At our gathering in St. Louis a few weeks ago, I talked with people about hosting presentations in their communities. I am currently figuring out my work plan for the next six months. I am planning on traveling to meet you and organize with you! To give you a sense of these trips, I want to write a bit about my trip to the Midwest.
Following the national gathering, I did a small tour focused on resisting taxes for racial justice. I first went to Chicago. We had a lunch at the Christian Peacemaker Teams office. CPT is a spiritual group that supports frontline struggles. We had a group of CPT staff and tax resisters from Chicago. We talked about our effort this year where tax resisters are giving money to black, brown, and indigenous organizers in their communities. It was clear that this shift in our focus—to explicitly challenge white supremacy in our government and in our organizing communities—is a breath of fresh air for activists in our network.
After that, I ran to catch a train to South Bend, Indiana. Just barely made it! My first presentation in South Bend was at a Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) meeting. SURJ is made up of white people who sometimes show up for protests, and has been called out by regional and national black-led organizations to disband (read more here).
The goal of my presentation was to talk through how white people might want to think of themselves as “anti-racist” but still be funding (and benefitting from) our white supremacist government that is killing black, brown, and indigenous people in our streets and around the world. For the people at the SURJ meeting, redirecting tax dollars is a way to use radical tactics and actions rather than just sitting around in a room talking about racism. In particular, it is part of returning money to black communities and organizations as part of large-scale reparations.
The following day I led a community presentation with Darryl Heller, the Director of the South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center. We discussed tax resistance and building solidarity between movements. Darryl presented about being a war tax resister for many years in the 1980’s. He also talked about his work bringing Black and Brown people together to build community and shared resistance in South Bend. As per usual, it worked well to have the workshop co-hosted by a few organizations together. This provided space for building relationships between our groups and provided many ways for people to plug in.
I hope this gives you a few ideas about how a presentation could look in your area. It could be a workshop for an individual non-profit or activist group. It could also be a larger community presentation (hopefully hosted by a few different groups) that seeks to pull people in more broadly. The goal either way is to create a stronger regional base that you can then follow up with to build community power. If you would like to set up a presentation in your area, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A big thanks to everyone who made this trip possible, including hosting me, presenting together, and doing the hours of on-the-ground organizing required to pull off a community workshop.
Post by Sam Koplinka-Loehr