able to use insights from Sunrise’s strategy to further their work in alignment with others.

Presenters:  Nick Rabb, Sunrise Movement and MAPA Peace & Climate Working Group

Preventing Evictions and Homelessness

The nation is facing the largest numbers of evictions and biggest increased in homelessness since the great depression. The responses will include rent strikes, legal action against landlords and continuing pressure on our elected officials. Panelists will describe federal, state and municipal moratoriums on evictions. Local organizations will be leading eviction blocking, building takeovers, civil disobedience, and other non-violent mobilizations. The National Union of the Homeless, formed in the prior economic downturn has reformed and will be leading a Winter Offensive against Homelessness, in support of the above actions.

Convener: Savina Martin, Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign (PPC)

Presenters: State Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge/Somerville); Cambridge City Councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler;  James Shearer (Mass Union of the Homeless); Shailly Gupta Barnes  (Poor Peoples Campaign); Lisa  Owens (executive director, City Life/ Vida Urbana).

Beyond COVID: Building the Movement for Economic, Health, and Housing Justice

At the end of December, 12 million workers will run out of Unemployment Insurance; 30 to 40 million renters face mass eviction; millions more face hunger and health challenges from COVID.   This breakout will assess local grass roots efforts and national advocacy for Federal Stimulus funds to address the immediate COVID crisis, including Emergency Assistance for Public Health, Rent, Food, Unemployment and Small Businesses and State/Local relief, to urgently address the fault lines of racial injustice and inequality that have been exposed in the pandemic.

The breakout will also discuss the post-election terrain and strategies to rebuild long-term in the ashes of COVID through a federal budget lens, including Health Care and Jobs for All, Universal Housing Vouchers and Affordable Housing, the Green New Deal, shifting funds from the Pentagon to Human Needs, and more.

Outcomes will include action step, skills training, ongoing organizing work; Strategies for direct action and legislative advocacy to recenter the federal budget to address immediate and long term human needs.

Convener:   Michael Kane, Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants

Presenters: Debbie Weinstein, Coalition for Human Needs/Save for All Coalition; Gladys Vega, Chelsea Collaborative

Education Justice in MA Schools during the Pandemic

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and historic racial justice uprisings, public education is at a crossroads. The pandemic has exacerbated existing education disparities faced by students of color, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and those who live in public housing. Our MCAS-driven education system perpetuates racial inequality and narrows the curriculum when our schools need to prioritize student health and wellness more than ever. This breakout will receive updates on these struggles, and describe two campaigns to improve the situation, increased State funding for public school districts and communities, and cancellation of the high stakes MCAS tests, a major barrier to inclusion, equity and quality education in Mass public schools.

Conveners: Drew King, Citizens for Public Schools / Our Revolution Cambridge) and Gwen Volmar (Our Revolution Cambridge)

Presenters: Beth Kontos,  Massachusetts AFT President; Leo Austin-Spooner, Co-President, Cambridge Rindge and Latin HS Student Government; Lisa Guisbond, Executive Director of Citizens for Public Schools; Roberto Jimenez, Chelsea School Committee Member, organizer for Boston Teachers Union.

The Antiracism Movement: An Opening for Racial Justice

The antiracism uprising this year has been precipitated by videotaped and widely viewed police and white vigilante murders of Black people. This movement has been tenacious in looking directly at heinous acts of violence and saying “No”. It has inspired people of all colors in cities and small towns across the country and internationally to peacefully protest against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, exercising their rights to free speech and assembly.

Presenters will speak on the status and significance of the antiracism movement and the various campaigns that are the focus of the movement. We will address expectations for the coming year re expansion of the movement and the inevitable increase of state repression which we are already seeing. Will identify some of the local options for taking action.

Convener: Rosemary Kean

Presenters: Kevin Peterson, The New Democracy Coalition; Kelley Ready, Dorchester People for Peace

Managing the Anthropocene and Stopping Pandemics Before They Start   

Rapidly escalating heat, ongoing loss of biodiversity, intrusions into and destruction of ecosystems, floods, drought, food shortages, fire and pandemics – these are also what the next four years hold for us, the backdrop for all our movements. While we work toward solutions at large scale, we can’t ignore the urgency of the climate crisis and its exponential impacts locally. What will human security look like in the Anthropocene? What is the ecology of a community system that builds security for people and planet?  What kinds of support from the federal and state levels can help?

In this presentation, Katharine Zywert, co-editor of Health in the Anthropocene, will consider two unconventional paths for building greater resilience and security in a time of ecological, social, and economic upheaval: working with living systems and building hyper-local support networks. Drawing on insights from movements including soil health, care farming, and mutual aid, Zywert will propose that domains outside of formal healthcare systems hold significant potential to simultaneously secure equity, health, and ecological integrity across different scales. She will also consider the extent to which prioritizing the health of other species and of human communities requires a cultural shift away from individualism, raising a number of wicked problems with no simple solutions.

The session will be introduced by Paula Phipps, Associate Director of Biodiversity for a Livable Climate, who will briefly outline the ecological crisis and the critical need for ecologically sound solutions. She will be followed by Tania Roa, MS in Animals and Public Policy and an intern at Bio4Climate, who will introduce the relationship between biodiversity loss, habitat destruction, and the increasing likelihood of diseases such as covid 19 that pass from animals to humans. This will be an interactive workshop with half the time reserved for q & a.