10 Steps to Transform American Society

Presenting ‘The Democracy Charter’

By Jack O’Dell
The Nation

April 6, 2015 – In the fall of 1979, the Rev. Jesse Jackson invited me to accompany him on a ten-day visit to South Africa, coordinated by the African National Congress. Everywhere we went, from Cape Town to Durban, from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg, the Freedom Charter would come up at some point in our conversations. This document, drafted by the ANC, had been discussed and modified by gatherings all around the country before being adopted at a nationwide assembly in Kliptown in 1955. Its vision-of a South Africa with civil, human and economic rights for all-would serve until the end of apartheid to unite the freedom movement in all of its sectors and to inspire hope and confidence in ultimate victory, despite the pain of the struggle and the ruthlessness of the regime.

Two years later, I was privileged to be one of the people whom The Nation invited to take part in a US peace activists’ tour of the NATO countries of Western Europe. We went in response to the Reagan administration’s unilateral initiative to deploy nuclear-armed missiles in Europe, as well as the great concern being expressed in many parts of Europe about this decision. In the Netherlands, one of the groups we visited was the Women’s Peace Committee at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. Near the end of a very cordial and interesting meeting, one of the women commented: "In 1940, the Germans came; they left in 1945. In 1945, the Americans came. When are they leaving?"

These two experiences, among many others, impressed upon me the idea of a Democracy Charter as a uniting vision for the diverse sectors of our social-change movement in the United States. The following version summarizes and updates ten points I first drafted in 2005-the fiftieth anniversary of the ANC’s Freedom Charter-for a conference of US and Canadian social-change activists and academics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Since then, as I’ve continued to revise the draft, study groups have formed around the country, from South Carolina to the Bay Area, to consider and update the charter as an outline of substantive democracy.

Most of the issues included in the Democracy Charter were chosen because they have been the object of public activity, led by a great variety of organizations, over a number of years. The Democracy Charter, summarized below, seeks to enlarge the public’s understanding of the connectedness of these issues as a way to achieve a social transformation of American society. This is the ultimate purpose of our movement.

I. A national commitment to affordable housing. Initiatives to house the homeless (many of them families), as well as those who pay most of their income for cramped and dilapidated housing, would create jobs in construction and renovation. Such initiatives would also give us the opportunity to increase our proportion of housing that uses sustainable energy. Negotiating realistic terms for homeowners who default on unsustainable mortgages can preserve neighborhoods otherwise destined to decay. (Continued)

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Moral Mondays’ Barber Says America’s Political System Suffers From a ‘Heart Problem’

Saturday’s Moral Mondays march once again brought a multicultural crowd of thousands to Raleigh, N.C., protesting budget cuts and voting restrictions enacted by the state’s Republican Legislature.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards and NAACP National President Cornell Brooks (far right) listen to the North Carolina NAACP’s the Rev. Dr. William Barber speak at the Moral Mondays march in downtown Raleigh, N.C., Feb. 14, 2015.

By David Swerdlick
The Root

Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 14: An African-American Muslim imam, Oliver Muhammad, offered the call to prayer; members of black Greek-letter fraternities served as event marshals; and as marchers in North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement began their walk across downtown Raleigh, the state’s capital, Chapel Hill Town Council member Maria Teresa Palmer announced—in Spanish—that “interpreters will be available at the intersection of Hargett and Fayetteville.”

It’s that kind of come-one, come-all event. And even though this year’s ninth annual march wasn’t as big as last year’s—one that The Nation’s Ari Berman reported as “the largest civil rights rally in the South since the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965”—organizers again brought together a diverse coalition of activists on a chilly Valentine’s Day to protest what movement leader and state NAACP President the Rev. Dr. William Barber II described as the state’s—and the nation’s—“heart problem.”

And while the Moral Mondays movement is left-leaning, Barber told supporters that he wanted them to be political “defibrillators” because “we find we’ve got, not a left problem or a right problem or a conservative problem or a liberal problem. We’ve got a heart problem. When money and greed and political hubris and pride and ego and beating your opponent become more important than working together to uplift humanity, we’ve got a heart problem.”

For the movement, the stakes haven’t changed.

Barber called on legislators to “fund Medicaid expansion, raise the minimum wage, index it with inflation—put it on the ballot and let the people vote,” as well as “restore cuts to public education,” reject “the attacks on women’s health and environmental protection, repeal the death penalty, reform the criminal-justice system,” enact “fair immigration reform, and respect the constitutional rights of all humanity, regardless of race, creed, color and sexuality.” (Continued)

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Victory: Supreme Court Blocks Wisconsin’s Reactionary Voter ID Law

By Todd Richmond and Steve Karnowski
Huffington Post

Oct. 9, 2014 – MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked Wisconsin from implementing a law requiring voters to present photo IDs, overturning a lower court decision that would have put the law in place for the November election.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the law constitutional on Monday. The following day, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project filed an emergency request asking the Supreme Court to block the ruling.

On Thursday night the U.S. Supreme Court issued a one-page order that vacated the appeals court ruling pending further proceedings. Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the application should have been denied because there was no indication that the 7th Circuit had demonstrably erred.

"Obviously we’re thrilled that people are going to be able to vote in this election," said Molly Collins, associate director for the ACLU of Wisconsin.

The ACLU, the Advancement Project and their allies now have 90 days to file a formal petition asking the Supreme Court to take up the case, Collins said, noting that the deadline lies well beyond Election Day so the law can’t be reinstated by Nov. 4.

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