Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Endorse the Take Back the Land Movement

Greetings All,

The historic month of May 2010 is rapidly dawning upon us. In addition to honoring International Workers’ Day and continuing to press for the right to dignity at work and legalization for all, this May Day will also serve as the commencement of the Take Back the Land Campaign. Beginning in May, communities and activists throughout the country will be engaging in autonomous direct actions throughout the country to realize the human right to housing and build the Take Back the Land Movement.

We want to encourage everyone of good conscience to join and help build this critical movement. Millions of families and communities are being displaced by the privatization of public housing, the deepening of the foreclosure crisis, and the escalation of homelessness and we cannot remain silent in the face of these injustices.

We are appealing for you and your organization to endorse the Take Back the Land Movement and support us in pressing for the following principles and demands.
1. That Housing is a fundamental human right that the US government has an obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill.
2. That in order to realize this right, the conditions of our time necessitate that we must build a mass movement to press our demands, and that non-violent direct action is a principle means of pressing them.

Further, we encourage all those who endorse to support the building of this movement in one or more of the following ways:
1. Conduct a demonstration in your local area against one of the major banks (Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, etc.) or the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) linked to the principles and demands of the Take Back the Land Movement.
2. Conduct a community forum or teach-in about the Take Back the Land Movement to educate the people in your community, work place, place of worship, or school about this initiative and its importance.
3. Write an article or op-ed about the Take Back the Land Movement to submit to your local newspaper, or your organizations newsletter, journal or magazine to help educate the public and help build this critical movement.
4. Conduct a fundraiser in your area to help the Land and Housing Action Group provide training and technical support to Local Action Groups in the development of their actions and movement building activities. Donations can be made via Paypal at or via check to US Human Rights Network, c/o the Land and Housing Action Group. Mail to US Human Rights Network 250 Georgia Ave. Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312.

To endorse and join the Take Back the Land Movement please email And specify if you are endorsing as an individual or as an organization. For further information visit or

In Unity and Struggle,
The Land and Housing Action Group

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

US Human Rights Network Releases Major Report on Domestic Human Rights Issues

For Immediate Release
April 19, 2010
Contact: Ajamu Baraka, 404.588.9761

A sweeping report on human rights in the United States has found significant shortcomings in U.S. compliance with international human rights standards as well as its obligations under multiple human rights treaties and agreements. The report, issued today by the U.S. Human Rights Network, culminates more than a year of research by more than 200 domestic human rights and social justice organizations and hundreds of advocates across the country.

The report covers such broad topics as discrimination, civil rights, criminal justice, economic and social rights, immigration and foreign policy. Among the many issues addressed in the report are education, housing, labor, political repression, disability rights, racial profiling, reproductive rights, health care and indigenous rights. "This report includes input from every corner of civil society," says US Human Rights Network Executive Director Ajamu Baraka. "We left no stone unturned."

While the report acknowledges select advances in human rights policy and practice under the Obama administration, the systemic failings to protect and uphold human rights detailed in the report argue for more aggressive action at the federal, state and local levels. "Baby steps are not enough when the problems are marathon in scope," Baraka says.

A compilation of 24 separate submissions, the report lays out the existing human rights frameworks in the U.S. as well as the lack of a coordinating authority or other adequate mechanisms to ensure compliance; details the range of human rights violations in the U.S. with numerous specific examples; and makes recommendations on how the U.S. can better meet international human rights standards and live up to its treaty obligations.

The report was produced in conjunction with the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, which examines the human rights track record of all member states every four years. The UN will hold hearings on the U.S. record in November. The report is timely in other ways, particularly in the wake of the global economic crisis and the so-called War on Terror, both of which have created a climate of fear in the U.S. and a consequent willingness to abrogate or suspend human rights protections. The elimination of job and wage security for low-wage workers, the recent passage in Arizona of a law that allows racial profiling of immigrants, foreclosure rates that disproportionately affect minority homeowners and renters, and documented instances of violence and abuse by law enforcement are but a few examples of how these events are playing out on the national stage.

For the complete report and more information on the US Human Rights Network and UPR process, please visit

The US Human Rights Network was formed to promote US accountability to universal human rights standards by building linkages between organizations and individuals. The Network strives to build a human rights culture in the United States that puts those directly affected by human rights violations, with a special emphasis on grassroots organizations and social movements, in a central leadership role. The Network also works towards connecting the US human rights movement with the broader US social justice movement and human rights movements around the world. To learn more, please visit:

Our postal address is
250 Georgia Ave
Suite 330
Atlanta, Georgia 30312
United States

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Confronting the Occupation: Haiti, Neo-liberalism, and the US Occupation

Written by Kali Akuno
National Organizer, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Sunday, April 11, 2010

The three-month marker for the earthquake that devastated Haiti is now upon us. The significance of this marker is not one determined by the Haitian people, but rather by the enemies of the Haitian people and peoples’ movements throughout the world.

According to Milton Friedman and the intellectual guru’s of neo-liberalism there are critical timelines and stages that must be strictly adhered by to successfully capitalize on a catastrophe and transform a society. The three month marker is one of these critical timelines, and in the words of Friedman himself “ a new administration has some six to nine months in which to achieve major changes; if it does not seize the opportunity to act decisively during that period, it will not have another such opportunity.” Based on experiences in Iraq, Sri Lanka, and New Orleans over the past ten years several things must be in place at the three-month marker in order for the catastrophe to be fully exploited. These include: sufficient military force to contain the population, the dispersal and fragmentation of the affected population to limit its ability to mobilize resistance, and the legislation and implementation of a new policy regime that seeks to privatize nearly everything and eliminate all financial controls.

One of the central enemies of the Haitian people is the guru’s of the ideology of neo-liberalism. These guru’s are the neo-liberal theoreticians and policy hacks who control Wall Street, the US Federal Reserve, the Bretton Woods institutions – the IMF, World Bank, and WTO, and most of the central banks of the world since the 1990’s. These gurus, most particularly the theoreticians, created a script in the 1970’s to exploit catastrophes, natural and human created, not only for material gain but radically regressive social transformation. After waging an incessant ideological war against socialism and communism the theoreticians won critical support amongst the commanders of government and the captains of capital by the early 1980’s and were able to start fully unleashing their fury on the world after the test run of General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile during the 1970’s. This neo-liberal script is a form of what Karl Marx termed “primitive accumulation”, and what David Harvey calls “accumulation by dispossession”, and is becoming popularly known via the works of Naomi Klein as “disaster capitalism” and the “shock doctrine”.

A key ideological and strategic tool of this neo-liberal script is the concept of “humanitarian interventionism.” Despite how well intentioned this concept sounds, it is a tool developed through the auspices of NATO, under the guiding hand of the US government, to be executed through the UN to allow the imperialist powers to legally and morally interfere in the domestic affairs of weaker nations. Stated plainly, it is colonialism dressed in fine linen. As a practice it gained legitimacy after the imperialist induced atrocities in Rwanda, Burundi, and the former Yugoslav republic in the 1990’s to allegedly put an end to crimes against humanity such as ethnic cleansing and genocide. In the wake of these atrocities the UN under the direction of the US and its European allies has executed the doctrine of humanitarian intervention in all of the aforementioned countries and the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, and Haiti.

The latest imposition of humanitarian interventionism in Haiti was in 2004, after the US overthrow of President Aristide and the Lavalas government, allegedly to restore order and maintain peace. But, this cut was just a deeper penetration of the affliction of neo-liberalism imposed upon Haiti by US imperialism with the willing aid of Haiti’s own decadent ruling class beginning in the 1980’s under the regime of “Baby Doc” Jean-Claude Duvalier.

The current US occupation (the third since 1915) of Haiti removes the mask of the UN occupation in place since 2004, and is promoted and (sadly) widely unquestioned, in the US and throughout the world, as a “humanitarian operation” allegedly to stabilize the situation in Haiti in order to provide quake relief - which is nothing more than a perpetuation of the long standing racist view of the US government that the Haitian people are incapable of adequately presiding over their own affairs. The fact is, with the advancements and refinements in the application of the “shock doctrine” stemming from the occupation of Iraq, the political transformation of Sri Lanka following the Tsunami of 2004, and the social and demographic transformation of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the US government and transnational capital are seeking to apply a “coup de grace” on the people’s movement in Haiti in order to clear the way to remake it as a neo-liberal paradise.

Stakes is High

The stakes at play in the US occupation couldn’t be much higher for the people’s movement and the working and peasant masses of Haiti. Under US military rule the overwhelming bulk of the international relief aid (materials and finances) is centrally controlled by a handful of relief agencies hand picked by the US and the UN, who along with elements of the Haitian elite, control who gets anything and when, and thus turned relief aid into a weapon of social and political control. The major ports of entry into the country and its main transportation arteries are under tight US control restricting people’s ability to organize and mobilize under the ongoing dire circumstances. Potential routes of refuge to the US via the sea and the Dominican Republic via land have been effectively closed and legally barred. And the political repression unleashed after the liquidation of the Lavalas government in 2004 by the Haitian ruling class, former military and Tonton Macoute forces, and MINUSTA (the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti) is intensifying, particularly with the ongoing banning of the Fanmi Lavalas Party from running in upcoming elections. And the hunting down by the US military and mercenary forces of political prisoners associated with the Lavalas movement and government, who were liberated by the collapse of several prison facilities during the January 12th earthquake. To top it all off, the Hurricane season is approaching rapidly, and no one, not the US military, the UN and NGO relief agencies, or the Haitian government is prepared to face it and the potential calamities it could bring, particularly as it relates to further displacement, the deepening of food insecurity, and the spread of infectious diseases.

And these are just the short-term issues posed by the US occupation and the militarization of the relief and reconstruction effort. The long-term issue is the suppression of the people’s movement for self-determination and the imposition of permanent structures of dependency and subservience that the US government and the transnational ruling class are seeking to impose via a prolonged occupation. US imperialism is seeking to do no less to Haiti than it did with the occupation of 1915 – 1934, and that is to remove the threat of social revolution in Haiti and rebuild the Haitian military to serve as a repressive instrument against it in the service of transnational capital.

The US occupation of Haiti is not just a singular containment initiative. It is also an initiative to further the rollback of progressive social transformation that has swept large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean since the late 1990’s. The first major rollback initiative under Obama’s command was the Honduran coup that successfully ousted President Manuel Zelaya. The second, albeit with far less US intervention, was the election of a right wing government in Chile, under the leadership of billionaire President Sebastian Pinera. The occupation of Haiti is the third and by far the most deeply penetrating of these rollback initiatives. With it US imperialism is seeking to contain initiatives like ALBA, which in English translates into the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America, initiated and principally led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as an alternative of the FTAA. ALBA, through the solidarity initiatives of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments, was making significant headway in Haiti prior to the earthquake with the creation rural hospitals and schools and the provisioning of subsidized oil and low-interest development loans. Under the US occupation these initiatives are being stunted and contained in their growth. The greatest rollback threat however, is the occupation itself. It is a stark reminder to the aspiring progressive governments and social movements in Latin American and the Caribbean that as far as US imperialism is concerned the Monroe Doctrine is still in full effect over its historically claimed “backyard”, and that there are limits to the progressive reforms it is willing to tolerate.

Solidarity and Joint Struggle: What is to be done?

The US occupation is not just a problem for Haitians, and social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean, it is and must be understood as a problem for the progressive social movement within the US itself. Sadly, the Black Liberation Movement (BLM) has been divided and largely demobilized in relation to Haiti since the 2004 coup, in large part due to differences over how to view, understand, and relate to Fanmi Lavalas and President Aristide. Many have succumbed to accepting the grave distortions and outright lies perpetuated by the US government and right wing and ultra-left Haitian forces against President Aristide, Fanmi Lavalas and the Lavalas Movement. This position ignores the popular will of the Haitian masses and distorts the significant contributions of the Lavalas movement and government towards the realization of a participatory democracy and a people-centered path of economic and social development as an alternative to neo-liberalism. Similar dynamics have also occurred within Caribbean and Latino social movements within the US. And for the most part Haiti and the UN, and now, US occupations hardly register at all within the largely white dominated anti-war movement (gaining even less attention than the ongoing occupation of Palestine). Undoubtedly, racism, particularly the long-standing specter of the Black hoards of Haiti, is at play in this sad scenario.

This situation must change, and the varied forces of the Black Liberation Movement must lead the way. The Haitian masses and popular movement without question are and will continue to fight valiantly to end the US occupation, but they cannot be left to fight on their own. It is incumbent upon the forces of the Black Liberation Movement to organize a multi-national and/or racial anti-imperialist initiative and coalition within the US that fights for the immediate end of the US occupation and the neo-liberal impositions it seeks to impose. The initiative must also take a committed stand in support of the demands of the Haitian popular movement that call for the return of Aristide, freedom for political prisoners, reparations and restitution (particularly from France for the brutal Indemnity imposed in 1824), and the cancellation of foreign debt and the negation of their structural adjustment conditionalities. In short, we must seize the opportunity to create our own script to counter neo-liberalism and humanitarian interventionism in support of the people’s struggle for self-determination and sovereignty in Haiti.

This initiative must be conceived as one of joint struggle. One that is clear on the mutual and reinforcing self-interests of the social movement in Haiti, with its peasant and working class base, and the social movements in the US, and their multi-national, working class base, in the context of the ever increasing interrelated and interdependent capitalist world-system we live in. Our actions should not be contingent on charity or (worse) pity. But a firm grasps that as the social movement in Haiti goes, so goes the potential for the social movement in the US, for the allowance of one tyranny is the spawn of a hundred more. As we gather our forces to support the resistance of the Haitian people, and join with it in common struggle against imperialism, we will appear as a new defiant spirit and a force to be reckoned with.

Kali Akuno is based in Atlanta, GA and works as the Director of Education, Training and Field Operations at the US Human Rights Network (USHRN) and is in the process of writing a book about his experiences organizing in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina tentatively called “Witness to a Cleansing”.

Monday, April 5, 2010

May 2010 Month of Action to Take Back the Land

The housing bust and faulty government policies have immersed the United States in a full blown economic and housing crisis. The cruel irony of this crisis, and what makes it so profoundly immoral, is that the commodity at its root- housing- is not at all in scarcity. To the contrary, sufficient vacant housing stocks exist to accommodate virtually everyone in need, including families forced into overcrowded and substandard conditions as well as the homeless.

In the face of this severe economic crisis, people are rising up. They rail against the bailouts and bonuses, protest the lack of lending, rebel against unfair credit card rate hikes and, most dramatically, fight back against losing their homes.

The Take Back the Land Movement is calling for a May 2010 National Month of Action to assert the fundamental human right to housing and community control over land. Participating organizations, communities and families are asserting this right in two ways: by “liberating” government, foreclosed and warehoused homes, making them available for families with nowhere else to live, and by protecting families, our neighbors, from foreclosure related evictions from houses, apartments and condos as well as income related evictions from public housing.

Every family, indeed every human being, needs and deserves decent and adequate housing that they can afford, regardless of their income. However, instead of facilitating this need, federal, state and municipal governments are instituting policies and enacting legislation protecting the profits of corporations at the expense and exclusion of families. These policies serve only to compound, rather than end, the crisis. For example, the same financial institutions which caused the crisis, are both bailed out for their “toxic assets,” and allowed to evict families and keep those assets vacant. In addition, federal and local governments are actively vacating, boarding up and demolishing public housing and underfunding rent subsidy programs in order to free up monies for bank bailouts and sports facilities.

This series of policies and laws not only allow human beings to live on the street while hundreds of thousands of houses sit vacant, but the bailouts effectively compel struggling families to finance their own evictions and then subsidize hefty bonuses to the executives evicting them.

In the context of a severe housing crisis, policies and laws which impede the human right to housing are morally indefensible and, as such, must be directly challenged until they are changed. The May Month of Action will challenge those laws which prioritize corporate profits over human needs. This is an historic crisis, one which merits an historic response.

On February 1, 1960, four North Carolina A&T students sat-in at a Greensboro Woolworths lunch counter and stepped into history, sparking a movement and changing this society forever. The “sit-in” campaigns were predicated on the notion that legal equality was a human right and, as such, laws violating those rights were morally wrong, and, therefore, must be directly challenged- and broken- in order to be changed.

Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the first sit-ins, the Take Back the Land Movement asserts that housing is a human right and, as such, the policies which violate that right are morally wrong and, therefore, must be directly challenged. As such, this May, organizations across the US are engaging in “live-in” campaigns designed to house human beings and directly challenge those policies and laws that promote vacant housing during this housing crisis.

Civil disobedience campaigns directly challenge unjust laws by breaking them until they change. The Take Back the Land Movement and the live-in campaigns, however, encompass more than merely disobeying immoral laws: it is fundamentally about empowering communities to take control of their land and implementing the moral imperative of housing human beings. More than simple civil disobedience, the live-in campaign is, in fact, a movement of moral obedience.

Organizations in no less than ten (10) US cities will help their family, friends and neighbors “live-in” vacant government owned or foreclosed homes, buildings or land by either moving them in or preventing their eviction. Organizations in cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, will be joined by others in Chicago, Miami, Sacramento and New Orleans. Smaller cities include Toledo, Ohio, Madison, Wisconsin, St. Petersburg, Florida and Portland, Oregon.

Of course, no social justice movement has ever been won in a single month or by utilizing a single tactic or strategy. As such, May 2010 is not the totality, but rather the dawn of a movement whose aims are to elevate housing to the level of a human right and to win community control over land.

The solution to the housing crisis lies in your community, even on your block, and in your hands. The time has come to Take Back the Land.


Max Rameau

See this article at