Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick-or-Treating in the Lower 9th Ward

Last Friday at the Lower 9th Ward Street Library, we hosted a special event for the neighborhood children and youth as way to bring the community together in celebration. We had face painting, told scary stories and went trick-or-treating! We were joined by about 30 of our young friends, another 10 neighborhood teenagers and nearly 20 parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors. Thanks to everyone that came out to the Guerrilla Garden for our Halloween celebration! Special thanks to Books for Kids for the free give-aways and to the Brassaholics for leading the parade! Here are some pictures of the fun!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Get Involved to Help Grow Our School

Do you want to have a significant impact in the lives of New Orleans youth and thier communities?

Do you want to gain experience incubating a grassroots, democratic, community-based school?

Are you interested in contributing to and learning from a powerful learning community of educators, organizers and youth?

Get involved with the next phase of the development of New Orleans Liberation Academy.

We are looking for teachers, artistds, youth development workers, counselors, organizers, youth, community members and others who have experience working with youth and/or are committed to creating an education that is relevant, meaingful and inspiring. We need dedicated, creative and hardworking people interested in working collaboratively to plan and develop a new small school in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans.

Our mission is to engage, educate and inspire empowered New Orleans youth to transform their lives while positively contributing to the betterment of their community.  Our vision is to support our students in becoming independent thinkers, problem solvers and self-directed learners. Our school community will model the values of dedication, care, creativity and interdepenence that will help shape our students into successful learners and community leaders.

If you are interested in learning more about us and/or think you might be interested in joining a team of committed educators, organizers and youth in furthering the development of something new, unique and empowering for New Orleans youth, please contact us at and tell us a little about yourself and why you are interested in getting involved.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reflections on Organizing towards Collective Liberation at Occupy NOLA

Over the last few weeks our students and advisors have been partipating in various aspects of Occupy New Orleans actions and working groups. Most centrally though, we have all been deeply engaged in the Anti-Racism Working Group meeting 3 times a week a diverse collective of anti-racism organizers and activists from participating in the Occupy movement and other longtime organizers from the community. Fellow member of the working group, provided great analysis and a look at the anti-racist organizing that is coming out of the Occupy Movement in New Orleans in her post published today on the Monthly Review Zine, and we are happy to share it here:

Reflections on Organizing towards Collective Liberation at Occupy NOLA
by Lydia Pelot-Hobbs

Over the past few weeks, I have been invigorated and moved by the energy surrounding Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots across the nation.  Yet, at the same time I've been faced with the tensions being articulated by so many folks on the Left: how can this energy be connected to and further long-standing organizing work for social and economic justice?

Here at Occupy NOLA, I have been excited about the potential of making these bridges through the project of the anti-racism working group.  In less than two weeks, this working group has been developing a collective analysis and strategy that I think has the possibility of contributing towards long-term movement building.

From Difficult Moments to Moments of Promise

This is not to say this work has been easy.  Many of these conversations are painful and difficult.  At the second General Assembly (GA), a debate emerged regarding the use of the livestream at the GA.  Since the initial planning meeting, Occupy NOLA had been posting photos and videos on Facebook without those in attendance's permission.  Myself alongside several others from the anti-racism working group raised the concern that having the entire area videotaped led to the space not being safe or secure for a variety of folks: immigrants, trans folks, queer folks, etc. and offered the proposal that 1/3 of the space not be included in the livestream.

In response, several white men got up and declared the purpose of the movement was to be recorded and that having folks on video couldn't possibly have the ramifications that we had explained such as immigration sweeps or people losing employment or housing.  Listening to these responses I was frustrated by concrete concerns being seemingly disregarded, but even more so at how privilege operates to convince individuals that their experiences within society are universal -- how security for some makes the lack of safety for others invisible.

Following the GA's inability to reach consensus on this subject, those of us on both sides of the debate were tasked with further discussing the issue.  Cynically, I found myself assuming the people we had been debating weren't actually committed enough to the process to enter into further conversation.  However, immediately after the meeting, one guy came over to continue the discussion.  Within a few moments, a group of a dozen people were talking about how power functions, how Latin@ folks are racially profiled as undocumented immigrants, the policing of trans folks (especially transwomen of color), the precariousness of service industry workers employment, and so much more.  Here we were, mostly strangers, spending our Friday night standing in Duncan Plaza engaged in political debate.

Did we end up agreeing on everything?  No.  Did we make steps together?  Yes.

Making these steps together is why I'm involved in the Occupy movement.  I recalled that my political analysis was not developed over night; rather it took investment from other activists.  I've had years of guidance and mentorship within movements for social justice that has gotten me to the place I am today.  Now is the time to offer the constructive encouragement to others that was offered to me when I was first becoming politicized.

But I also know about the rapid politicization folks can go through during moments like this -- moments that radicalize people's understanding of power, systems of oppression, the state, global capitalism, and empire.  These moments can literally transform people's understandings of not just what we are struggling against but also what we are dreaming about: what collective liberation can potentially be.

Building Strategies for Collective Liberation

For me, this is why it's so crucial to organize with the anti-racism working group to build a structural analysis within Occupy NOLA of how we got to this period of advanced capitalism.  Luckily, I think we have more resources to draw on for this than in pervious periods.  Even before the first GA to plan Occupy NOLA, white anti-racist folks here were reaching out to one another to discuss how to critically engage this moment.  Many of us had been moved by the writing coming out of OWS by activists of color on their struggles to build an anti-racist and anti-oppressive politic in New York.  Several of us were also encouraged by the conversations happening within the national US for All of US network of white anti-racists about the potential for catalyzing this moment.  Others of us were calling on our knowledge gained from our participation, both as local New Orleanians and outside volunteers, in anti-racist organizing at Common Relief following the storm.  Looking around the space of Occupy NOLA, instead of feeling lost and overwhelmed as I have so many times before in these spaces, I felt hopeful and inspired.

By the second day of Occupy NOLA, a multiracial crew of folks had come together for the first meeting of the anti-racism working group.  Gathered together was a group of people with a range of backgrounds: long-term organizers, folks new to activism, people who already knew and trusted one another, and individuals who came knowing no one but believing in the purpose of the group.

Over the course of our first meetings, we strategized together what the purpose and goals of our anti-racism working group would be.  Drawing on our collective knowledge gain from previous activism as well as our initial involvement with Occupy NOLA, we solidified together that our goals are based in the belief that this is a moment of possibility and potential.

We committed to working towards: Occupy NOLA being accountable to local community organizing and acting in solidarity with their local struggles; fostering an intersectional structural analysis of power through political education projects; encouraging both Occupy NOLA and the broader #Occupy movement to center both the US South and the Global South; deepening our analysis of how US financial power has been built off the ravages of slavery and colonialism; and continuing to build off the momentum of this moment over the next year regardless of the outcome of this occupation.

We have also committed as an anti-racist working group to be actively participating in other working groups and building with other potential allies.  Also, by participating in other working groups, we are able to share our skills in areas such as facilitation, media, and direct action.  For me, this is us moving beyond a critique from the sidelines to a structure that is focusing our efforts towards the success of other working groups.

Central to our strategy has also been the ongoing dialogue and discussion with long-time New Orleans organizers of color.   Folks from a range of organizations affiliated with the Greater New Orleans Organizers' Roundtable have generously entered into conversations with the anti-racism working group about how Occupy NOLA can be pushed in a strategic direction that furthers the aims of local economic and social justice movements.  This work has the potential to strengthen both Occupy NOLA and the work of already existing organizing by building a united front on the social justice issues in New Orleans.

It's also been incredible to be organizing collectively with folks who are dealing with the reality that we need to move quickly since we don't know how long this occupation will last while also thinking through how this work can make a long-term impact on movements for justice.  Instead of organizing in crisis, we are organizing for the long haul.

Moving Forward

We're still grappling with a lot of questions: How do we actively engage and support other working groups?  What are strategies for building an accountable Occupy movement here in New Orleans that supports and strengthens the long-term community organizing in the city around housing, police brutality, the prison industrial complex, and immigration?  Is our goal to build Occupy NOLA as a multiracial, multiclass movement or is there a benefit in leveraging the white and class privilege of the current formation in solidarity with community organizations?  How do we both embrace the spirit of participatory democracy while also recognizing how these processes can be alienating?

These are complicated questions for a complicated moment.  While I am sure that both the anti-racism working group and the broader Occupy NOLA will make mistakes along the way, I am just as sure of the necessity in critically engaging in this movement.  We're in the middle of a powerful opening to connect fresh new activists to radical political analysis, to develop their leadership skills, and to introduce them to the ongoing social and economic struggles here in New Orleans, across the US, and around the globe.  Getting down in this messy process is more than just a commitment to the present Occupy moment; it's an investment in our future movements for justice.

Lydia Pelot-Hobbs is a member of and trainer at AORTA (Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance).

Friday, October 7, 2011

We Are the 99%

Yesterday we participated in the first day of Occupy New Orleans, a solidarity protest and march with Occupy Wall Street. Check out New Orleans Liberation Academy student Anthony Johnson during the march:

Day 1 of Occupy New Orleans. Solidarity protest and march with Occupy Wall Street.

Here is also a great video that captures some of yesterday's actions:

As expected, the Occupy New Orleans actions have already proven to be an incredible, experiential learning opportunity for our students in civic engagement, social action, democracy and consensus building. We look forward to continuing to Occupy and engage in powerful conversations and learning across difference.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Occupy NOLA

New Orleans Liberation Academy believes that Occupy Wall Street is a profoundly important form of social action that is deeply connected to the struggle against the racial and economic oppression of poor, working, people and people of color. We are, as Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers, said in a statement, “…fed up with the corporate greed, corruption and arrogance that have inflicted pain on far too many for far too long.”

Occupy Wall Street has become less of a movement for a specific cause and more of a space, a space in which people who feel a similar frustrations with the world as it is and as it has been are coming together and thinking about ways to recreate it.  Building from our school's philosophy of using the city as our school, and learning from the transformational events happening all around us in the world all the time, New Orleans Liberation Academy students and advisors will Occupy NOLA. As we begin today with a solidarity march and occupation, our goal is to create and maintain a space for true democracy, learning, growth, community and solidarity in opposition to the status quo that is destroying our lives, our neighborhoods and our cities. "It can't rain all the time."

We will be assembling at noon today at the intersection of Tulane and Broad in front of Orleans Parish Prison to highlight the continuing crisis of the prison industial complex that wreaks havoc in New Orleans and around the country.  We will be marching past Lafayette Square and the adjoining Federal Reserve Bank of New Orleans to call attention to the greed of the Federal Reserve and corrupt financial institutions that have caused so many to suffer.  Following the march, participants will establsih an encampment at Duncan Plaza near City Hall which will be a space where we work to practice true democracy in contrast to our current political system. Read the full press release from Occupy NOLA HERE.

We hope you will join us! Occupy together! We are the 99%! We stand in solidarity!