Friday, February 10, 2012

Villa Rica's Response to the Violence

A funeral march of a young boy, who was a victim of the bombing.

5 homes were completely destroyed in the attack.

At the main park, there was a whole day of events, football matches, and community solidarity. It was beautiful to see.

Live Interviews from Villa Rica

Tune in to to watch LIVE interviews from Villa Rica, Colombia.

Check out the archived videos too!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

ISBO's Response to the Violent Attack on Villa Rica, Columbia

Dear supporters of bottom-up organizing:

It is seldom that we ask our friends for financial help, but a community in southwestern Colombia, South America, where ISBO has organizers, is under attack as we write this letter. ISBO organizers (International School for Bottom-up Organizing) from around the world are going to Colombia to stand with the people and help them organize. Here is a first-hand statement made yesterday by one of our organizers who lives and organizes in the town of Villa Rica:

"Thursday morning we arrived in Villa Rica at 11:30 AM. The sirens that usually sound at 12:00 noon were going off at unusual times. No one understood why an hour later it sounded again. Then we heard the first explosion thirty seconds later. We weren't in the area of the blasts; those
that were near the area say that there was a truck parked in front of the police station. Two guys left running with guns. As they ran, they screamed: "run, there's a bomb!" and as soon as they said it there was a bomb, double impact, on the police station; another cylinder exploded on top of a house destroying everything nearby, and another fell in the main road in Villa Rica, instantly leaving five dead people. Two more died at the hospital. Two of the dead were children, one was only three years old. Thirty five people were injured. And all the community didn't know what to think; this had never happened before. This hurts us very much to see children and people from our community die this way. It was very painful to see pieces of people on the road. This is not just. Things at the moment are on lockdown. The authorities have said that this was an attack from the Farc. One of the reasons they suggest this is that the police in Villa Rica, a few months ago, confiscated a ton of weed and then a mule loaded with cocaine. They say these drugs belonged to the Farc, and in response they put the bomb. But this is very suspicious, because 24 hours before, there was a similar bomb attack in Tumaco, another Afro population town. At the moment there have been talks about rebuilding the station. People are very angry, because before they built the police station there was a school there, and the mayor of Villa Rica knocked the school down and put the police station there in the midst of people protesting. These are the consequences today, and they are talking about reconstructing the police station in the same place. People are not up to tolerating this."

From another Colombian organizer by phone:
"We have to be a bit careful about what I'm going to say, because we are in a public space and there can be spies everywhere. From the analysis that I have been able to do about this incident, what I think is happening is the fact that Piedad Cordoba, an Afro-descendent woman, was gaining too much power by negotiating with the Farc thru her humanitarian group. There has been talk of peace at recently through her: they were going to liberate twelve soldiers and police they held captive for ten years, and this was because of the negotiations of her group. A few days before this happened, the government was announcing that groups outside the government couldn't be negotiating. Maybe the government wanted to sabotage this process. The big question I asked myself when this happened was why was this attack on two Afro-colombian communities and not in Cali or Bogota? I think what they are trying to do is to discredit Piedad Cordoba and at the same time make a racial attack against the Afro-colombian communities. And I think that's because they saw that she was getting too much support in those communities. Villa Rica is in a very peaceful area. I think it's a whole strategy to make people scared and turn to the government to "defend" them, and at the same time because they don't want to end this war. That's just some initial observations of the whole thing. . . . My wife and I personally commit ourselves to go and be full-time organizers in Villa Rica for the next two months, even though we are expecting a baby. We will leave tomorrow morning."

These and other Colombian organizers had just returned from an intense, joyful, and very successful ISBO training session in Jamaica, along with organizers from Jamaica and England. We learned to make ethanol and solar panels as part of our goal of creating self-sustaining prototype communities based on the principle of egalitarianism. We strategized about how to develop a system of distributing our communal farm products based on the idea of each putting in what they can and taking out what they need. We searched our hearts and minds in the process of overcoming the obstacles of internalized racism and sexism, and we put into practice our most important organizing tools: visiting community members at their homes to invite their knowledge and participation in the process, and learning to facilitate meetings in which each person has equal voice and decisions are made by consensus. Love and unity between organizers from different countries grew as we became determined to build an international revolutionary movement to create a new world led by those most oppressed: the poorest and darkest among us, especially women.

week after our comrades returned from the ISBO school they were confronted by this racist attack on their town. (See below for background on Villa Rica and what is happening to black people currently in Colombia.)

Because we just finished our school session, our finances have been depleted. We need your help to IMMEDIATELY replenish our resources so that we can provide necessary support to our Colombian comrades. We also need help in bringing international attention to these events and to the fascist conditions poor people face in Colombia, particularly if their skin is dark.

We are asking you to do two things:
1. Please go to our website ( and make a donation; no donation is too small!
2. Post this letter or your own summary on your Facebook page, send Tweets, send emails, and help us get the word out far and wide.

The struggle is international, and our comrades under attack need your help!

Background information:
Villa Rica is a town of about 15,000, nearly all of them African-descendants. In the 1840's, led by a maroon, the ancestors of today's residents rose up, killed the owner of the slave plantation on which they labored, took the land and began subsistence farming. In the 1940's, agribusiness came in and forced them off their land (only a few still retain their small fincas, or farms). Today the dusty town is surrounded by sugar cane grown for ethanol production. There is very high unemployment. Meanwhile, Colombia has one of the highest numbers of internally displaced people: 5,000,000 people, the vast majority of them Afro-descendants, have been forced off their ancestral, legally owned lands by paramilitaries who are clearing the way for multinational corporations to exploit the resources. People have crowded into the big cities after traumatic, violent experiences and face massive unemployment there. Scores of labor organizers have been assassinated in the past year or two. Colombia is described as having the worst humanitarian crisis in the Americas.

According to official figures, about 40% of Colombians are considered Afro-descendants. However, nearly all Colombians have ancestors who were African slaves!

ISBO has been training organizers in Colombia for four years. We believe we have a responsibility to stand in UNITY with our comrades and defend them and all of our right to live without fear of bullets and bombs. Please respond generously. Let the people of Colombia know that the world is watching, and cares about what is happening to them!

Thank you,
International Collective of ISBO

Photos from the Violent Attack on Villa Rica, Columbia

Sunday, January 22, 2012

House Visit Training Jan 22, 2012

Bottom-up Organizing requires organizers to go into the community and conduct house visits with those on the bottom. In the house visit, organizers ask community members what is going on in their communities, what problems they have, and what solutions might be offered to fix those problems. At the end of the visit, community members are invited to the community meeting. It is at the community meeting where solutions to community issues are found and work is tasked out to implement our solutions to improve our communities.

Colombian organizers introduce themselves to community members in a group house visit.

Colombian brother tells the history of how his community was started by a Maroon-led slave rebellion.

Community Workday, Jan 22, 2012

Sweeping the floor with a broom-weed broom.

Making sandwiches for the workday.

Organizer trainees from three countries converse: Jamaica, England and Colombia.

Jamaican trainee learning a dance from her Colombian brother trainee

Trainees inside the community center

Community Workday, Jan 22, 2012

ISBO organizing trainees help with community workday.

Cleaning cut grass off the play field.

Bringing the roof materials to the site.

Colombian organizers help put the roof on the Jamaican community center.

Putting on the new roofing of the Community Center.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Evaluation of Trip to Jeffery Town

Notes January 21, 2012

Cultural item: We Are Together Again and Rivers of Babylon

Evaluation of yesterday’s trip to Jeffery Town

• If we all agree, there are four or five themes from our list that can be treated in this experience, so we put those things in context: what is leadership? Egalitarianism, racism, self-sustainability, political parties/elections, sexism, how do we finance our work, security

Facilitator: let’s do a round, and I’d like you to

• first, we didn’t have a prayer when we left, we should have done that. I have to give God thanks for our safety. I didn’t know exactly where we were going, but w/ the guidance of Mr. Gordon, each time I contact him on the phone and he gave me the guidance. We arrived a little late. the young lady was glad to welcome us all.

• again as evaluative speech: it was great as a Jamaican to have an experience like that, get to see the awards, the radio station, first I’ve been in a radio studio. A lot of things there we can adopt about the agriculture, solar, windmill. Those are ideas we have, and to see it working in that community excited me more. I think a dialog w/ those people will be an excellent idea based on them getting some breadfruit from Germany, and I’d like to be a part of that trade. But I wanted to see the fish farm and the greenhouse, but based on the weather and muddiness we didn’t get to.

• yesterday was excellent. First I’ve ever been to a radio station. I like what I saw yesterday. Learned the different ways they put everything together. I think we should adapt what they’re doing, see if we can do some of those things here. Some things I didn’t see b/c I wasn’t feeling good, but what I heard was interesting.

Fac: keep in mind that we are trying to tie in some of those topics in our evaluation.

• if we think about what they can learn from us as well as what we can learn from them, we will cover some of those topics

• one difference between them and us is they get sponsored by outside groups

• big journey yesterday, lots of major talking points. Starting w/ internalized racism, eg, in the radio station how the presenter addressed the different cultures in there. He was very uncomfortable and became disrespectful in his words. Jokes he was making about pork. Maybe b/c he’s not around people from different cultures, but I think it’s important to see that the joke culture is taking someone’s difference and joke about it, that’s the western joke culture and it’s very divisive. egalitarianism; Mr Gordon runs the organization, which is very different from people running an org from the bottom up. he’s a very good organizer, focused person, but the fact is he’s making the decisions and bringing them to the people. That’s why he can apply for funds, speak to the govt, he doesn’t get poor people to go speak to the gov’t.

• yesterday I wasn’t in there that much b/c my stomach was burning. And for a while my chest felt as if it was closing up, so I was outside most of the time. But I realized a few things: they cooperate like us, they work together like us, but I realize that they are registered – she said it’s not with the govt – but I realized that if they are registered at all it has to be w/ the govt. I know we are all about us, and we’re not registered.

• for me, it’s very good that isbo has created oppty for us to go a place like that and learn so much. Their project are similar to the ones we’re tyring to do. Also, we have to look at the things we don’t want to do. I’m very clear: for me, that guy is a slave master. He talks aobut 20 hectares of land. Everybody has to work for him, and one of the things he said is that if anyone wants to stop working, they can just leave. We have to be very careful so we don’t make the same mistakes. We’re not looking to enslave anyone, we want a free world

• I’m very happy about yesterday – it’s a way of learning. I think the word “self” comes from self-determination. The word self-sustainable comes fromself-determination, and I think they’re not doing that, b/c they’re getting money from outside, from the Europeans. They are not being able to sustain themselves. What we’re tying to learn here is to sustain ourselves. I like how they were kind to us and everything we learned.

• I went w/ the expectation I’d see a self-sus community. But when I got there, I had the same impression as him. I don’t thnk it’s self-sus, b/c from beginning they got funding. In reality, all the work is dependent on the help they get from outside. And they haven’t got any clear strategy or tools at the moment to become independent of that. Another thing I identified quickly is that the structure and discourse they use is very similar to orgs I’m familiar w/ in Colombia. When we talk about leadership, we’re not talking about a superman that saves everyone. So that everyone wakes the genius in each other and we save ourselves. It is very clear that there’s only one person clear about the ideas, funding, etc.

• long journey! Tired when I arrived, but very involved in everything. On leadership: they have a president; that means the president makes the decisions. They don’t do concensus. They’re not self-sus b/c they get grants. They are registered w/ NGO. But it all leads back to the govt, b/c the ngo must be reg w/ the govt b/c they pay taxes. Security: they don’t have to be worried about anything b/c they are in some way tied in w/ the govt. egal: I don’t think they are ANYWHERE NEAR egal. If they discuss things in a meeting the final decision leads back to the president.

• I think we need to implement w/ in our organization the idea of discourse analysis. Discourse is what a person prepares to say to everyone, or what a political party prepares to tell everyone. It is what how you present who you are to people. This is not the first time I’ve heard this kind of discourse, the orgs in Colombia have the same discourse. So then we don’t swallow things whole, but learn to chew them slowly, and then what you don’t like, you spit it out. There were big issues about internalized racism, racism, disrespect, leadership, egalitarianism, security w/in our trip yesterday. I’m very grateful that happened b/c that is sparking this discussion. E.g. one of the things you’ve seen internalized racism is how the guy thought I was the leader b/c my skin hue is lighter. That is internalized racism, why can she or he be seen as leader, why me? It’s a BIG thing.

• those people look at it from a totally different angle from what we’re trying to do. 1. They are not self-sus, b/c they get help from govt, orgs, etc. X brought up security and the man took it personally. He started taling about politics, when he was on politics training, and that wasn’t a part of us at all. The serious part about their thing, I asked him, when you reach where you want to be, what are you going to do w/ all the people funding you? He said he’d leave them out. So they’re going to have a problem there, with those people who helped them get where they are, when they throw them out. That’s when the problem comes in – they’ll say “I made you reach where you want to be, so I still want to be a part of it.”

• it sounds like they are completely opposite from us (not there). It sounds like they’re not for the people, they’re from themselves. They are the people we don’t want to be, basically the 2%ers.

• I wasn’t there yesterday but I watched most of it on TV. The response we got from the live feed shows why we should be doing live feed! It was very exciting. That way other people can learn while we learn. I won’t repeat what others have said. I’d like to take it to the question of internalized racism among us. Like the term discourse, meaning how we present ourselves to the world. Part of how we present our ideas is who steps forward to say the ideas. We say that our group is led by the poorest and darkest, especially women, and that’s who should be presenting the ideas. When somebody meets isbo, the person speaking for isbo is the poorest and darkest. That’s the best way to counteract the idea that man had in the radio station. So I’m saying that this gentleman right here needs to step forward as a spokesperson. The women in the group need to develop their understanding so they can step forward as spokespeople. This morning R called me and put all those things on the board, first thing in the morning. But when he spoke in the meeting just now, he didn’t give that leadership that he gave me this morning, and I would like to hear him give it now.

• yesterday, as we talk about racism, we need a role of behavior amongst us as well. When the lady greeted us yesterday, and I went to her and introduced myself as the leader for the group, and that we had people from col, eng, and the rest from my community, and introduced the individuals, I remember when Mike called K and said he’d like to come, and when she told him she wasn’t going, he paused for a while and then said, well, who’s going to lead then? And she told him, me, that I was the one that made the contacts and made the trip possible. And she and I had a discussion this morning, b/c I think a lot of people still haven’t moved past white. This is OUR thing, and that’s the message I always preach. Not K. K is just like a back-up person. a lot of people don’t get that idea, as we’re talking about racism. And the reason why she’s distancing herself is so that the people in the community step up and lead ourselves. So there’s something that comes into my mind. If she should die, or Curtis should die, isbo still has to go on. So we have to understand the great importance of this thing we’re doing. b/c to my feeling, if K should move away, go back home, this thing would collapse. So if we believe in ourselves, and in what we want out of this thing, we have to continue where we’re going, and show the respect that I’m showing to everybody. This is not a think I’m forced to do. I’m the one pushing every string right now. So we all have to understand and work as a unit and try to make this thing go on as possible. I talked to Tr, Ch, Jr as well – they need to get the computer skill training, so we can correspond w/ the people in isbo. And the people in isbo who are donating the money, that the money still continue in the good and proper cause. That’s where the financial report is very, very necessary. b/c every cent we spend has to be accounted for.

• just want to make a correction to what he said about funding: maybe this conversation came up somewhere else, but we need them to know where isbo gets the money to help us. It’s not coming from outside organizations, it comes from fundraising and door-knocking; we’re not going to other organizations to get funding.

• Some of you know that I have a niece here and she has very dark skin. We used to travel around together a lot. I remember we went in a supermarket one time, I was buying a big bag of dog food. As I was paying the cashier, she picked it up to carry it to the car. And the security went to her like she was stealing my stuff. The same thing happened in the cambio in port Antonio they wanted to push her away from me when I was changing money. I hate to say it, but I think I see some of that even in this group in relation to R. For example, I found out L was outside most of the time yesterday, I didn’t see her in the pictures. And I think if I were there and said, L, you need to be inside, your stomach won’t hurt more or less if you are outside or inside you need to be part of this, she would have come in. But b/c it was R telling her that, she resisted. And I think that means you have to think about how much respect you have for yourself, that you would defer to a white woman telling you something but not to a black man. But the main criticism I have is R himself, b/c I think he should have been in the radio station, in front of that mike, explaining what isbo is about, as a leader of that group. When I’m saying leader, I or he don’t mean we’re also supposed to look on him as the big leader and we’re all supposed to whatever he says, not at all. But his idea of leading, of taking responsibility for the situation was logistical. Making sure everyone is there, everyone is hearing, going where they need to go, set up the thing in the radio station, make the contacts, get the directions, get the transportation, make sure the food is there, bake the pudding. But he also needs to see that he should step in front as the host, explaining here are our visitors, and here’s what we stand for, here’s who we are. And not only him, but all of us need to step up. We should all look in ourselves and think about this. Like Ch, whenever she’s leading a meeting she’s looking at me, although I’ve said it over and over and over again, don’t look at me! By looking at me, she’s telling everyone in the room that I’m the leader. Look at someone else. These are very, very deep things.

• what name to use for the role you are taking on is very important – facilitator, host, representative, leader, lead organizer, b/c the roles that the sisters need to play as well is the same. Even tho it is seemingly less, b/c you are out there, it is the same. They are here every day. I personally feel confused. b/c of the westernized concepts of what these names mean, we are afraid of these names, leader, host, we are afraid to designate. So rather than supporting R and him giving out some of the jobs he’s doing, there needs to be more delegation. Maybe meeting w/ the sisters or whoever’s involved. The reality of feeling that the thing falling down if K’s not here, although it’s internalized it’s also real, b/c we’re in K’s house. Unless the group gets their own space they’re always going to be in that position. That needs to be a relevant point – the group needs to find a space or rent a space that it controls or owns. From K’s perspective, being the “white lady” in the group, there is the reality again – in the UK, many black groups will say, if you have a white person on the board, or in your group, then you’re going to get funding. So the racism internal is all over the world, not unique to Jamaica. So a suggestion for K to let go of some of these problems would be for, right from today, the young people with time, from here, they do the phone calls to each other in the morning. They become the lead people on the internet communication. Take over or deal w/ anything going out to the world from Jamaica needs to come from the people. Not to exclude K, but that anything going out is coming from the ground in Jamaica.

• on leadership: I think the difference between a leader in isbo and leaders outside is that we don’t want to be leaders, we don’t want power over anyone, we want to be disguised. Eg, in my case, I don’t want to perpetuate myself as the president of the community, and I’ve never been that, thank God. My idea is that we be able to create a prototype org where it is the people taking care of the people. Capitalism has made us think that being a leader is to command a large amount of followers. A true isbo leader will be one who doesn’t create followers, but who creates leaders out of everyone in the community. That’s one of the biggest difference about leadership in and out of isbo; I’ve been seriously researching leadership, and I’ve been in diff countries in the world and have always found hierarchical structues – leader on top, people on bottom, like a pyramid. That’s the same way capitalism works. That’s in Taoist, hindi, Buddhist, Christian, Colombian, etc, etc. And I think that’s exactly what happened maybe 10,000 years ago as we humans were evolving. I think there were some people, maybe for religious reasons, decided to put themselves up there, and using religious beliefs made everyone obey them. And since then, we’ve started to divide ourselves and became all about accumulating things. We started working more, playing less, becoming slaves of work. And it’s all to do w/ some people wanting to have more than everyone else and manipulating people thru religion and politics to do what they wanted to do.

• what A said, we can’t have “a leader” here! b/c when we talk about security, it is convenient that we don’t have one leader. One of the practical ways to start working on that is to think that this is an egalitarian process, we are all in it, we all work the same, and everything needs to be shared equally. I think what happened w/ R is not just everyone’s fault. R needs to thinka bout that – if he’s egalitarian, he has the responsibility to share all the tasks that need to be done: what we’re going to do, how many people going to do it, and each person needs to take responsibility for some of the tasks. If as host we have to organize taxis, food, places to sleep – and if there are 6 living here and part of the organization, all 6 people are responsibility to share equally so that everything happens according to plan. And one must not overload oneself with too much. When you see you are doing too much, you have responsibility to do this. In that way, you are showing that there is not one leader, but everyone responsible for doing it together. I have a small belief about why other processes have collapsed so quickly – b/c we are always showing one leader, and as soon as that leader gets attacked or killed, the whole thing collapses, as you said about K and C.

• I think it is the expertise of us the people is what will make this group work, b/c combined expertise brings about excellent results. Her in Jamaica, not only here, the work leadership boils down to be “I am the boss. I am responsible for this entire thing. Final decision is up to me.” But in isbo, that’s not what we’re trying to say, or what we’re working towards. So if we go on a trip and say he is the host, or leader for the trip, that’s the way they are going to look at it. So here in isbo, we can’t just go out and say leader, or need to create our own definition of leadership and explain it to them wherever we go. So that they don’t misinterpret what we’re trying to say.

• in repect to what K said, I am worried about it b/c what she said about Mike, it seems like we’re here but we don’t know where we’re going. We’re clear in this group that K’s not our boss. So if we ourselves make those kinds of questions, imaginehow people outside see it. I’ve observed a lot that repsect K has for the organization. Eg in a meeting she always tries to isolate herself in order not to show people that she might be the boss or something. I’ve learned a lot from that. I think we have a lot to learn from K and C and the others, but we also have to learn from ourselves and our own knowledge.

• we’re not trying to put K aside, but we have to respect that she brought this knowledge to our attention. If she’d never brought it, nobody would know about the 2%ers and would just continue living as the people at the bottom. So we must first respect her for that. For me, if we are treating R the way we are treating him now, when K said I won’t be going, R will be going, it won’t work, b/c as soon as we leave the space here w/ K the behavior changes. We need to first respect ourselves, b/c if we don’t respect ourselves we odn’t have respect for anyone. If I respect myself and talk to R, he can expect me to live up to what I’m saying and vice versa. If I believe that R is older, so he has a right to talk to me, but b/c I am younger he doesn’t have to listen to me, it won’t work. As soon as we can listen to each other, share our thoughts, then things will work out.

• I think we should take more responsibility and all be leaders and don’t leave everything on one person. in order that to happen, we have to show more respect for each other, work w/ each other more, and show more love for each other. I think it will work.

• I want to express my gratefulness to you all for what you are saying. I know this will help me a lot in my community. When I said I was thankful b/c J came to our community it’s b/c he helped us a lot. I’m referring to what we’re doing here. He’s taught us that we can do it on our own, that we don’t need help from outside. He came w/ idea there shouldn’t be any hierarchies, do things in circles like this, not someone on top and others at bottom, everyone on same level. That has helped us a lot. Thanks to everyone b/c the thing about leaders shouldn’t exist w/in isbo, we are all equal, same resposnbilities.

• what everybody said is right. I think we need to start w/ ourselves first, we need to be more disciplined w/ ourself and remember we’re trying to build our community and we need to take not orders, but instructions from each other. When you go out and talk about the org, first thing people will say, where’s K, or the white woman, and I would say no, and explain that we are brainwashed to think it is white people who must lead, this is us doing what we need to do for ourselves. People think we are benefiting, getting something for ourselves from the group, and they come and see it’s not like that, we are doing what we need to do for ourselves. So we need to work together to get people to see what we are all about.

• I want to put on the table that we must revise our discourse and the way way we are acting. I say this b/c one of the principles w/in our org is that the people who should be be leading is the poorest, darkest hue, among them women, b/c that’s how the levels of oppression have been. Last session we had here in Jamaica, the faces I most remember are L and R, and in that session, we also talked about the pricniples of isbo, what they were, and I believe in the 3 years, you’ve talked about that in meetings each week. But in this session, I see that R has stepped up, but L still keeps back, and her behavior is always like she’s not interested in it. So I want to ask L, is that my impression, or is that what is really happening.

• this is K, and this is R, what’s the difference? And this is Je. What’s the difference?

• only difference for me, 2 are women, one man

• why do you call her Ms K, and him R, and her J.

• in Jamaica, people who are married, we refer to them as Mr or Ms, or if the person is much older.

• it’s going to take time to eradicate this out of us. At first, I made the mistake too. I said Ms K and I said C. It brought a fuss. He said you CAN’T say Ms K and call me C! I ended up saying K and Mas C. And he said oh, shit, man. But this is a process, it is going to take us time. The way we’ve gotten taught, a married person or an elder needs to be addressed that way. I used to pass people on the road, and I always said good morning to all of them. And one morning, I didn’t say anything to anybody to see if they would speak to me. And because of that, they all said I’m facety, rude, impertinent. So how we got the English teaching – see the OC on Wednesday is an excellent teaching class, and the day I went to that table, it gave me a lot of experience, thoughts. When we look at the world, Ch didn’t learn, but L has learned – its our genius that invented the 2%. If you pay attention in the OC, you get a lot of experience. The people that brought me to the broke, even tho they’re not in the group any more, I thank them. I’ve said many times around that table, that I need everybody to step up so I can get some rest. Everyone. b/c I’m working till I go crazy.

• in Jamaica, some people don’t like people to call them Mis and Mr, b/c it makes them look extra old. So when you reach a certain age, you look up to that person regardless if they are white or black.

• where I live, there are some people we call miss or mr, it depends on the level of closeness you have toward the person. there’s people who are 35 and behave like children, so you just call them by their name. you don’t say “good morning” you just say hello. Those who are more serious and older, you speak to them more formally, more respectfully. There’s people who call him Mr J – he always tells them “Mr J is my dad, I’m just J.” one day an elder corrected me when I called him J and told me to call him Mr. so I told him, we are close, we treat each other as equal.

• it’s entangled in our culture. Some of the adults, even R, acts like we are the same age, like we’re peers.

• he brings some of it on himself by joking too much and not demanding the respect, like a teacher I used to work with.

• it’s an interesting thing about titles, I remember C asked the linguistics professor about that, and he pointed out that in Jamaica there is only one respectful term or title to call a woman, and that is miss. But for men, there’s a whole series of them. To express respect to a man you don’t have to call him mister, you can call him boss, you can call him Mas, you can call him paadie, star, all kinds of respectful names for a man, names that express unity, brotherhood, connection. Just something to think about, and I also think as R said, this is a long-term issue; how do you express respect for elders and at the same time build equality. But I’d also like to raise another question about leadership, and when I say leadership I’m definitely not talking about being in charge of something, but about being a person who comes into a situation and says, how can I help this situation move forward, how can I help a person learn something? And say, what do I need to do here? When you sow a line of seeds in the ground and they start to grow, they don’t all grow the same. True? Some come up and die off, some come partway, some tall and strong, right? Even when you take all the good ones, that germinated well, and plant them out, some of them grow stronger and bigger than the other ones. This is not a complete comparison, but just to give the idea that there is something called uneven development. Things don’t develop evenly in the world. And when we talk about equality, we are saying that each one of us deserves the same love, respect and caring as every other person. but it doesn’t mean we all have the same exact skills, talents, abilities and knowledge at this exact moment. So another part of taking equal responsibility is the responsibility to learn as much as we can and teach as much as we can. And within that, for example, that if you see something you think needs to happen, something you need to deal with as a matter of principle, it’s right to take initiative. You don’t have to wait for everybody to agree with you, you can go and say, there’s something I think we need to do. And once again, back to the radio station yesterday, when we present ourselves, it should be coming from the poorest and darkest. Speaking of the word, in Jamaica there is a lot of internalized racism about how we talk. I know in the US, probably Colombia and every where. J says he doesn’t write much b/c he doesn’ think he writes well. There’s this thing about Patwa isn’t fit to be on the radio. Patwa isn’t as good, as educated, as smart as English. So we want to put Ch and Chr to talk on the radio b/c they are going to talk English. I really respect the confidence Mr. M showed yesterday to talk to the nation in Patwa with no hesitation and no apologies. In fact, that’s what Ch does most of the time. So R needs to do that. Sorry, I was thinking too many thoughts and put them all in one thing. I apologize.


1. others make organizing phone calls

2. youth take over lead on internet communications

3. people present us to the world, not K

4. meet elsewhere

5. money should not be in K’s hands

round of agreements: what we all agree to

• we need to be more strict on becoming leaders and playing our roles, and making sure that the group doesn’t collapse

• we need to step up more, esp women, to be spokespersons for the org. look at the internalized racism in ourselves, how we behave toward white people, how we behave toward black people, make sure we are not acting out of internalized racism in our actions towards people. Take more responsibility for the things happening in the organization.

• first, not to have K as the leader. Other people need to manage the money so you don’t see K as the leader.

• learn how to analyze the discourse of people. One way to analyze it is to be clear about MY discourse, then I can be clear about others’ discourse. Prnicples are: we want to build a new world, w/ the most oppressed people in the world, which is those w/ darkest skin, the poorest and especially women. Our ways to work will be egalitarian ways, w/o any form of top down structure. When I come to any working group, and I’m able to see their principles are not the ones I’ve committed to, and if people are talking in a different way from what we believe, that’s a security filter, and I have to learn to then be quiet.

• we need to know what we want, where we’re going to, and learn to respect ourselves so from there we can respect other people. When we are doing meetings, it’s our responsibility to participate in them. That way, we’ll be able to show other people, when we go t other communities, so we can teach them and show them what we’ve learned and how we behave. That way we’ll be able to expand throughout the world.

• it would be best for us if we just do what we’re doing, tell ourselves that K is not there, we’re just doing OUR work as if she’s not here. Most of the time I’d want K to, like when we have meetings, she’s going to want to come to the general meetings, but sometimes I think we should stay home and back out of some things to make us see we can do it without her.

• to define the role of leader, the agreement was to define that, and define the way we define our elders. Also, delegating the work, we’re going to come together to discuss and being cautious b/c to remove K from a meeting is one thing, but also to have her in a meeting as an observer might even be more powerful. You know you can do it already. I think it would be good also if she just comes as a member of the community, not typing or anything. And security is knowing when to speak and when not to speak. Very vital.

• I think . . .

• clarification : an agreement round is for us to say what we have heard everyone agree to, what our consensus is that we can share with the world

• I agree w/ X and Y. everybody need to be leader, we need to take more part in what is going on in the group. We have to stop look up to K as the leader. And I agree that if she drops out the group is going to fall, so I agree we need to stop that.

• I feel that I’m the one that stepped up, but not getting the respect; I get negative feelings from the group. I explained this is for US, and nobody’s leader, we all have to step up. I’m giving 100% and I need somebody to come up. some say they’ll give 70, some say 80, but what I said before about if K move – it’s a discussion we’ve had and we need to motivate ourselves and continue the journey. In the first isbo session, at one point, C and K said they wouldn’t be a part of it. So we need to learn to deal with it as one collective, all of us together.

• if everybody is going to step up and participate in taking responsibility for the group, and in delegating the responsibility for the different things we’re doing and don’t leave them to one person.

• I heard consensus on delegating roles; on K playing a more laid back role; that others in the group should step up to the plate and take over some of the tasks R has to do.

• Ch and A are saying K should attend meetings and play laid back role, but I’ve seen her do that before and it didn’t work, b/c everyone’s concentration was on her even tho she wasn’t doing anything. I’ve been to meetings where she stands up outside the circle, and if someone in the meeting wants to ask a question, instead of asking the facilitator, they go outside the circle go ask K b/c they assume she is the leader. So now I figure that if she doesn’t attend most of the time, they will learn that it’s not her, it’s us. They’ll know that she’s just in the group like anyone else and doing the same things, and there’s no leader, anybody can be asked questions, not only she.

• I agree with L. we had this discussion in the OC a while ago and agreed that I would not attend the general meetings. It’s a difficult thing, b/c we believe in equality, and we want an international movement of all oppressed people no matter what color they are. But in order to get that, we have to have leadership from the bottom, as we say. And it’s a big problem b/c racism is so deep in everybody, it doesn’t matter if I’m behind the building, people would go around there to ask me the question! So I think the only solution, for a time, I don’t think it’s permanent, I think it’s a temporary solution, is for me not to attend the meetings, that way other people can learn that I’m not the leader.

• I heard everyone’s speech and they had excellent ideas. As a mother, birth a child, and when the child make the first step, she knows she has to let go. I always respect any person’s thought as long as it sounds correct. This is a solid thought, solid thinking. She will always be typing the things we need; we’re not throwing her aside, she just needs to stay to one side and we need to step up. but again, the financial issues, I can control the money, b/c I trust myself to deal with it. But I need the sisters and the other brothers to play a great role so it doesn’t look like b/c I stepped up, I want to control the money.

• one thought on K not being in the meeting. The strength will come when the group has the strength to deal with it; I think it might even be stronger if you faced it as a group. She and everyone else stop people from doing that, point it out. She can say no don’t ask me, and the rest of you can say, “no, please ask me, not her.” You can embrace her as a sister and still be the leader, and that is actually stronger than avoiding the subject by her not being there. Also, as you step forward to take care of money, someone else can step up and take care of the books, and that can be the support you’re looking for.

• on the money: I can also agree to keep the money. I’m suggesting we give each person in in the organizing class the opportunity to keep the money and see how much they can trust themselves to keep the money. Maybe it doesn’t really make sense for everyone to do it, but it could be a way to teach ourselves how to be trustworthy and be able to go anywhere and handle money. I’ve been to meetings where K just did transportation and everyone always asks for her. Even though she’s not in the meeting. We need to let people know that K’s here, but she’s not the leader. She’s sitting here like anyone else, but we are the leaders.

• I think we have the same problem in our community. When we have meetings and J is not there, people don’t play much attention to the meeting. We ask them to be quiet and they keep making noise. And when J is there and says “please be quiet, pay attention,” they are all quiet and pay attention. Same w/ the children. If J talks to them, they obey, when we talk to them they don’t.
• so I need to step back

• is it the same in your community that when a dark skinned person comes into your community, they don’t get as much respect, like it is in Jamaica?

• racism in Colombia is very high. We are very divided. This is one of the big struggles. When his brother went (blond and blue-eyed) everyone was paying attention and excited about his whiteness. (and what happens when black people from VR go there?) when Jo comes, he’s a friend of ours so he’s treated like one of us, but when others come, no one pays much attention to them.

• one of the things that happened that makes me very angry, when I was in England, I hear that people said, oh on that farm, there’s only niggers coming there to smoke weed and make noise. It’s a very racist community, even though most people are dark. That’s why afro-colombian communities live on their own, campesinos on their own, indigenous on their own, mestizos on their own. There’s no black people in our community. That’s why C is always on my back to organize somewhere else as well. But Colombia is very big and there are some mixed communities.