(Portions of this have been reprinted in many publications: e.g., Independent Politics News, Labor Net, Oregon Socialist.)






Hi John:  [from Colia Liddell Lafayette Clark]  9/14/05

Thank you for this beautiful piece on the role and function of the
organizer.  We do ever need to be reminded that hard work brings forth great

The flood tides are rising and its high time that the organizers get busy
bringing the community the information and tools needed to get to high
ground . We can and must do it, if we are to score a victory against
imperial capitalism world wide.


From Colia to her list of colleagues:  9/14/05

Hi Everyone:
I received this note from Hunter Gray Bear (John Salter). Hunter Bear was my
professor at Tougaloo College and one of the sharpest organizers in both the
southern civil rights movement and labor movement in the USA. He agreed to
serve as advisor to a the newly organized Jackson, Ms NAACP North Jackson
Youth Council in 1961. This was no small decision. Under his tutorledge and
guidance and with the oversight of Medgar Wylie Evers, the North Jackson
NAACP Youth Council would produce a mass movement and the most successful
boycott of a downtown district in the deep south. Only, Ida B Wells boycott
of Memphis in the 19th century can compare. Jackson. Ms' downtown folded and
has never reopened with its string of shops and department stores. This was
no easy work and like Medgar and so many others Hunter Bear was targeted for
death. He was seriously wounded by the southern racists in a freak car
accident (point of death), beaten a number of times in demonstrations but
refused to yield even from pressure within the struggle. Those years are
detailed in a book by Hunter Bear (John R Salter) entitled: Jackson,
Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism. The book is out
of print, but should be in most college libraries. Today, Hunter Bear has
returned to his native land in the West and to his native roots to continue
organizing and building grass roots struggle and a new generation of
youthful organizers.

Hear him for he worthy to be heard.

Colia L. Clark


Hunter Gray [John R Salter, Jr] following a serious multi-police beating, Jackson Mississippi, June 13 1963.


See several very key pieces from our big Scrapbook pak on the massive and historic Jackson Movement of 1962-63. Three consecutive and full pages beginning with this Link:  See also my personal reflections and great appreciation of my colleague-in-struggle and good friend indeed, Medgar W. Evers:



A historic document from the immediately above Scrapbook pak:  We broaden our five month highly successful boycott of downtown Jackson into a full-scale mass, non-violent Movement.



This note does not call for a response from anyone.  People are busy.
I've already received some fine comments about the the new version of my book, Jackson Mississippi. (Susan Klopfer, a Southern Movement writer, did a most positive review forthwith!)  One comment came from Mary Ann, an old friend and former Tougaloo student of mine and a strong and committed worker on behalf of our Jackson Boycott Movement out of which we developed the mass, non-violent Jackson Movement.  She writes:
Hi Mr. Salter, finally received your book in the mail yesterday. Was anxious to read the new introduction. Initially  I was confused as to what this had to do with Jackson, Ms. but as I continued to read , I had an aha moment . It dawned on me. These experiences made you into  the person we came to know , love and appreciate in Jackson/Tougaloo, Ms.
Those are very kind words -- and it's certainly mutual.  (WWW, I should add, was the slogan of our Jackson struggle:  WE WILL WIN.)  And Mary Ann's apt comments have led me to write this:
I and my good family have been having an interesting life these past many decades.  We'd do it all over again.  And we're not at the end of the trail by a long stretch.
But, interesting and productive as I think it's been, I very much doubt that any autobiography I did -- as per the repeated suggestions and encouragement of good friend Bill Mandel -- would ever find its way into print.  By the same token, I doubt that anyone would be interested in doing a biographical book on me.  The just now out third version of my book, Jackson Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism (Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press, 2011), is, as I indicate in its new and substantial Introduction,  "an organizer's book."
 Growing up in Northern Arizona, in a setting replete with social justice issues and committed early on to grassroots and activist community organizing, I, personally, have always been especially interested in the lives of effective activists.  Two of those, autobiographies, had a very significant and enduring impact on me back in 1955 when I was 21:  Bill Haywood's Book: The Autobiography of William D. Haywood (New York: International Publishers, 1929 and subsequent editions) and Ralph Chaplin's Wobbly: The Rough and Tumble Story of an American Radical (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948.)  And there followed many other works, from social justice fighters of many ethnicities and cultures.
I, my family, and many friends have long felt there should be some sort of widely available account of who I and my family are, where we come from, what we stand for -- and what we've accomplished over many turbulent decades.  While my book obviously focuses very basically and heavily on the carefully organized and ultimately massive Jackson Movement of 1962-63, its original epilogue, "Reflections on an Odyssey," covers a number of my subsequent campaigns into 1978.  And now, the new Introduction -- about 9,500 words -- updates organizing and related matters to the present, has some Mississippi, provides personal and family background, motivational insight, and some of my key reflections as a life-long activist Organizer. 
Taken in total, and standing alone, this book is my basic memoir. I expect it to be useful to a wide variety of social justice activists of all ages -- and very much younger and developing people of all backgrounds.
Hunter Gray (John R. Salter, Jr.)  October 25 2011


Thanks very much indeed to Ernest Stevens, Jr. and NIGA (National Indian Gaming Association) for honoring Dr King and the four Native civil rights activists and leaders. I'm greatly pleased to be included in this group, some of whom I've met and with whom I've worked at various points.  Hunter Gray (John R Salter, Jr)



Watching significant portions of the "debates",  I found myself surprised at how thin my emotions were -- though, from a purely academic standpoint,  the interaction was interesting.  Several of our family here are supporting Rocky Anderson who, as Salt Lake mayor for a couple of terms, certainly a challenging job re vocation and location, has a strong human rights record [as he's had for most of his adult life].  He went out on a lot of limbs and I'm glad to at least give him a thank-you vote.  More to the point, he -- like the Greens and the SPUSA and some others -- has a solid social justice agenda.  Other members of our family in these parts are supporting Obama. (No ripples in our family because of that!)  I haven't polled the family members who are far and away.

(All of our family in the Gem State are voting Democratic in local and state elections.  There may be some local victories in that vein.  And we're especially interested in seeing three propositions defeated -- efforts by state government to centralize control of Idaho education and weaken the teacher unions (mostly NEA.)  "Outside" money is pouring in on behalf of those nefarious efforts but traditional insistence on "local control" is, in this struggle, a significant asset.)
More interesting nationally are the rationales by some liberals and even some leftists for their support of Obama.  A typical example came some days ago via the Nation magazine to which we've subbed for a long time.  In the old Nation days, when Carey McWilliams and Freda Kirchwey were its mainsprings, it gave respectful space to a number of the alternative political parties. It had a genuinely radical "bite" on many social justice issues. And, in those old days, you certainly couldn't find it at the one newsstand in Flagstaff.  [The state college did sub to it and my parents occasionally did -- along with the Atlantic Monthly.]  I was impressed when I read the autobiography of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn -- who helped blaze the IWW trail and later affiliated with the CP -- that, when she was incarcerated via the infamous Smith Act, she chose the Nation as the one publication she could receive.  But it's a different publication now with a vastly different ethos.
This particular issue of the Nation contained not only an editorial  endorsement of Obama, but a list of comparable endorsements by several liberals and liberal leftists -- rather stratospheric folks.  Essentially it all boiled down to "lesser evilism".  One of the more revealing comments came from Chip Berlet, some of whose writing on racist organizations is good, who wrote to the effect:  "We'll get the Democrats in and then we'll kick their butts."
An obvious question, of course, is why didn't you all "kick their butts" these last four years when, abrogating most of his glowing 2008 promises, Obama vastly expanded Bush domestic spying, abandoned the public option in health care, never even considered public works programs but buttered up Wall Street, tripled troop strength  in Afghanistan and, with drones and other forces, expanded the Wars far and away, did almost Zero for Labor -- and one could go on and on with a very long list of sins of omission and commission.  Obama was handled with kid gloves by many liberals and leftists -- and there is no reason to believe it'll be otherwise if he wins a new term.
Finally, the consistent deprecation and denigration, by some, of third party social justice efforts strikes me as just plain -- sick. Aside from the solid fact that good people need a genuinely altrustic "conscience context," there is also the fact that no one really knows the fertile minds and fields where the Winds will carry good seeds.  I can say this:  in every community organizing campaign in which I've been involved, there were always a host of naysayers:  the Jackson Boycott/Jackson Movement, the vast and hard core northeastern North Carolina Black Belt, South/Southwest side Chicago, Up-State New York, fights against the uranium companies, Northern Plains -- and a number of other situations. In all of those hard-won wars and other successful struggles after struggle, we proved the gloom and doomers all wrong.  That includes Idaho where, two weeks after we moved here in 1997, a police official mouthed from his vehicle, "We'll have you out of here in a month!"  That was 15 years ago and, despite considerable harassment, especially in the first several years -- including consistent and blatant domestic spying via Clinton, Bush, and Obama -- we've been right here.  And. while doing this long residential "sit-in", we've accomplished a number of good things social justice-wise.
Keep fighting -- always and forever. But always for The People.  The world is big but we can certainly catch a big piece of it.
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]


Very brief thoughts stimulated by some RedBadBear comments.
If one has a fairly solid grasp of American left rebel and radical history or, if you prefer, social justice movements, you aren't going to dismiss the rich and productive history of third party electoral efforts.
If you don't have that grasp, it's easy to write them off with -- "your man can't win" -- and/or talk about the "real race."
"Winning" can come in many good forms.  And if there's one word in the English vocabulary that I dislike with a pure passion, it's "can't."
For one thing, I don't see any real winners in the current two major party presidential contest.  Interesting that neither candidate talks about the Afghan debacle of eleven years, the very sorry shape of civil liberties in this country, or Federal Indian policy -- or a number of other matters of significance.
It takes a good deal of work to organize a third party electoral endeavor geared toward social justice -- but fortunately we always have people who do just that. And, despite the shabby opposition of the two old parties, and mainline media "blackouts," these Thirds can often secure ballot status. Their efforts obviously provide a context for those sensitive to certain basic social justice principles, they provide a training framework for political and other organizing, and they send forth significant justice messages -- general and specific -- which effectively educate any who are willing to listen.  And there's a good deal to indicate that there are certainly plenty of people who do listen.
And often, sooner or later, some of those significant justice messages can find fertile ground in the institutions of this country.  I mentioned the other day that both the Socialist and Communist parties developed ideas which FDR took into his New Deal.  That was pretty openly done but it's also eventually happened in more subtle fashion in many other "mainline" settings.  Long before Barack Obama's ascendancy, some third social justice parties were running Black candidates and women at the higher slots of their ticket -- and, more recently, we see Native and Chicano and other "minority" peoples likewise up at the fore.
As I'm prone to note, the role of the real justice rebel radical is to travel the "social frontiers" and beyond and cut new trail.  It's very easy to reside within the corral of respectability and conformity.  If that's what one wishes from Life, so be it.  But don't denigrate the courageous souls who jump that corral and look and work toward the Sun.
Hunter Bear
From Hunter (re a RedBadBear list discussion):
Of course, I disagree with much of what you say.  Aside from the fact that a third party can run any number of candidates, there is the necessity of bona fide independence from the very outset.  The other day, Sam quite rightly mentioned the co-opoting ability of the Democratic Party (and that could be extended, I suppose, to the Republicans.)
For whatever it may mean, I taught Urban Politics in an activist context for a few times to both grad and upper division undergrads at the University of Iowa. A section of my course involved co-optation and Chicago was my prime, but not the only, sad  example.  Prior to Iowa, I had just completed over four years of directing large scale grass roots community organization on Chicago's very turbulent South/Southwest Side.  Almost all of the people were lower income "minorities", mostly Black.  Out of this we developed two large umbrella groups -- each embracing a great throng of our recently organized block clubs.  Aware of the dangers of co-optation, the two umbrella groups  each formally prohibited their elective officers from holding any paid position with a political party.  A favorite approach of the regular Democratic Party [Daley machine and its successors to this very moment) was/is to hire community activists in various party positions, especially as precinct or assistant precinct captains.  The stipulation that no umbrella officers could hold paid positions reflected not only our savvy as organizers but the overwhelming wish of the grassroots with whom we were working.
One of my several textbooks was Mike Royko's classic on machine politics in Chicago, Boss.  It's still very timely today.
See this for more on our Chicago South/Southwest project:


 The challenge is to maintain organizational independence always -- and, if involved with, say, the Democrats, keep the organization's footing outside of that problematic structure. 
We simply disagree on the importance and nature of bona fide third parties.  I think you're pretty much a "mainline" person and, as I say, if you like being in a corral, that's purely your business.  But you might, some time, want to read some of the solid classics on American rebel radicalism -- especially in the latter 19th century into contemporary times.  And then you might just hop over the rails of the corral and hit the wild and always challenging and frequently productive country.
Best,  Hunter (Hunter Bear)



Re the Sycamore list -- applicable to the others:

I certainly believe, as a social justice community organizer, in careful planning whenever possible -- sometimes intricate in nature.  That also includes carefully developed contingency plans for possible and unexpected developments.  Failure to practice any or all of the foregoing can lead to heavy complications that can jeopardize the success of the campaign.  Those complications can, among other things, be "legal" in nature, can result in the injury of persons on "our side", and sometimes lead to death.  Some risks are always involved -- have to be taken -- but solid and careful organization can reduce those. All of this was starkly clear in Southern Movement campaigns -- but also elsewhere in many other situations.
Within both that planned context and independently, spontaneous and dramatic developments can certainly erupt.  Organizers have to be prepared to respond quickly and effectively -- and prior planning can certainly facilitate that.
I could cite a great many examples of all of this. After all, social justice organizing has been my primary vocation.
One comes to mind -- on the Chicago Southside where, early in 1970, we were launching a large scale block club organizing project.  A minor fracas between little Black and Puerto Rican kids at a vastly overcrowded Chicago elementary school led, via a panicky principal, to the mass arrival of Area 3 Task Force -- special "riot" troopers.  Several of us were only a block from the school and rushed to the location in time to see the kids driven back into the school and its mobile classroom units -- and also see the cops grab, assault and arrest several Black adults who arrived about the same time we did.  We immediately printed via trusty mimeo machine several hundred leaflets for a mass protest meeting at a Black church that night -- and I went to the District 7 police station and bonded out the Black adults. [With our involvement, charges against them were soon dropped.]
They turned out to be parents and also adult advisors to the very influential Disciples youth "gang."  Our mass protest meeting was a great success which significantly spurred our organizing efforts -- eventually producing 300 multi-issue block clubs and related groups organized into two large umbrella groups over the next 3 1/2 years.  And two days after the school "riot", the Disciples, who were shifting into social justice and political work, pledged their full support to our organizing efforts -- and also, we learned later, were quietly providing protection for our staff in that area.
Not arguing with anyone -- just brief thoughts.


As I sometimes note, my primary vocation has always been that of a grassroots social justice organizer.  Although I've taught in very solid colleges and universities, almost always organizing concurrently, I've never been based in the ostensibly prestigious academic entities on the East and West coasts. I am not a "conference organizer" -- trotting ostentatiously and pompously from one such affair to another. Although I appreciate some sound theory, I'm certainly not a dry theoretician.  But, in conjunction with grassroots people from a  wide variety of backgrounds -- racial, ethnic, tribal, age, rural and small town and urban -- all over this country, I can point to a very successful track record over very stormy decades.
I wrote the attached piece almost four years ago.  At that time, some people were tossing around the term, "community organizer" with little comprehension about what real organizing entails. And some of that superficiality continues.  Nowadays, what can be termed "mobilization" (frequently via internet) is often seen as community organization.  But mobilization, by itself and however dramatic it may briefly be, is very far from full and bona fide grassroots organizing.  Mobilization can be an important flare-up part of an already on-going and enduring oak wood organizing burn for special strategic and tactical purposes.  And, with hard and fastly initiated follow-up organizing work, simple mobilization can lead to on-going and enduring community organization.  But mobilization, by itself, simply burns itself out -- like fast burning pitchy pine.  Bona fide social justice grassroots organizing, depthy and pervasive and, by its inherent nature, sensibly radical and visionary, is about the hardest -- and ultimately the most satisfying -- work of which I know on Earth. (H)

I think that Community Organizing can only be effectively done and conveyed, to / with grassroots people or formal students, if the organizer is a genuinely experienced -- experienced -- individual.

Virtually anyone can call himself / herself a "community organizer."  There are not, in this particular field, any formal certification requirements or issued licenses.  And it also takes a Real One [of which there are fortunately many] to effectively teach and write about it.
To me, a bona fide community organizer is someone who is actively and effectively involved over a substantial period of time in the hard, tedious, and sometimes genuinely dangerous work of getting people together and keeping people together -- for meaningful action.  And, as I certainly see it, of course, this has to be within the context of the pursuit of social justice.
This has to involve much more than, simply, a few here-and-there, hit-and-miss local endeavors -- or limited "support" activities from a safe and cloistered setting.  It has to involve vastly more than simply being a participant in, say, a march.
I'm talking about someone who plays a signal role in initiating  constructive fires [figuratively] and who, systematically, works to carry that through to relative success as yet another stretch of the trail in the Save the World Business.  Sometimes it's a pitchy-pine hot and flaring fire, more likely it's the long oak wood burn with an occasional flare.
An organizer can be an altruistic someone who starts as a neophyte and who works with an experienced organizer -- and it can also be someone who arises spontaneously in a social justice crisis and feathers out with dispatch.  In both instances, the organizer "learns by doing" and keeps going.
And a genuinely good and effective organizer never stops learning from the grassroots people with whom he / she works.
Without wasting time on false modesty, I've sometimes referred to an "organizing credential" of mine as my graduate degree in militant organizing. Awarded me in 1963 in the heat of our massive Jackson [Mississippi] Movement was a sheaf of papers with myself  as the lead name:  City of Jackson vs. John R. Salter, Jr et al. Prepared by Mississippi's top anti-civil rights lawyer [Thomas Watkins] who consulted with a bevy of others including the then state AG, it's considered the most sweeping anti-civil rights "order" issued during the general period.  It sought to prohibit us from engaging in any kind of demonstration and boycott, "conspiring" to do such, and doing anything to "consummate conspiracies" to demonstrate and boycott.  And, to forestall any legal complications from the state's perspective, it set the first hearing date 90 days hence.  It was copied by other jurisdictions in the South. The bevy of heavily armed wide-brim hatted Mississippi deputy sheriffs who coldly and formally delivered my copy obviously viewed it as pure Holy Writ. For our part, we simply defied it and kept going. [It's on our website, not hard to find. -- along with a great many accounts and details of my own personal organizing projects.]
But my greatest satisfactions are always based on the positive appraisals of those on whose behalf I'm involved -- in actual social justice campaigns.  Those are priceless.
Academia?  Taking a class or two?  That can offer some valuable approaches and insights -- but only if the teacher is an organizer with substantial experience who can talk in solid fashion, not only about the work of others but, primarily, what he / she has actually done.  Organizing is a living art, not simply an erector-set craft and, if it's taught as art, the recipient -- formal student or grassroots person -- will learn some very solid things.
There was a time, briefly, at the end of the 1960s, when several schools of social work issued MSW degrees with a specialization in community organizing.  Apparently that proved too difficult for the schools which shifted, fairly quickly, into social policy [ mostly agency administration.]  In our organizing work on the South/Southwest side of Chicago, we were fortunate in hiring and retaining two MSW persons, each of whom had their degree with a formal and specific organizing focus -- via University of Michigan and University of Illinois [Circle.]  They did, as was the case of our entire staff of two dozen or so, very fine work. But they readily conceded that they were learning far more in the field than they ever had in classrooms.
For my part, I have taught community organizing [while continuing my own organizing on the side] in every one of the far-flung colleges and universities at which I've sojourned.  While on some occasions, it's been an added dimension to a course formally on another topic, it's also been, in the main, as its very own course.  These have carried both undergraduate and graduate credit depending on the specific student.   And, of course, I've also taught it, as a working organizer, to grassroots people and other organizers as well -- in all sorts of workshops and conferences.
And, wherever I've taught community organizing, academic or grassroots or whatever, every single person -- bar none -- has wanted a practical, down to earth approach with as many personally experiential case histories of campaigns that I can provide. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough.  [This also includes the personal histories of various protagonists.]  And I do have a great many of these personal accounts -- and there are others who do as well.  At this juncture, I have several rich decades of them.
But faithfully remember: a really first-rate organizer / teacher always -- always -- learns much from his / her grassroots colleagues and classroom students.
And, although I have my own somewhat eclectic Vision and am not oblivious to theory [I got along nicely and profitably in Sociological Theory], I've never found theory by itself -- and certainly not heavy ideology -- to be especially interesting to those to and with whom I talk. That poses no problem for me.  The genuinely radical Southern poet, the late John Beecher, an old friend over many decades, commented approvingly and publicly of me that "he wears no man's collar."
Whenever or wherever I've taught community organizing, I've always used many of my personal case histories.  If particular occasion permits, I lace these with much use of primary documents -- everything from field reports to leaflets, media clippings, legal briefs, much more.  We do a heavy focus on tactics and strategies, building democracy, ethical questions. [In formal courses, I've often given a key issue and its setting as an essay test question.]
Field practicums aren't offered vis-a-vis a single class.  But, for especially interested students, I early on did separate, follow-up Independent Studies -- de facto practicums, complete with appropriate field placements [and for full academic credit, of course.]
I avoid overly detailed, tight syllabi.  And I consistently encourage a hell of a lot of discussion.  Many people have had, in their own right, grassroots organizing experiences of one kind or another.  Workshops [and conferences] always have people who are actually doing good things in the field.
And all of that is super-enriching.
Certain films can be extremely helpful -- e.g., Salt of the Earth, Norma Rae, Shane. And there are many others.
And music, too: well-done civil rights songs; and labor and related stuff from, among others, Pete Seeger and Joe Glazer.
Outside speakers?  Certainly an occasional one, very preferably another organizer / grassroots activist -- directly from, as the old Wobblies used to put it, "the point of production."
Written scholarly or quasi-scholarly works on community organizing?  Be careful -- very careful.  Most of that, at best, has only very limited use. Usually dry and lifeless, this stuff is almost always written or compiled by ivory-towered academics using comparable works by comparable others and offers very little in the way of technique and insight.  I place high priority on the accounts of folks who have actually Organized. [This can include people such as the late Saul Alinsky with whose "top down" organizing strategy, I -- with my grassroots-up focus -- strongly disagree. I've used Alinsky's Rules for Radicals on several occasions as a support text.]  Occasionally, I've used my own very detailed book -- Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism, 1979 and 1987].   


The new enlarged and updated edition of my book, JACKSON MISSISSIPPI: AN AMERICAN CHRONICLE OF STRUGGLE AND SCHISM, is now fully available for purchase.  The publisher is Bison Books/University of
Nebraska Press.

 See the front cover page of Hunterbear website for details -- or this:,674910.aspx


I should also add that there are corollary works from related fields that can be helpful.  A faithful member of some of our discussion lists, Sam Friedman, produced -- after long and very careful study, much of it quite direct, Teamster Rank and File:  Power, Bureaucracy, and Rebellion at Work and in a Union [1982].  This is first-rate and very readable sociology in the best sense.  And there are certainly all kinds of other good works in this genre.  Autobiographies and oral histories by organizers and participants can be quite valuable.
But, again, on written works dealing specifically with Community Organizing, Be Very Careful.
My own course in community organizing -- My Combined Community Organizing Pieces -- is on our Hunterbear website.
And our website page -- Chicago Organizing -- has much on our organizing in Chicago during a long, sanguinary epoch.  It contains, among other things, our practical critique of Alinsky.
As I wrote recently in my Outlaw Trail:  The Native As Organizer:
So, if you are an aspiring social justice Organizer -- "bright eyed and bushy-tailed" -- recognize that you can't practice that always critically needed vocation and have the things about which Thorstein Veblen wrote so well and indictingly in this classic attack on conspicuous consumption, The Theory of the Leisure Class.
You'll get your skull cracked, your hide cut, and you'll often get fired.
But I'd rather have Those Memories than Money.
From the Mountains of Eastern Idaho -
In Solidarity,
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by NaŽshdoŽiŽbaŽiŽ
 and Ohkwari


I do continue to hold, as I wrote earlier, that  " . . .the primary weapon of a worker is the withdrawal of labor."  From strikes can come -- and often do --a wide variety of tactically nonviolent supportive strategies.  "In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoard of gold. . ." ["Solidarity Forever", of course.]
Any effective organizer has to be -- to put it bluntly -- something of a propagandist.  In every course I've ever taught, I've always been able, some way and some how, to work in two of the several "pet themes" of mine:  American Indians and the Labor Movement.  I even did that in my one academic year of high school teaching back in the days of dinosaurs.  [I have to add that to this day I am always sadly surprised at the dearth of knowledge about those matters with students from non-Indian and non-union family backgrounds.]
In late August, 1962, with my second year of teaching at Tougaloo College -- just a few miles north of Jackson -- coming up, and following  a few weeks of reflective thinking back home in Northern Arizona, it seemed to me that an effective approach in Jackson, heart of the Missississippi version of police state, would be a widespread economic boycott of the downtown merchants [all of whom were white].  I was the advisor to the slowly growing Jackson NAACP Youth Council which was mostly centered in the city itself. But at Tougaloo College, which in the spring of 1961, had produced a visit by several of its students to the all-white library in town [they were quickly arrested] and which had hosted the Freedom Riders later that summer when they returned to Jackson for court appearances, and which often featured very appropriate speaker/visitors [including Martin King], there was clearly very substantial activist potential.
In addition to typing out on mimeograph paper [on a very hot August afternoon] the first of what became the regularly issued "North Jackson Action,"  I scheduled a course on the Labor Movement.  I was well known on the college's small campus and the class drew around 35 students, almost all of them activist oriented.  And, as I always had, I made my activist pitch in my other classes.
But the Labor Class at Tougaloo was something very well timed -- and special.  The basic framework was a history of the American labor movement with emphasis, of course, on its high points of activism -- lots on the Western metal miners [including take-overs of the mines at Cripple Creek], a great deal on the IWW [including its early sit-ins in New York state, the "free speech" fights to win the right to organize in places like Spokane], rise of the CIO [including the San Francisco General Strike] -- into the then current times. We examined picketing and mass march and related approaches.  I contacted a good number of international unions which quickly obliged my request for bundles of labor newspapers.  At every point, we discussed the applicability of union labor strategies to the situation we faced in the very economic and political heart of the Magnolia State. We used a number of labor films.  To convey a sense of the oft-need for enduring, long term "oak wood" durability and effectiveness [as well as innovative strike support tactics], we had the great film, Salt of the Earth -- as always sent obligingly and quickly  by always "with it" Juan Chacon,  president of the large Mine-Mill district union in southwestern New Mexico and male lead in the movie.  [We also showed Salt and other labor films in Jackson itself.] 
In October, the Jackson Youth Council began planning the economic boycott of Jackson.  Members of the Labor Class, as well as other Tougaloo students, began to mobilize fellow students who joined the effort.
The boycott of the white Jackson merchants began on December 12, 1962 -- and our slogans, "Put your money on strike" along with "WWW" ["We Will Win"] were written and printed, spoken, and shouted at least a million times.  The boycott was extremely effective.  Five months after its inception, on May 12, 1963, we threw down the gauntlet to the entire Mississippi political and economic power structure -- and the large scale nonviolent [but bloodily resisted by the Adversary] Jackson Movement took off.  Widely supported by the
Black community in Jackson and surrounding rural counties, it shook Jackson to its very foundations and its wide ranging ramifications were considerable and extremely positive to the very Four Directions.
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]




1] Invitations to the Organizer from the grassroots -- spontaneous and
wrangled.  Some can come to one's own sponsoring organization; some can
come directly to you if you are reasonably well known; or you can arrange
an invitation.

2] Issues: Some are readily apparent, some not always apparent -- e.g.,
economic relationships; some are immediately realistic with work and some
are futuristic; some are frankly unrealistic in the foreseeable future.

3]  Planning philosophies: Top Down, vs Basic Grassroots Up [my preference]. Set forth general overall goals, long-range specific, short range specific. Heavy grassroots involvement here is always critical.

4] Credibility of project:  Should be made up and led primarily by the
people for whose benefit it is launched: e.g., "those of the fewest
alternatives."  Careful delineation and evaluation of active and potential
leaders is obviously critical. And often things start out with a steering
committee of leaders and then, after the organization has grown and more
people are actively involved, elections of regular officers.

5] Some people may want to move too fast and others too slowly. The
Organizer helps develop the group's tempo and assists grassroots leaders
and people in meeting those expectations.

6]  Direct action:  Always know First Amendment and related rights.
Picketing, sit-ins, boycotts, mass marches are extremely useful.  And
there is always a need for careful organization and tactical nonviolence.
Direct action should be accompanied by judicious media coverage.

7]  Media use:  Has to be used carefully: national wire services; local
television, often with national hookups; local radio; local and regional
press; specialized press;  news releases -- who, what, when, where, why and how; press conferences; leaflets with ALL pertinent information;
newsletters; community newspapers; community cable TV; Internet.  There is always a need for constantly updated media/contact lists.

8] Lawyers and litigation:  Defensive and aggressive legal actions --
"criminal" and civil; local volunteers; paid lawyers; national
organizational attorneys -- e.g., ACLU, Lawyers Guild, Native American
Rights Fund.  Some non-in-court matters can be handled very effectively by good law students.

9]  Possible allies and political action:  National organizations; and
government agencies [be careful]; political -- informal approaches and
quiet contacts; formal approaches and lobbying and direct requests;
electoral [voting].  DON'T GET CO-OPTED.

10]  Power structure analysis:  Check out Moody's industrials and
Standard and Poor's; and check out lawyers and their big business
connections in Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and see FindLaw.
Also see firms in U.S. Lawyer's Directory. City Directory will frequently
give the official occupation of people. See corporate profit and not for
profit charters at the state secretary of state's office and check out
annual registration of organizations from state attorney general or sometimes secretary of state. Data on charitable organizations can be found at state attorney general's office and county tax assessor.  There are also various national and regional Who's Who and IRS and U.S. Government Organization Manual and Congressional Directory. DON'T NEGLECT HELPFUL NON-OFFICIAL GOSSIP.

11]  Coalitions [tend to be long term] and alliances [often shorter term]
are sometimes beneficial and sometimes not.  Consider all of this
carefully and try to avoid precipitous marriages.

12]  Although no Organizer -- whether from the "outside" or the "inside" --
will ever have full consensus from the community, he or she must avoid the
temptation to be a "Lone Ranger."  That role can be temporarily justified
only in cases of extreme grassroots fear or heavy factionalism.
[Hunter Bear]


[Published in the Spring 2004 issue of Independent Politics News And
Published In Oregon Socialist, Winter/Spring 2004 -- and much more.]

I'm an Organizer, a damn good one. I get and keep people together for
social justice action. I've been an Organizer for virtually half a
century -- all over much of what's called the United States. [I've also
been, among other things, a fur trapper, forest fire fighter, soldier,
prospector, metal [development] miner, minority hiring and training
consultant, college/university professor, writer.]

But my vocation is Organizer. I've done it full time for many years indeed.
And then, in conjunction with other jobs, I've always continued to
organize, somewhere and somehow.

What follows here is my essentially outline conception of the
characteristics and qualities of a good and effective Organizer who is
genuinely on the grassroots job. That can be a union local; a temporary
single-issue effort; permanent single-issue; permanent multi-issue;
coalition. It can sometimes be a specialized service center -- which itself
some way grows out of a community organization. A Movement is a transcendent widespread feeling, visionary, fueled by many local organizational efforts -- and it, in turn, inspires many local efforts.

Assembling my scattered notes on the matter a few days ago, I spent some
very early morning hours today [I rise about 3:30 am] sketching this out on
one of my traditional yellow tablets.


1] The Organizer should be at least bright -- alert and sparky. And
hopefully, be intelligent in a depthy and lofty sense -- which characterizes
most organizers who really stick with it over the long pull.

2] The Organizer should be relatively "pure" in the moral sense. But not
too pure -- because no one, anywhere, wants a sanctimonious conscience
hovering about. Set a good personal example. Do your recreational thing
away from the project. Wherever you are, avoid all drugs and go easy on
alcohol [if you are even into that sensitivity-dulling stuff.] Remember the
old labor adage: "You can't fight booze and the boss at the same time."
Always a special target, the organizer has to be aware of the consistent
danger of frame-ups.

3] The Organizer has to be a person who is thoroughly ethical  and
honorable. Among other things, this means fiscal honesty [as soon as
possible and whenever feasible, a local committee made up of grassroots
people should handle the financial end of things]. And it also means
avoiding any hint of co-optation by the Adversary. The Organizer should
always have at least a representative group of the grassroots people present when meeting with the Other Side -- unless local people clearly approve a unilateral approach.

4] Formal academic training in the higher ed sense can certainly be useful
to any Organizer [or, as far as that goes, for anyone] -- but it isn't
absolutely critical. The Organizer, among other attributes, should be fully
literate [including computer literate], with finely tuned sensitivities,
with one hell of a lot of good sense. And almost anyone can do much

Race and social class factors are not usually critical for a good
Organizer. [I'm a Native American who has worked comfortably with Indians of many tribes, Chicanos, Southern and Northern Blacks, Puerto Ricans, low-income Anglos. I've also never pretended to have proletarian origins.]

In a word, be sensitive -- but be yourself.

5] The Organizer absolutely has to be a person who can communicate clearly and well. Often, this can mean teaching -- without necessarily appearing to do so [many people really don't like a teacher.]
And communication, of course, involves one - to - one on a face - to - face
basis, e-mail, phone calls, news announcements and press conferences, mass meetings -- and much more indeed. It can also involve an Organizer helping people with their own unique individual/family problems. And that can help not only the person but will strengthen the overall effort.

6] The good Organizer will have some sort of altruistic ideology: couched
as an integrated, cogent set of beliefs embodying goals and tactics. After
that, there are several choices:

A] The Organizer can be passive; and the grassroots people can be
the ones who make the goals and the tactics. Not so hot.

B] The Organizer can impose a specific ideology -- including
goals and tactics. Not so hot, either.

C] The Organizer can convey a general ideological perspective
which the grassroots people can take or not take. They are not going to
want to feel pushed or hammered into things, but they'll usually take it --
especially if it's sensibly and sensitively "sold". They certainly may want
some time -- and should have it -- to think it all over. And, soon enough,
together the organizer and the people can develop solid goals and  effective tactics. Remember, the organizer brings gifts and élan -- and the
grassroots provides at least most of the reality.

7] The Organizer must have a genuinely powerful and enduring commitment. This has to involve a deep belief -- a very real belief -- in the People and the Cause. The Organizer has to be able to recognize potential
leaders -- and to involve all of the people. Virtually everyone has
something of substantial significance to contribute. The organizer gives
ideas -- but it's ultimately up to the people whom the organizer should
never manipulate. Bona fide organizing [not service center stuff] is about
the hardest work there is. A good Organizer is literally wedded to the
campaign all the way through.

8] The Organizer has to have a healthy but controllable ego -- with a
strong sense of destiny.

9] And any really healthy grassroots organizing campaign has to have a
Vision -- one that is two dimensional: Over The Mountain Yonder, and the
Day - To - Day needs. As I have indicated, a movement which, among other
things, is characterized by an idea whose time has come, is a broad-based
cause growing out of local community organizational efforts -- in turn
inspiring and stimulating new community-based thrusts. To become a bona fide movement, there absolutely has to be the two-dimensional ethos and active life. But the purely local effort has to have the same two dimensional
ingredients, whether it's part of a movement or by itself.

[Something with vision only can easily wind up a small, in-grown sect;
and something that's only day - to -day can become a tired service program. And when an organization has lost its way, factionalism is a sure thing along with the withdrawal of the local people.]

A good Organizer's role in all of this vision-building is extremely
critical -- especially at the outset. But it's also critical all the way
through in conjunction with the growing awareness of the grassroots people. The two-dimensional vision -- Over The Mountain and Day - To -Day -- is the shiny idea that makes people part of a crusade and sometimes a truly great one. It all gives meaning to life. And sometimes, if necessary, one will die for it. Each of these two dimensions stimulates and feeds the other. A good and truly effective Organizer absolutely has to show this

10] An Organizer definitely has to be a person with a tough hide -- not
deterred by cruel name-calling, physical beatings, or forced out of the game by injuring bullets or other bloody efforts. The organizer has to be a
person of physical courage. And an Organizer also has to have the courage
to take unpopular stands within the developing grassroots effort.

11] And an Organizer cannot live materially in the pretentious sense.
Solidarity -- and also sacrifice!

Semper Fi -

HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] Micmac/St Francis Abenaki/St Regis Mohawk

In the mountains of Eastern Idaho



Missing -- way too often -- in radical and general social justice circles
and related settings is a willingness to get down into the grassroots and
engage systematically in some of the most challenging work there is:
organizing the grassroots into genuinely effective and enduring outfits.
That's Genesis in the Save the World Business. It's often far too easy to
engage in essentially empty "jaw-smithing." Fortunately, there are always
those -- Organizers and grassroots people -- who are willing to do the
really tedious and tough organizing work over the long pull. Those who are
reasonably experienced have their own particular approaches.

Here are my own basic ones:

These 17 essential organizing principles were created formally by me in
early September 1963, after what had already been a number of years of
successful social justice organizing -- and then modified and supplemented
a bit over many decades of grassroots organizing campaigns. Now I've
transcribed them yet again -- with some changes -- on December 25 2003.
They are part of a considerably larger work that I also wrote in September
1963 -- "Organizing the Community for Action." This was initially about six
tightly packed single-spaced legal size pages. I made several dozen
mimeographed copies and sent them around -- and they were well received. I continued to expand and polish up all of this and used "Organizing" and my following 17 component principles many, many dozens of times in organizing campaigns, including -- among other dimensions -- struggles, organizing staff and grassroots training capacities, conferences, and university classes. By this time, my little manual itself had grown to nine tightly packed and single-spaced legal size pages. Copies of all versions of "Organizing the Community for Action" are in my collected [Salter/Gray] papers at State Historical Society of Wisconsin and Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The basically full ones began in March, 1965 and August, 1966. In addition, I have copies of all of these editions of mine right here in Idaho.

I'm presently rewriting parts of "Organizing the Community for Action" --
streamlining and updating -- and we are right now discussing the 17
principles themselves here in the Pocatello region as we get set for some
anti-racist action.

The following applies primarily to organizing staff and broad-based
grassroots community organizations. But they can also apply
substantially -- with only a very few changes -- to other types of outfits:
e.g., local union organizations.

Anyway -

1] The Organizers should insure that the community organization is
significant in size and composed primarily, if not completely, of those
people "with the fewest alternatives".

2] The Organizers should insure that active and potential community
leadership is developed in such a fashion that the organization is led
primarily, if not completely, by those people with the fewest alternatives.

3] The Organizers should insure that the organization functions
democratically, and not in an authoritarian fashion and that, among other
things, formal rules of democratic procedure are established and followed
and that widespread grassroots participation and decision-making in the
affairs of the community organization is a continuing fact; and that there
is ever developing local leadership. The executive and public meetings
should be well attended and organizers must insure that an atmosphere exists in which the individual at the grassroots feels -- as is genuinely the
case --that he/she is an individual; that his/her active participation in
the organization is needed and welcomed; that right from the very beginning, he/she can make their voice and presence felt within the organization; and that, as the group's endeavors advance, winning victories, his/her power and ability to affect those forces out in the problematic/crisis environment and beyond, which have been affecting his/her life, will be steadily and proportionately increased.

4] The Organizers should insure that the youth are involved in the affairs
of the community organization -- either within it and with leadership
participation, or in a parallel and cooperative youth group of their own.

5] The Organizers should insure that the community organization, right from the beginning, is characterized by maximum autonomy.

6] Although the initial formation of the community organization may be
around one paramount and pressing local issue, the Organizers -- not through rigid superimposition but through diplomatic and effective teaching -- should insure that, in the interests of the community organization's longevity and effectiveness, the leaders and membership of the group become aware of all issues directly and indirectly affecting them. The Organizers should insure, therefore, that the community organization functions on a multi-issue basis whenever possible.

7] The Organizers should insure that, prior to reaching a decision on a
particular course of action, the community organization is aware of all
relevant tactical approaches and the various ramifications of each.

8] The Organizers should insure that the leaders of the community
organization can effectively handle the matter of publicity.

9] The Organizers should insure that the community organization can
effectively handle the raising and administration of funds -- including,
when applicable, the preparation of funding proposals, the negotiation of
such, and the effective administration of the money received.

10] The Organizers should insure that the community organization becomes
connected with various relevant public and private agencies and is able to
negotiate and secure the necessary services from those agencies without
surrendering its autonomy or compromising its basic principles.

11] The Organizers should insure that the community organization is able
to function politically in a realistic and sophisticated fashion without
surrendering its autonomy or compromising its basic principles.
12] The organizers should insure that the community organization can
utilize the services of professionals without becoming dominated by such.

13] The Organizers should insure that the community organization is able
to enter into functional alliances with other groups without surrendering
its autonomy or compromising its basic principles.

14] The Organizers should insure that the community organization is aware
of the use of effective and rational protest demonstrations and, further,
that it is fully cognizant of the merits of tactical nonviolence.

15] The Organizers should insure that the community organization is aware
of the effective use of legal action approaches and is aware of public and
private legal resources.

16] The Organizers should build a sense of the oft-visionary and just
world of a full measure of bread-and butter and a full measure of
freedom -- and how all of this relates to the shorter term steps.

17] The Organizers, who at the outset may well play a very key role in the
function and affairs of the community organization, must, on a step-by-step
and essentially pragmatic basis, shift increasing responsibility to the
leaders and membership of the group, to eventually:

A] First, insure that the community organization can function effectively
with only occasional involvement by Organizers.

B] And then, that the community organization can function effectively
with no involvement by Organizers to the point that, in addition to
conducting its regular affairs, the group can "organize on its
own" --bringing in new constituents and/or assisting other grassroots people in adjoining areas in setting up and conducting their own community organizations.

I'm an Organizer -- a working social justice agitator. I've been one since
the mid-1950s and I'll always be one. In many respects, it's one of the
toughest trails anyone could ever blaze.

An effective Organizer seeks to get grassroots people together -- and does;
develops on-going and genuinely democratic local leadership; deals
effectively with grievances and individual/family concerns; works with the
people to achieve basic organizational goals and develop new ones; and
builds a sense of the New World To Come Over The Mountains Yonder -- and how all of that relates to the shorter term steps.

An effective Organizer has to be a person of integrity, courage, commitment.
And a person of solidarity and sacrifice.

The satisfactions are enormous.


These are a couple of thoughts apropos of coalitions:

First, I make a distinction between "alliances" and "coalitions." The
former is loose, flexible, and explicitly pragmatic, sometimes relatively
short lived, and definitely observes all of the autonomy and "identity
integrity" of the partners. [It can sometimes be mercurial.] Those
qualities should essentially apply, of course, to "coalitions" -- but I am
inclined to see coalitions as much more formal and cohesive and generally
characterized by substantive direction and longevity.

Each model is frequently quite useful in our necessarily pragmatic and
statistically limited existence -- whoever "our" is. And nothing human can
be an erector set. But neither has to be viewed by its components as
permanently institutionalized.

Each model has to be grounded within a bona fide mutual respect.

Each model has to be based on "enlightened self interest" of an explicitly
mutual nature.

Each model, maintaining an effective focus on the here-and-now in the
context of Vision "over the mountains yonder," has to avoid "ideological

Each model has to avoid cannibalism.

Each model has to avoid inter-meddling in the internal affairs of the
respective components.
Trite as it sounds, "continual communication" -- preferably face to face --
is critical in any alliance or coalition.

And, of course, in the last analysis there is no substitute for fresh,
grassroots, democratic and direct face to face community organization! As I
have said -- sometimes to the point of redundancy -- that's the hardest work in the Cosmos. And, if that organizing is genuinely effective in the
"radical" sense, it is never "respectable" in the eyes of the Big Mules.

Anything organizational [or union contract-wise] is only as good and
effective as its members wish to make it.

Fraternally / In Solidarity -


Late December 2003 and August 25 2004

And all of this posted widely in early September 2004 and again on November 4 2004








Interesting discussion on RBB about getting the word out via conventional print and otherwise.  I'm attaching an older and nostalgic post herewith that discusses the traditional centrality -- for radicals and organizers generally -- of the Mimeograph Machine.  These days, there are usually several Fast Copy places -- e.g., Kinko Copy -- that are easy to find and reasonable [but sometimes, as is the case here in Pocatello, involving staff who report surreptitiously to the cops.]  So be careful to find a reasonably "secure" outfit.   Special leaflets for really special occasions, of course, can be done by a good print-shop. 

Some of all of the foregoing are unionized  but some are not. The buy-union principle and union "bug" are important to some of us at least. 

In some settings, I've been part of good efforts to launch a "real" newspaper -- e.g., the Chicago-based  and every couple of weeks Native American Publication in the early '70s.  But these efforts, back then and certainly now, take money. In Chicago, we were fortunate in receiving grants for our paper from the National Indian Lutheran Board -- this had no religious strings. In other situations, we had to go out and hustle hard.

Direct and personal talks to individuals, and to groups of whatever size, are obviously extremely crucial -- and should involve, on the talker/speaker's part, the art of listening..

If you're an activist, and making waves, you can usually, sooner or later, get pr from the local mainline newspapers, radio and tv.  But you gotta watch some -- some -- of those folks in charge.

Always do your press releases with care. [If you're advertising a meeting through any medium, make damn certain that you have the purpose, date, time, and location down -- explicitly.]

The Net generally and websites especially are obviously quite helpful -- though never a substitute for direct and personal grassroots organizing.  A novice about computers, "I" launched our initial one, Red Wobbly, in the late summer of 1999.  It had a long URL handle which included the word "revolution." I was a total novice re computer tech and the credit for that initial website goes to all of my children and our grandson-son, Thomas.  That was a Microsoft freebee with all sorts of general limitations but a major one became obvious at the beginning of December 1999 when it was suspiciously immobilized by Microsoft.  It remained immobilized for several weeks and in seeking help from Microsoft, I got almost one hundred "canned" messages of ostensible sympathy from a variety of obviously phony first names.  It was clear that we were one of many such sites indeed which were being summarily blocked.  In late January, 2000, operating in remote fashion from far away Lincoln, Nebraska, my youngest son, Mack, a newspaper editor, was able to get Red Wobbly going again. [When I brought his Magic to the attention of Microsoft, it didn't secure any compliments from them.]

So, on my birthday in 2000, we all launched Lair of Hunterbear, now into its ninth year and very well visited.  There were, of course, Microsoft Front Pages costs with which to get started [now about $200 - we now use the 2003 version]  -- and our web hosting server charges us about $340.00 annually.  It's always a challenge to get one's Site established but a moderately priced [around $140.00 a year] Submission Service is most useful in assisting in getting to the search engine summits.  And then, of course, as you go along, things proliferate very nicely -- but you still want to keep the submission service.

I could write a book about all of this -- getting the word out -- but, before I embark on that, I may try my hand at doing a Poem commemorating Mimeograph Machines.  Of course, I am a lousy poet [unlike the genuinely gifted Sam Friedman] -- but, still, I've learned a lot about computers.  So maybe there's hope for me.  In any case, here is this:


Jim's interesting SSOC comments about mimeographed publications prompts this
from me.  In August, 1962, our growing Jackson NAACP Youth Council  was
planning what a few months later became the highly effective economic
boycott of Jackson -- out of which grew the large-scale Jackson Movement
which climaxed in May and June, '63.  I began that August to put together a
frequent [every three weeks or so] mimeographed journal, North Jackson
Action.[I'd had some journalism courses in college and had once even taught
the subject.]

Anyway, I typed  it out carefully on blue stencils -- on my ancient
Underwood -- and Tougaloo College mimeographed it for us.  It grew rapidly
in size -- to several pages on each side -- and the circulation moved out
into the general Jackson area and then nationally. At one point, we had a
basic  mail circ of about 250 -- not counting those many distributed
directly on the local scene. When I mailed them in Jackson -- via first
class in sealed envelopes-- we used no return addresses and I carried them
always to a number of outside mail boxes -- putting in a batch here and a
batch there. Well received, it drew financial contributions for our work --
and boycott support actions from around the United States.  And even in
Canada:  Kimberley [B.C.] Mine and Mill Workers sent us a check for one
hundred bucks!

By the same token, when Juan Chacon, president of Amalgamated Bayard
District Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers [Local 890] in Southwestern
New Mexico mailed us the three 16 mm reels of Salt of the Earth -- in which
he's the leading male role [we used Salt very effectively several times in
Jackson with Eldri running the film projector] -- it always came to me very
inconspicuously which is how we always sent it back to Local 890.  North
Jackson Action played an important role in developing the Jackson Boycott
and helping lay the foundation for the Jackson Movement.  All told, we put
out about 15 issues or so -- into May, '63, at which point all sorts of
Movement things and attendant publicity were surging up in the Jackson
setting.  I gave my file of North Jackson Action to Mississippi Dept of
Archives and History and it's among my collected papers.  [And a copy of the
file is also in my comparable collection at State Historical Society of

[This is a special July 21 2008 insert into this piece:

In mid-December 1962, we launched the signally effective Boycott of Jackson
with intensity.  I and Eldri and four Tougaloo students picketed the
downtown Woolworth store for less than a minute before we were arrested by
upwards of 100 police and jailed.  But this was very well and helpfully
publicized by the hostile but sensationalist news media.  In the meantime,
our Youth Council and Tougaloo students and I began the systematic boycott
leafleting of the Black sections of Jackson and wide parts of adjoining
rural areas and other counties -- all of this something which had to be done
in semi-clandestine fashion. 


In that winter and by mid-spring of 1963, we had distributed about

70,000 boycott leaflets, printed for us by a Tougaloo faculty member
who had his own printing press in his on-campus home -- and the
Jackson Boycott was overwhelmingly effective.  And we continued
to put out vastly more leaflets.

When we could afford it, bail bond-wise, we had downtown picketing at strategic
times.  In addition to North Jackson Action, we mailed out other
mimeographed material -- much, much indeed.  And we also had  continual
chain-telephone calling and countless visits to the Black churches.

And then, in late May 1963, on this very carefully organized grassroots
foundation, our historic and truly massive  non-violent Jackson Movement
erupted and proceeded in all of its glory and grandeur -- in the face of the
most violent and bloody repression by all levels of official Mississippi.

 See our many website articles on the Jackson Movement.

Later, when I was SCEF Field Organizer, Jim Dombrowski gave us our own SCEF
mimeograph machine --  an eccentric creature which occasionally, in the
fashion of a Gatling Gun, sometimes threw huge globs of sticky ink on the
wall of my little office.

I miss those days when every Radical Movement had, first and foremost, its
mimeograph machine.  Kinko Copy and comparable outfits just don't begin to
have the same bated breath drama.


Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by NaŽshdoŽiŽbaŽiŽ
and Ohkwari'



From Hunter:  11/10/04

Tongue in cheek, Theresa:  Asking a Native person about "time" can
sometimes -- I say sometimes -- be a little like asking a Highland Scot
about etiquette and protocol in the Court of St James.  A traditional tribal
view is to see social change and the collateral dimension of time in a
circlic/cyclic sense [change, but often slow time-wise and deliberate],
rather than from a linear --  faster moving, straight line -- perspective.
A long, long time ago while still very much a kid, I learned that in the
broader world, you had to often be linear -- to a substantial extent. And
that now includes, of course, not only "American culture" with all of its
interdependent components, but increasingly the tribal cultures and others
of gemeinschaft as well. Often I pragmatically mix the two -- cyclic and
linear -- traveling  back and forth from one trail to the other but always
conscious of the common goal/Vision.

One more purely personal note:  Eldri will attest to the fact that I and our
offspring [if genuinely interested and "into something"] can be insufferable
work-aholics -- while she, as always, maintains a sensible laid back, "hound
dog" balance.  I trace this zeal to my mother's basically Scottish father.
He of spartan habits and a short daily nap, made 98 despite temper
outbursts.  His business was money.  But my Native father's was fine art.

Our business, of course, is Saving the World.  And that can take -- and will
always take -- a long, long time.  But it'll take even longer if we don't
hit it hard.  Good and effective organizing is, in my opinion, very much an
Art.  It is not an erector set -- despite the fact that there are common
components each project should contain.  Back in the 1970s or so, Texas
Instruments "pioneered" a formulatic approach ["zero based budgeting" which professed to serve all sorts of general "goals and objectives" -- all of
these terms were its lingo, which I am sure you encountered].  Setting up a
G & O framework, it opened the door to programs -- both new and mature and their sometimes ivory towered administrators -- trying to herd people into this preconceived and very time-oriented structure.  People don't like to be herded and they generally balked, sometimes openly and sometimes in slow-down fashion.  Texas Instruments -- using its own panacea -- went
bankrupt at that point.

There are campaigns -- such as the Jackson Movement and that in the
Northeastern North Carolina Black Belt -- that were virtually  "wars" in the
most intensive sense. In those settings, I was privileged to be one of the
key organizers. The momentum of History -- the "idea whose time has come" -- carried all of the protagonists along relentlessly, like the fast moving and rapid-filled River of No Return [not far from us right here, btw]. Often one ate on the run, slept while one could. But on the South/Southwest Side  of Chicago,  a vast area full of ground-down but ultimately very, very vigorously activist grassroots people whose myriad of challenges stretched as far as the seemingly endless city blocks which we sought to organize [300 or so  multi-issue block clubs and several large umbrella groups in four years], it was -- despite hurry-up crisis periods -- like climbing one really tough mountain range after another.   We had time, and almost enough money, and fine staff [about 24] both "professional" and grassroots local. Step by step, day by day, crisis by crisis -- but always steady on: that was the key.  [As well as being an organizer, I was the project's director.]

As Director of the Office of Human Development in the 12 county Rochester
[ New York] Diocese, I faced some heavy and unique organizing challenges -- in addition to the conventional, often class adversaries.  Once again, I had a staff of about 24 from varying Church and lay backgrounds and our own set of offices in an old convent away from Church "headquarters".  Despite the fact I had been brought there to get a moribund program moving, Church bureaucrats were increasingly frightened and part of the staff were hardly loyal to our organizing projects but instead  "reported" to the bureaucrats. It was necessary for those of us who were interested in and committed to getting "something done" to move fast on those fronts -- before I was shot down by the Pastoral Center.  We did accomplish a number of very good things in the going-on two years before the Bishop fired me for "insubordination" [later changed to a "breakdown in communication."]  There was a massive grassroots protest, well covered by the very friendly National Catholic Reporter.  My committed staff were protected and the Bishop then took early retirement, with his hatchetman -- who was initially slated as his eventual successor -- being passed over by Rome and relegated to a rural parish.  I was never, however, reinstated and my family and I went back to the always congenial Navajo Nation.

[These and some of our other campaigns and lessons are on, of course, our
now huge Lair of Hunterbear website: ]

So there are, as you well know as a very experienced hand, Theresa, many
variables in this organizing thing.  But in the end, Organizing is an Art in
method and outcome and like all literary and fine art, it is a tough
taskmaster, usually relentlessly and ruthlessly drawing one's blood and
energy.  The goal, arrived at via linear and/or circlic-cyclic means, should
always be, despite the chaotic and even messy periods,  the finest possible
job. [Believe it or not, and our good fellow list member, Jay Weinstein
[Sociology], who was in an adjoining building, can attest to this, I even
taught full time for several years in the Graduate Program in Urban and
Regional Planning at University of Iowa. I was also an adjunct as well in
Social Work and Hospital and Health Administration and the Advisor to the
Native students.]

Your associated query is complex with its own factors -- but frequently
related in various ways to my immediately foregoing little treatise.
Personally, I believe in always meeting deadlines -- sometimes well in
advance. But I do know that project people, whether paid staff or volunteer,
have to be treated with courtesy and dignity. Recognition and praise are
damn important -- for everybody on Our Side. It is critical that we all
understand -- as you so rightly suggest -- the worth of the Endeavor:  its
totality as well as their always special role -- no matter how seemingly
mundane it may sometimes be.  As a project director, I often found it very
helpful to pair -- whenever possible -- two people closely together for
on-the-scene mutual encouragement and general support.  Face to face
association is always great, but mutual closeness can be accomplished by
e-mail if people know something of one another and share a common Vision.

An old and thoroughly experienced and battle scarred administrator of a
widespread organizing [and educational] program once told me, always the hot eyed kid, "Take all the time you need, John.  Just do a damn good job."

Appreciated that, always, and have tried to live up to that.

Your questions are excellent, Theresa.  Enjoyed this. It is now about 5:30
am Mountain Time.  Cloudy is restless and wants me to abandon the computer for awhile.  If I don't oblige her, she'll scratch but gently.  She has me very well organized.

Take care.  H

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR]   Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by NaŽshdoŽiŽbaŽiŽ
and Ohkwari'


A BASIC QUESTION:  June 5  2005


Hi Mr. Gray


My name is T. T. and I am a University Student, with the intent on becoming a community organizer. I come from large reserve with much poverty and alcoholism. I find on my reserve that organizations do not work together for one bigger purpose. There is much distrust and territorialism, with people hovering their programs. Since you are a experienced organizer, how did you overcome these issues.


Hunter Bear Response:


Certainly good to hear from you, T.  You have asked a question both deep and high!
Here are a few keynote thoughts:
It's critical that any community organizer have bona fide [earned] credibility with the people with whom he or she is interacting.  That takes time and selfless effort in the context of step by step involvement.  This is true both in one's home area and "new" settings as well.  So one has to get started and keep going.  At all points, the work requires a great deal of listening -- truly an art. 
In working with people -- grassroots, different groups and programs, etc -- one has to initially stress the altruistic dimension:  the beneficial service payoff to the community [i.e., "the save the world business" -- but that phrase may not always be the best term to use since it can sound a little preachy.]
And then one can go on to the practical benefits of interpersonal and inter-program/inter-organizational Solidarity.  By coming together and sticking together, everyone and every program benefits.  "We all come up -- rise and advance -- together."
And then one can return to the purely altruistic piece of it:  "It's the good and right thing to do."
Whatever the particular nature of the arrangement into which the specific groups/programs enter, it
is critical to provide assurance that the basic autonomy of each will be respected and preserved.  Some arrangements are loose alliances and some are quite cohesive coalitions -- but no member group or program wants to court undue involvement from the outside.
My Hunterbear website has much on it regarding organizing and related dimensions.   This extensive piece of mine deals with the desirable qualities of a community organizer, community organizing principles, and much more.  It's all fairly generalized and you can obviously pick out that which fits your needs.  These are the notes that I have put together and used with specific reference to Native situations.  This is the link to a successful program that we all developed in Chicago -- in the context of many tribes, two dozen Native organizations, and high factionalism.  The pictures take a few moments to come on but scroll down for the explanatory text.  That takes only a few moments to read.
I hope this is useful and I wish you very well indeed.  Please don't hesitate to get back to me any time you wish.
All best to you --  Hunter Bear


Hey R:
Thanks for the letter of inquiry.  I do remember very well our correspondence of a year or so ago about union organizing on reservations in tribal jurisdictions. [I'm taking the liberty of posting my response to you here on several discussion lists.  I'll remove any identifying characteristics: your name, your letter,your union, the city involved, etc.  One of the things I've tried to do over these past several years is to give non-Indians some sense of the Native situation -- build bridges, so to speak.  Predictably, the results have been mixed.]
In this situation, two Indian health clinics in an urban -- non-reservation -- setting, your basic organizing modus operandi in the general -- general -- sense would be essentially appropriate. This obviously isn't tribal jurisdiction and tribal councils aren't a formal piece of the scenery.  But there are some differences in the Native situation.
It's important to realize that, although you will be dealing with Native people from a number of tribal backgrounds, their basic identity -- even after a few generations in an urban setting -- remains fundamentally committed to the respective tribe and its respective tribal culture, and then to a basic pan-Indian [intertribal] identity.  Native Americans, whether on-reservation or off, are the only "ethnicity" that has successfully resisted much acculturation and any cultural assimilation -- melting pot -- in this country and Canada [and, to a large extent, this is Hemispheric.]  Despite superficial accommodation to the mainstream culture, Native people remain true to tribe/culture and to overall Native identity.  I haven't been in your city for many years -- too many -- but I am quite sure that nothing substantive has changed Native-wise.  That's true across the country [and in Canada.]
From that perspective, most of the Natives in your urban setting are, I am sure, residentially grouped in one general area. There will be some who will be more scattered -- but even those will be maintaining close ties with the basic Indian community.  Most of the Indian people know a great many of the other Native people.  [The Anglo workers in the health facilities would tend to be more scattered.]
Here are a few pointers:
The house to house approach makes good sense.  On the other hand, there are likely to be a couple of urban multi-service Indian centers in your area -- probably under non-governmental auspices. These are always the "social hub" of any urban Indian community.  It would be a good idea to occasionally visit those, unobtrusively, and get a handle on their programs and approach.  These always have events that are open to the general public -- social pow-wows, sometimes with food.  Go to some of those and those visits will reinforce your bonds with the Native people you've already met via house-to-house.
If some of the Native workers are residing on nearby reservations, no problem in visiting them there.
Be yourself -- but be an especially good listener in Native situations.  You don't come through as a "pushy" or preachy person, and that's important.  Quiet listening, quiet advocacy of your union perspective.
Any human community has factionalism with various roots.  Native communities, on-reservation or off -- are no exception.  As an outsider, stay out of all of that.  But there is one difference in the Indian situation.  No matter how stormy the factionalism, there is always -- always -- a basic unity among Native people.  People can fight but remain in the basic circle of unity.  Moreover, factional alliances and allegiances can be mercurial.
You have a very good union. [I belonged to it a couple of times over the years.]  You have a good thing to propound.  No need to be defensive at any point.
Here is a little background reading from our website -- that wouldn't take you long to read.  But it would be helpful:  [Two related articles of mine, from a little less than a decade ago -- somewhat dated, but still essentially current.] [Has a fair amount on, among other Native dimensions,  urban Indian situations, with a special focus on Chicago]  [This has Chicago Native material -- including our all-Indian Native American Community Organizational Training Center of the 1970s.   I was among its founders, served as its chairman for several years.  This would give you a good feel for the array of challenges facing Indians in the cities.
If you had some time, it would be beneficial to do some reading on the specific major tribes in your area.  Public library should have a lot.
This should all be helpful.  Best of luck and good wishes for sure.  If you need to get back to me, don't hesitate.
In Solidarity,
Hunter [Hunter Bear / formerly John R Salter, Jr]




Grassroots organizing is Genesis.  Pure and simple.  It's absolutely
critical in building the bona fide human solidarity required for effective
security, enhancement of one's life and that of the group [large or small]
in the immediate and relatively near future senses [on-going], and in
creating a myriad of currents which ultimately and inevitably flow together
at various levels and with varying breadth -- first as Movement and then as
a conscious part of Many Movements and then into a Mighty Movement, for
genuinely fundamental and radical systemic change.  From my little catechism
on community organizing and related dimensions:
This extensive discussion has now, I'm pleased to say with no false modesty,
been very widely reprinted and both the United States and Canada.

"And any really healthy grassroots organizing campaign has to have a
Vision -- one that is two dimensional: Over The Mountain Yonder, and the
Day - To - Day needs. As I have indicated, a movement which, among other
things, is characterized by an idea whose time has come, is a broad-based
cause growing out of local community organizational efforts -- in turn
inspiring and stimulating new community-based thrusts. To become a bona fide
movement, there absolutely has to be the two-dimensional ethos and active
life. But the purely local effort has to have the same two dimensional
ingredients, whether it's part of a movement or by itself.

[Something with vision only can easily wind up a small, in-grown sect;
and something that's only day - to -day can become a tired service program.
And when an organization has lost its way, factionalism is a sure thing
along with the withdrawal of the local people.]

A good Organizer's role in all of this vision-building is extremely
critical -- especially at the outset. But it's also critical all the way
through in conjunction with the growing awareness of the grassroots people.
The two-dimensional vision -- Over The Mountain and Day - To -Day -- is the
shiny idea that makes people part of a crusade and sometimes a truly great
one. It all gives meaning to life. And sometimes, if necessary, one will die
for it. Each of these two dimensions stimulates and feeds the other. A good
and truly effective Organizer absolutely has to show this interconnection."

My oldest son, John [Beba] made this post last night 9/13/05 -- and it's
quite on
target.  Nothing has much changed for us material possessions-wise -- to
this very point -- but we are incredibly rich in family [including animal
companions] and friends.  Our current house on the far-up edge of Pocatello
[Idaho] has proven to be a wise investment from many perspectives.  And we
do take pride in our extensive collection of Native arts and crafts
[including paintings] sprinkled judiciously and often inconspicuously around
our house as well as an extensive library.

This from Beba and then a bit more from me:

"Speaking as the son of a lifelong organizer, I can say this.  We never
owned a new stick of furniture.  We weren't always allowed to answer the
phone as children because men would be on the other end saying they were
coming to kill us.  It was not uncommon to come home from school and learn
that we'd be moving across the country in a couple weeks.  My point being
that we need to separate different kinds of organizers--the light load trail
rider Shane vs. those comfortably ensconced in their settings.  Great topic,
though!"  -- John Salter

>From Hunter Bear, again:

>From the historic and still very much alive Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers
film of 1953-54, SALT OF THE EARTH, based on the 1950-52 strike against
Empire Zinc in Grant County, New Mexico: Ruth Barnes [Virginia Jencks] on
the life of she and her organizer husband, Frank Barnes [Clinton Jencks]:

"Me, I'm a camp follower -- following this organizer from one mining camp to
another -- Montana, Colorado, Idaho . . ."

I can say I've been a working organizer virtually all of my life -- long
before I married Eldri in 1961.  But since even then, we have lived in 16
different settings all over the 'States. [In a number of those places, I
worked in several different specific areas in the region.]  A good
organizer, sooner or later, works himself/herself out of a job.
Presumptuous as this sounds, see my little catechism:

 "The Organizers, who at the outset may well play a very key role in the
function and affairs of the community organization, must, on a step-by-step
and essentially pragmatic basis, shift increasing responsibility to the
leaders and membership of the group, to eventually:

A] First, insure that the community organization can function effectively
with only occasional involvement by Organizers.

B] And then, that the community organization can function effectively
with no involvement by Organizers to the point that, in addition to
conducting its regular affairs, the group can "organize on its
own" --bringing in new constituents and/or assisting other grassroots people
in adjoining areas in setting up and conducting their own community

For four years, 1969-73, I directed a large-scale grassroots community
organizing project on the turbulent and sanguinary South/Southwest side of
Chicago -- working primarily with Black, Puerto Rican, Chicano people "of
the fewest alternatives".  We had a wide range of enemies: e.g., white
racists -- organized and otherwise, the Daley Machine, Republicans, many
[not all] police.  We were also vigorously opposed by the Back of the Yards
Council, the first of the Saul Alinsky organizing projects.  That dinosaur
richly exemplified two major organizing flaws: [1] top down organizing and
[2] the fact that some organizers stayed on and refused to relinquish the

For a discussion of all of this, see my: Chicago Organizing:  Tough,
Cat-Clawing and Bloody

And, one final time lest it's gotten lost in my verbiage:
The Internet can help -- help -- mobilize.  But it can never accomplish
fundamentally real organizing.

Real organizing -- the grassroots stuff -- is tough and usually tedious and
always the hardest work there is.

Keeps the Real Organizer usually thin and always happy.

In Solidarity -

Hunter [Hunter Bear]


From Thailand, hard-driving Matthew McDaniel writes in part:
"I know little about mobilization. It is the better part of activism because it mobilizes OTHERS to be activists for their own behalf.
So I come to you for notes on how I might do that better in my current situation, with the goal being to bring a greater sense of connectedness and awareness to the Akha in four countries. In Thailand it is particularly hazardous because of the US missionaries wiping out the culture and enslaving minds."
Dear Matthew:
Good, as it always is, to hear from you and about your very solid work.  In the past, you have sometimes discussed your labor and vision on a few select lists.  I am posting this accordingly in case others might find something helpful in our colloquy.
Mobilization often means to me a community organizational shift into a higher gear for urgent, compelling local action.  It can also, however, involve sowing activist seeds locally over a geographical area that goes far beyond one's local project/organization.  Reaching four countries [!] -- now that is a Big Mountain Range.
But, of course, it can be done.
Your website, as you have so carefully feathered it out, is obviously one fine tool for getting that started and for sustaining, explaining, and propounding the excellent work you all have already and obviously accomplished. 
Staff, paid or dependably volunteer, who can discuss at the grassroots level face-to-face, are always, of course, extremely helpful.
But I also suggest the Conference approach:  a well organized One Big Conference [as a starter] which draws active and potential local leaders together from a broad region -- or several substantial Conferences in especially selected areas.  Well organized, well publicized, with carefully chosen speakers and workshop leaders, as well as the always important music and food -- well, Conferences can be most useful in all facets of grassroots organizing and consequent action.
And when the Conference actually takes place, discussion from those in attendance is extremely important.
Some thoughts:
1] A Conference that covers a full day, and no more than 12 hours, is often the most useful -- and practical.  It should be preceded by taking some basic soundings of what's needed in the projected conference target area.  Good listening is always critical.
2]  It should stress what you all have already accomplished in your project and your plans regarding next steps and beyond.
3]  What needs to be done over a broad geographical region is, of course, a very key component and thrust. 
4]  A major focus should obviously be what people themselves can do at the grassroots in their own home areas.
5]  Specific organizing techniques.  You have often used my Community Organizing "manual" from our large website [ with appropriate cultural adaptations].
Please continue to always feel very free to reprint it -- however and whatever. 
6]  Specific technical advice from especially knowledgeable individuals is always a plus -- geared, clearly, toward the particular practical challenges you all face.
7]  Appropriate free literature.
8]  A good, down to earth Call-To-Action from an inspiring soul [very possibly You!]
9]  And always good food and good music. [No reason, of course, that one couldn't take up a free will collection to cover food and perhaps some other costs as well.]
Your situation, to state it mildly, is challenging as all Hell.  We have effectively faced some tough ones -- but hardly covering four countries.  One of our most challenging was carrying the civil rights work we had done in one especially tough Northeastern North Carolina black-belt county -- Halifax -- across that entire poverty-stricken and Klan-infested multi-county region. On a really seminal conference in that particular context [in the days when I was known as John Salter], that was quite effective in sowing seeds, see  [Scroll all the way down.  This page is also followed by several pages of conference photos --  just keep going, page by page.  Our call-to-arms speaker was a major civil rights activist and good friend, Miss Ella J. Baker.  Note that the very productive music dimension was handled by the extremely capable and committed Clyde Appleton, who is presently on two of our key discussion lists.
Hope this is helpful.  We will also pray!  Hang with it, amigo.
In Solidarity - Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]



[Re the Red Bad Bear list discussion]
I've always felt that the basic role of committed "radicals" is a matter of "riding point" -- exploring new turf and charting new vision and presenting creative strategies.  But there's a downside to that, of course, as there is in just about anything in our world.  It's tempting to lay out a bright and shiny utopian vision -- its nuts-and-bolts content almost always ill-defined, sometimes to the point of vagueness -- and then criticize virtually everything that fails to measure up to that -- again, oft-misty -- Image.
We all know the sinister role of financial and corporate interests in the United States -- and much globally as well.  In our national bailiwick, we have Thorstein Veblen and The Theory of the Leisure Class, historian Charles Beard and his Economic Interpretation of the Constitution,  Thurman Arnold and his Folklore of Capitalism, the Power Elite by C. Wright Mills -- and an almost infinite number of other comparable analyses.
There is, sadly, really nothing new with regard to that Reality.
But many of us attempt to secure meaningful social justice change within that context. All the while, of course, many of us seek to propel a vision of a just society in which negative forces are finally gone, replaced by genuinely democratic economic/socio/political arrangements. [Those will never, of course, measure up completely to the multitude of human ideals.]
But it can become all too easy for the utopian radical to place himself/herself on a tree perch -- and criticize those and their efforts which fail to measure up to the ever evasive and shining Glow off yonder.  From that perspective, criticism can be levied against everything from contemporary Cuba to FDR to Hugo Chavez to Eisenhower to unionism to Obama -- and vastly more.
That's all too easy to do from the Perch in the Tree.  If that's what one want to do, well -- fine with me.  That's a Destiny. [And we all, of course, criticize to some extent.]
But, again, many of us fall out on the side of principled pragmatism -- as well as that of Vision.  We try to work effectively with the cards that we have -- and can get.
My personal "negotiating strategy" is to get as much as one can within the practical framework of Reality -- and then try, at that very point, to get even More.
And then, keep trying, keep fighting, always reaching.
But we have to always remember that the troops can get tired for a spell.
And the trail to the summit of the Big Rock Candy Mountain is a long and tough pull.
Yours, H.


There's a somewhat discussion on Redbadbear with regard to Barack Obama's sins of omission and commission.  This is something I wrote for that -- on Obama as community organizer. [I've now expanded it slightly.]  His repeated labeling of himself as "community organizer" does not, in my opinion, constitute deliberate deception on his part.  But it reflects the often devolving, essentially non-combative nature of what many began to call "community organizing"  in the arid period during which he did community work.
Part of the answer re our RBB discussion may lie in the fact that Obama is not a confrontational fighter. I always winced a little when he described himself as a "community organizer." Traditionally, real community organizing involves getting and keeping people together for action -- and for those of our ilk, action for social justice.  By its very nature, it's confrontational and thus controversial.  By the time Obama tried his hand at that, in the '80s, "community organizing" in many quarters of the U.S. had become tepid -- a reflection of the arid nature of the times. In much of the theoretical academic sector and too often "in the field", it had devolved into more of a social service thing. [A sometime "agency term" is "community development."] In that sense, it reflected many of the relatively impotent poverty program approaches which emphasized drawing existent community resources and leaders together in cooperative common cause "for poor people" rather than hard-driving and hard-fighting on the "social frontiers" with the goal, among other things, of building people power and grass roots self-determination.  Obama has spoken and written approvingly of "post-Alinsky" -- in the contextual sense of Alinsky's confrontational tactics. [Alinsky, of course, was just one of a vast number of pieces in the ages old tradition of effective community organizing -- something of which Alinsky himself was quite aware.] The fact that Obama appears to see Alinsky as the apex of presumably old-school and anachronistic community organizing, something which he [Obama] obviously does not embrace in theory and practice, would indicate Obama really knows little about the rich traditions of the genuinely combative art which will always be in demand by the people of the fewest alternatives -- through all of eternity.
Dale Jacobson writes:
Thanks for this Hunter. I find this distinction
very helpful and enlightening. Throughout his
long poem, Letter to an Imaginary Friend, McGrath makes
the call to "agitate." I don't think there is a lot of
space between your views and his on this topic.


RBB can learn something positive from some of these very negatively polarizing episodes that, hopefully, are behind us.  If a person is a genuinely effective organizer and/or radical, he or she is always aware of the need to measure and deliver one's words carefully in studious fashion -- however necessarily they're delivered in the forceful and emotional sense. Important matters are at stake -- often the physical well being of the people and the future of the Cause itself.  And it does no service to attack persons on "our side" in rank and pejorative fashion during discussions attempting to sort out relative truth.  In short, bull-shooting can be dangerous from many perspectives.  The "old man with the Tartar eyes" [via Koestler] said it very well in his several sharp critiques of "infantile leftism" but you don't have to go to Lenin for that very sound advice. It doesn't mean pulling punches but it does mean being grown up. This is what I got when I was barely 22:
"A great radical journalist was my Great Mentor:  Fred Thompson -- originally
from the Canadian Maritimes [St. John, NB]  and Scottish mixed with Mi'kmaq.
Very soon, Fred had all sorts of close Finnish family connections. A Left
socialist of ecumenical bent who was a very deep and committed Wobbly all
the way through [Fred died in 1987 at a very old age indeed], he was an IWW
organizer, writer, and editor -- who served a prison hitch in San Quentin in
the 1920s under California's vicious anti-labor "criminal syndicalism"
statute.  These repressive laws were enacted widely in the Western states in
their attack on the IWW.  Idaho's especially encompassing one -- which also
jailed famous Wobbly [and later Mine-Mill] organizer Sam Embree for four
years in the 1920s -- is still on the books.  I -- in Arizona -- wrote many
things for Fred when he edited the Industrial Worker out of Chicago.
Characteristically and early on, ca. 1956, he wrote to me -- a very hot-eyed
kid.  "You certainly have what it takes," he said.  "But to be really
radical, you don't have to rant and rave.  You only have to accurately
describe the massive injustice all around you and sensibly discuss the basic
curative approaches and solutions."

I've always tried to follow that advice."
Hunter [Hunter Bear]


As I've prefaced before, I'm not at Occupy and, beyond a certain point, reluctant to criticize. My inclinations have been supportive.  A few weeks ago, I raised the question on RBB about where it might be going and possible goals. While I recognized that its spontaneity and somewhat -- somewhat -- diversity were its considerable strength at that point, I was skeptical about those qualities alone giving it an enduring life in the sense of an "oak wood fire".  As I recall, there were very few answers and no definitive ones to the points I briefly made.  The other day I, again briefly, opined on a couple of our lists that Occupy could benefit from some intra and inter organization and national/local and short range/longer range goals.  I don't think that drew any response.
It seems to me that Occupy is a remarkable protest movement which has raised and reinforced general awareness of some very key issues.  But, in my opinion, it isn't really a goal-oriented phenomenon, characterized by much internal strategy discussion and resultant discipline -- and its lack of cohesion and organization are sadly striking. In fact, as pieces of it seem to be fading away, its very life appears speculative, maybe questionable.  Whatever its future, it has undoubtedly radicalized  many people and may -- may -- be a stepping stone to something considerably more effective on several fronts.
These shortcoming, as I see them, are in sharp contrast to the almost always well organized Labor actions of yore -- and today.  The Bonus Marchers in the twilight of the Herbert Hoover administration had a very clear and specific goal.
Occupy is NOT comparable to the old Civil Rights Movement. To be honest, I personally resent that analogy. The Civil Rights Movement occurred in a very obvious on-going historical context, almost always had at all levels effective democratic leadership, and had very clear and specific goals -- local and national and long range and short-range. Its commitment to tactical non-violence was almost pervasive. Virtually every level and facet of that Movement was very well organized -- even to the point that there was usually cognizance of potentially unexpected developments -- say, during demonstrations -- and thus almost always back-up alternatives "at ready." The stakes were always very high. That Adversary was powerful, cunning, absolutely ruthless, and downright deadly. 
Hunter Bear
Excellent points that need to be made.  I think it expresses a broad sentiment, most comparably to the old SDS.  Very positive, but unwilling to acknowledge the need to formulate strategic goals.

Mark L


Google has its good points.  Now and then  I find on it something of mine, or relating to me and others I've known in the past.  I am not an inveterate/constant letter writer -- but  try, at least, to write carefully and selectively and with maximum effectiveness.  Here is one of several KKK letters I wrote to media during our Northeastern North Carolina Black Belt campaign in the mid-60s.  The Alabama-based United Klans of America was at that time extremely strong in North Carolina. By the State's estimate -- there were maybe 20,000 in 1964 / 65.
Along with other smaller hate groups, United Klans was a deadly adversary of ours.  In those days, I received a great many death threats.  Even the laggard and usually hostile FBI was sufficiently concerned to send a young agent to our home in Raleigh early in 1965 with a warning that the UKA in Bessemer Alabama (near Birmingham) and that in Wake County, NC [Raleigh] were involved in a plot to bomb our house. He said the Feds could do nothing in the situation and nodded approvingly when I showed him my .38 Special Smith and Wesson revolver.  We lived in an all-Black neighborhood on the very edge of Raleigh.  I advised our heavily armed neighbors who always watched our home when I was gone for various periods of time up in the Black Belt area. I could get back home only intermittedly.  Maria was barely three, if that -- and Eldri was pregnant with John.  In the end, that Klan plot fizzled. (One of my letters calling for state action against the KKK in North Carolina. Just found on Google!)
Here is a link to a United Klans leaflet from our campaign in Halifax County, NC. It's one of a number during that period.  Held at night in a field, several of us secretly watched it from a grove of pines.  Had no problem seeing and listening to it since it was lighted and broadcast to the conclave of many hundreds via a generator on the back of a flatbed truck.  Three huge burning crosses.
From our Lair of Hunterbear website:
 I've been an organizer all of my life and I always will be one -- and you have to be tough, damn tough, to be a really effective organizer.   Here, quoted by Attorney David Kopel  [formerly an assistant district attorney in Manhattan and  an  active civil libertarian] in his essay, "Trust the People," is a part of the critically important legacy given by Frank Dolphin to me.

"In the 1950s and 1960s, a new civil rights movement began in the South. White supremacist tactics were just as violent as they had been during Reconstruction. Blacks and civil rights workers armed for self-defense.

John Salter, a professor at Tougaloo College and chief organizer of the N.A.A.C.P.'s Jackson Movement during the early 1960s, wrote, "No one knows what kind of massive racist retaliation would have been directed against grass-roots black people had the black community not had a healthy measure of firearms within it."

Salter personally had to defend his home and family several times against attacks by night riders. After Salter fired back, the night riders fled.

The unburned Ku Klux Klan cross in the Smithsonian Institution was donated by a civil rights worker whose shotgun blast drove Klansmen away from her driveway.

State or federal assistance sometimes came not when disorder began but when blacks reacted by arming themselves. In North Carolina, Governor Terry Sanford refused to command state police to protect a civil rights march from Klan attacks. When Salter warned Governor Sanford that if there were no police, the marchers would be armed for self-defense, the Governor provided police protection."

Our classic Klan story from North Carolina, of course, is the huge -- really huge -- United Klans rally held in the northern part of Halifax County on Easter Sunday, 1965. It began in the early afternoon and drew UKA members from all over the South.  We defeated that non-violently -- among other things via our mass picnic of Blacks and some Indians immediately adjacent to the Klan affair.  In the end, the Klan leaders cut the affair short -- never even made it into the night. Their three huge crosses burned in the daylight.
Our multi-county Northeastern North Carolina Black Belt project was eminently successful.  And, in the end, we drove the Klan out of that entire region.

A KKK group has recently formed here in Pocatello -- Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, affiliated with its home base in Florida and related to several Klan units in Georgia and elsewhere.  Worth keeping an eye on -- but Idaho really isn't its natural habitat.  However, there are some other similar "things" in our region.  We always have a couple of loaded firearms in our house -- 'way up high on the far western edge of Pocatello and a stone's throw from BLM lands.
In Solidarity,
Hunter Bear

Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by NaŽshdoŽiŽbaŽiŽ
and Ohkwari'
(much social justice material)
For the new, just out (11/2011) and expanded/updated
edition of my "Organizer's Book," JACKSON MISSISSIPPI --
with a new and substantial Introduction by me:
Our community organizing course:
Personal Background Narrative (with many links)