[WSMDiscuss] Chicago Makes Herstory : First African-American Woman and Gay candidate for Mayor Wins in Landslide (Democracy Now!) / The Rising Black Left Movement Behind Chicago’s Historic Elections (Barbara Ransby)

Jai Sen jai.sen at cacim.net
Tue Apr 9 17:28:14 CEST 2019

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The US in movement…, Women in movement…

[Herstory has been made again this last week, this time in Chicago, where the first African-American Woman - and Gay – to stand for election as Mayor of a major US American city won in a landslide election; and beyond this, more herstory : Where both candidates for this office were African-American Women !!!  Can you even imagine this ?

[This is surely an extraordinary step in the history and the herstory of the USA, and of movement in the US – and coming as it does just a decade after the momentous moment where an African-American was elected President of the country (and even allowing for reservations some of us might have about Obama’s presidency), and which in turn happened just a mere four decades after the Civil Rights Movement in the country… and that hopefully also now says something hopeful about politics and movement today, at the present tortured juncture in the USA…

[For an outsider anyway, all this also seems to say something very special about Chicago, as a city and as a microcosm of US society - given that Obama also, in a way, came out of the city and its politics, and now this truly extraordinary development…  Below, the news of the election in an as-always brilliant interview on Democracy Now! and that talks of Chicago as ‘freedom city’, and below that, an article by the person interviewed, Barbara Ransby, that was written immediately before the election and that discusses the rising Black Left Movement in Chicago – and in the US :

Chicago Makes Herstory : First African-American Woman and Gay candidate for  Mayor Wins in Landslide

Democracy Now!

The Rising Black Left Movement Behind Chicago’s Historic Elections

The momentous 2019 election battles will be over on April 2, but the struggle for the heart and soul of Chicago, for a “freedom city”, will continue

Barbara Ransby

            In celebration and in solidarity !


Chicago Makes Herstory: First African-American Woman and Gay Chicago Mayor Wins in Landslide

StoryApril 03, 2019
Watch Full Show <https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2019/4/3?autostart=true>

https://www.democracynow.org/2019/4/3/electoral_history_in_chicago_first_african <https://www.democracynow.org/2019/4/3/electoral_history_in_chicago_first_african>
Chicago voters made history Tuesday when Lori Lightfoot won a landslide victory as both the city’s first African-American woman mayor and openly gay mayor. This comes after a February runoff election that pitted her against Toni Preckwinkle, a former alderperson who is president of the Cook County Board. While Preckwinkle had been viewed as a highly formidable candidate, Lightfoot is a political outsider who has never held elected office. We are joined by Barbara Ransby, professor of African American studies, gender and women’s studies and history at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Her article for The Nation is headlined “The Rising Black Left Movement Behind Chicago’s Historic Elections.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we turn now to Chicago, where voters made history Tuesday by electing Lori Lightfoot as both the city’s first African-American woman mayor and openly gay mayor. Lightfoot’s victory comes after a February runoff that pitted her against Toni Preckwinkle, a former alderperson who is president of the Cook County Board. While Preckwinkle has been viewed as a highly formidable candidate, Lightfoot is a political outsider who’s never held political office. She’s a former federal prosecutor who entered the mayoral race in a long-shot bid before Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he would not run for a third term. In 2015, Emanuel appointed her to head the Chicago Police Board. She was also chair of the Police Accountability Task Force in 2016, created after the police killing of Laquan McDonald, that issued a damning report on Chicago police relations with black residents. Part of her mayoral campaign focused on ousting Chicago’s political machine, and she linked Preckwinkle to an ongoing federal corruption investigation at City Hall.

This is Lightfoot addressing her supporters Tuesday night in a victory speech.

MAYOR-ELECT LORI LIGHTFOOT: Thank you, Chicago. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. A few moments ago, I spoke with Toni Preckwinkle. In this election, Toni and I were competitors. But our differences are nothing compared to what we can achieve together. Now that it’s over, I know we will work together for the city that we both love.

Today you did more than make history. You created a movement for change. … This is not us versus them, or neighborhoods versus downtown. We are in this together, and we will grow together. We can and we will build trust between our people and our brave police officers, so that the communities and police trust each other, not fear each other. We can and we will break this city’s endless cycle of corruption and never again, never, ever, allow politicians to profit from elected positions. …

Out there tonight, a lot of little girls and boys are watching. They’re watching us. And they’re seeing the beginning of something, well, a little bit different. They’re seeing a city reborn, a city where it doesn’t matter what color you are, and where it surely doesn’t matter how tall you are, where it doesn’t matter who you love, just as long as you love—let me say that again: where it doesn’t matter who you love, just as long as you love with all your heart. In the Chicago we will build together, we will celebrate our differences, we will embrace our uniqueness, and we will make certain that all have every opportunity to succeed. Thank you.

Every child out there should know this: Each of you, one day, can be the mayor of Chicago. Want to know why? Just look right here. One day you will stand on my shoulders, as I stand on the shoulders of so many, the shoulders of strong black women, like Ida B. Wells, Gwendolyn Brooks and Annie Ruth Lowery, the shoulders of LGBTQ+ trailblazers, like Dr. Ron Sable, Vernita Gray and Art Johnston, and the shoulders of political giants, like the late, great Harold Washington.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Chicago’s Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot addressing supporters in her victory speech Tuesday night. She won 73% of the vote. She’ll take over as mayor next month.

For more, we go to Chicago, where we’re joined by Barbara Ransby, professor of African American studies, gender and women’s studies and history at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She wrote about all of this for The Nation in piece <https://www.thenation.com/article/chicago-election-mayor-black-lives-matter/> headlined, “The Rising Black Left Movement Behind Chicago’s Historic Elections.” Her latest book, Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the 21st Century.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Professor Ransby. Can you talk about the significance of the mayoral election yesterday?

BARBARA RANSBY: Yes. Thanks for having me, Amy. You know, there’s significance on two levels. I mean, I would be, as a historian, the last to deny the significance of having an openly gay African-American woman as the mayor of the third-largest city, because the way that racism has worked in this city and in this country in the past is through exclusion, right? So, the fact that we have overcome that hurdle in terms of representation is significant.

But what’s more significant is the way in which this generation of activists, particularly young black activists, have transcended narrow identity politics and have really insisted that politicians like Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle and others adhere to a set of progressive demands and issues that have defined this campaign. So I think, you know, on another level, the real victory is that movement organizers, young black and Latinx organizers, have put critical issues on the table and that the two contenders both had to present themselves and make promises around a progressive agenda. The question now is: Will they keep that agenda?

I should also say, in all fairness, that there were critiques of both candidates. And I think that reflects a level of political savvy and sophistication, that it wasn’t enough to say we’re going of a black woman mayor, that many young black queer activists, for example, were very critical of Lori Lightfoot’s role on the police board and didn’t feel that she really fought hard enough to hold police accountable, to punish police for police crimes and so forth. So, they weren’t timid about doing that simply because she was an African-American woman and an out gay black woman.

So, the twofold victory is that, in some ways, the white-led machine in Chicago politics has been wounded, if not defeated, but it’s also a challenge that, you know, a whole ecosystem of black and Latinx and anti-racist white activists in Chicago have shaped the debate around this campaign and will continue to push after the inauguration in May.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Ransby, the last African-American mayor, or the first African-American mayor, of Chicago, Harold Washington, was elected amidst a huge racial divide politically, where the white political establishment made his first few years almost impossible to govern. And now we’re seeing a situation where you have two African-American women, and the winner wins in all the wards, in all the aldermanic wards of Chicago, which seems to indicate that at least now, for the first time in the white community, there is no sense of trepidation about voting for an African-American candidate. But Toni Preckwinkle, while she is considered an establishment candidate, was also—wasn’t she—one of the key figures in the Progressive Caucus of the City Council? So, why this huge landslide for her opponent?

BARBARA RANSBY: Well, we’re still waiting to see how many people actually voted. But, yeah, Lori Lightfoot won by a landslide. That’s undeniable. In the February election, however, we didn’t see either Preckwinkle or Lori Lightfoot win a majority of the black wards. That just was not the case. So, how we see this playing out, you know, we’re still figuring it out.

But this, I will say: I think people have a desire for change. I think sometimes, you know, maybe we’re not as critical as we should be about what kind of change is likely to come. I think both of the candidates, though, made some impressive commitments. And again, you know, I think we have to see whether they’re going to be—whether Lori Lightfoot is in fact going to deliver on the promises made. So, I think the desire to break with tradition—and Toni Preckwinkle was certainly seen as a part of the old guard. She was one of the founders in the City Council, when she served there, of the Progressive Caucus, and certainly was supported by the progressive wing of the labor movement here in Chicago. But I think the idea of someone who hadn’t held office, the idea of someone who had a strong message of being independent and so forth, was appealing to a number of people.

Now, that said, also, a lot of people with money supported Lori Lightfoot. A lot of, you know, North Side wealthy districts, wards, went with Lori Lightfoot, and that allowed for TV ads and a reach that Toni Preckwinkle didn’t have.

So, you know, I mean, people vote for a lot of different reasons. And I guess, you know, part of the way I’m making sense of this, this morning, is that it’s not just about what individual wins. It’s about what issues got put on the table and what commitments were extracted. And so, phase two then is to see whether the movement sustains its pressure, sustains the push, and actually holds Lori Lightfoot accountable for the things that she has promised to do.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you could talk more about, Professor Ransby, the politics of issues of police brutality, police killings, and how they very much played into this campaign and the—you know, ultimately, earlier, the dumping of, the defeat of Alvarez, with the killing of Laquan McDonald, of course, Rahm Emanuel holding back that videotape of the police killing of McDonald right through his re-election, and the fact that Lightfoot, yes, is the head of the Chicago Police Board, and how all these different movements, like the Black Lives Matter movement, all came together around this, and what now Mayor-elect Lightfoot says about issues of police brutality and police violence, since they were so central to this campaign?

BARBARA RANSBY: Yeah, absolutely. And I just want to preface my response to your question by saying they’re also a set of very related economic issues, because the people who are most vulnerable to police violence in Chicago and elsewhere are poor and working-class, primarily black and secondarily Latinx, folks. And so, the movement here, I think, has also been very clear about gentrification, issues of rent control, the fact that black people are being pushed out of the city because of the priciness of the city and the abandonment of services. So, all that is the backdrop to the issue of police violence.

But you’re right, Amy. The Laquan McDonald case was really the pivot of this election in a lot of ways. It was the issue that Rahm Emanuel couldn’t run away from. And he couldn’t run away from it because of the relentless pressure by a whole network and coalition of organizations, from Black Lives Matter Chicago to Assata’s Daughters to #LetUsBreathe Collective to Black Youth Project 100. So, putting the pressure on Rahm not to run, or letting him know that this was going to be the fight of his life if he did run, was part of what shaped the election as it unfolded.

Secondly, you know, the movement really confronted Lori Lightfoot when she was in her role as the chair of the police board. And young people confronted her around the Rekia Boyd murder and confronted her around the Laquan McDonald issue during the campaign. There were actually T-shirts that said “Queers Against Lori Lightfoot,” which was interesting and, I think, eye-catching for a number of people to see that kind of formulation of people saying this is not just about identity. And a lot of that centered around grievances around police accountability. Of course, Lori Lightfoot is a former prosecutor and, many felt, much too closely allied with the police, even though the promises she has made re for police accountability and police reform. And so, again, it’s a question of pushing and making sure that at least some of those promises are kept and that the movement sustains its momentum.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Ransby, Chicago is one of these cities that’s about one-third African-American, one-third Latino and one-third white. Any sense of how this election played out in the Latino community of Chicago? Given—I understand that Chuy García, who last ran against Rahm Emanuel, was backing Lightfoot. But how did this play out among the voters?

BARBARA RANSBY: Yeah, I mean, I think the Latino community was divided. I mean, certainly, high-profile Latinx leaders in the city ultimately sided with and endorsed Lori Lightfoot. Chuy was one of those. Of course, you know, Chuy—when Chuy ran, Toni Preckwinkle declined to endorse him against Rahm Emanuel, so there may have been some residual from that. But also, Susana Mendoza, who was the other high-profile Latinx candidate in the race, Gery Chico, both endorsed Lori Lightfoot.

But what I would say, on the grassroots level, organizers in the immigrant rights movement, some young, queer Latinx organizers allied with young black organizers in challenging that scenario, in challenging Lori Lightfoot, in challenging the idea that she would be some sort of savior for the city. So, there were Latinos on both sides of the debate between the two contenders.

And I think, you know, really, it’s—there are political, ideological differences, and we don’t see black people voting in a single bloc. We don’t see Latinx people voting in a single bloc. I think there’s a real move beyond a certain kind of narrow identity politics, and really embracing issues and forming new alliances. And we’ve really seen more black-brown unity at the grassroots level in Chicago than we have in actual more formal electoral coalitions.

AMY GOODMAN: Barbara Ransby, we want to thank you for being with us, professor of African American studies, gender and women’s studies and history at University of Illinois, Chicago. Her latest book, Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the 21st Century. And we’ll link to your piece <https://www.thenation.com/article/chicago-election-mayor-black-lives-matter/> in The Nation, “The Rising Black Left Movement Behind Chicago’s Historic Elections.”

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Mexico City. Stay with us.

The Rising Black Left Movement Behind Chicago’s Historic Elections

The momentous 2019 election battles will be over on April 2, but the struggle for the heart and soul of Chicago, for a “freedom city,” will continue.
Barbara Ransby The Nation <https://www.thenation.com/article/chicago-election-mayor-black-lives-matter/>
April 7 2019
https://portside.org/2019-04-07/rising-black-left-movement-behind-chicagos-historic-elections <https://portside.org/2019-04-07/rising-black-left-movement-behind-chicagos-historic-elections>

Black Lives Matter protesters march through Chicago in response to the police shooting of Paul O'Neal., Sipa / AP
[This article appeared in The Nation just before the Chicago municipal elections]

This Tuesday, the people of Chicago will go to the polls for a special runoff election to decide who will lead their city for the next four years. When they do, no matter which of the two mayoral candidates wins, the result will be that the next mayor of the country’s third-largest city will be a black woman, possibly a queer black woman: either Cook County Board Chair Toni Preckwinkle, or former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot. This fact is unprecedented and noteworthy—although, in the age of Black Lives Matter and the Movement for Black Lives it is also not enough (about which I’ll say more shortly).

Politics in Chicago have long flowed from two fundamental, intertwined truths: White, male-led machine politicians have worked to keep outsiders at bay, while trying to keep black voters and black politicians in check.

The first black mayor, Harold Washington, suffered the full force of these truths. Washington endured racist attacks during his historic 1983 campaign, followed by a ferocious backlash after he was elected. One opposition candidate charged that City Hall was being run by “pimps and panderers,” while a bloc of 29 white aldermen moved to block every appointment Washington sought to make, in effect sabotaging city government for years. That was how determined they were to not have a black man in charge.

Thirty-six years later, a lot has changed in the city that was once deemed one of the most segregated in the United States. In the wake of a historic first round of elections in late February, not only do the mayoral contenders look and sound different from their predecessors, so does the incoming City Council.

During this election season, many young, independent, queer folk of color have made bids for office, or taken an active lead in key campaigns. And they are not solo careerists; they are tied to a sprawling network of community organizers. Their low-budget, high-energy grassroots efforts garnered wins in February for young progressive candidates like Maria Hadden, 38, who has ties to the Black Youth Project 100. Rossana Rodriguez, a young Puerto Rican socialist and activist from the Northwest Side is in the April 2 run-off for the 33rd ward. Other left-leaning independents contending for City Council seats in the upcoming run-offs include 20th ward candidate Jeanette Taylor, a working-class African-American activist who was apart of a 34-day hunger strike in 2015 to help keep a neighborhood school (Dyett High School) from closing, and Byron Sigcho-Lopez, who describes himself as running against “corporate interests” and “machine politicians” in the 25th ward.

Along with these new faces has come a repudiation of the city’s corrupt political past. For as long as most Chicagoans can remember, there have been a lot of “yes men and women” in the City Council rubber-stamping everything the mayor’s office sent their way. Those days may be gone. In order to be a viable contender in this electoral season, especially with local corruption scandals in the headlines, Chicago candidates had to adamantly reject business as usual.

“We should view this election cycle as the beginning of a seismic shift against the neoliberal project that has resulted in privatization, militarized policing and destruction of many of our community institutions and resources,” says Aislinn Pulley, lead organizer of Black Lives Matter Chicago and a rising presence in the city.

For Mariame Kaba, longtime organizer and mentor to many young Chicago organizers, all this signals a “sea change” in city politics. But this shift didn’t arise suddenly or spontaneously. Much was set in motion by a slightly older generation of organizers and teachers, people like Kaba who held workshops, teach-ins and leadership training sessions and mentored many of the activists who are now at the forefront of Chicago politics. They, in turn, acquired skills and savvy through a series of local campaigns, all the while building relationships with one another, Kaba says.

Many in this new cohort of activists cut their political teeth on successful campaigns to oust State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Police Chief Garry McCarthy for their roles in the Laquan McDonald police-murder case. Another critical came with the 2015 City Council Reparations Ordinance for survivors of police torture, which was the culmination of a five-year struggle for accountability in the Jon Burge torture scandal. And it is impossible to escape the shaping influence of the Black Lives Matter Movement (now a part of the larger national coalition, the Movement for Black Lives), which not only birthed a new political ethos—one that goes beyond simplistic notions of representational race politics—but also emboldened a new grassroots force of powerful leaders, many of them women.

These women include activists like former BYP100 leader Charlene Carruthers, who stood on a chair and closed down a Police Board meeting that was being chaired by mayoral contender Lori Lightfoot in 2016; Carruthers, and the dozens who stood with her, were demanding the City fire police officer Dante Servin for the 2015 murder of Rekia Boyd. And they are women like Aislinn Pulley and Page May, one of the founders of Assata’s Daughters and an activist in #NoCopAcademy, an expansive campaign in opposition to the construction of a $95 million police-training and recreation center on Chicago’s predominately black West Side.

These young women are all formidable forces in Chicago politics. But they don’t stand alone. They represent a new style of leadership that works in coalition—across multiple geographic, generational, and demographic divide—and is more interested in public accountability than backroom deals or cushy city jobs.

What this means is that, as exciting as the prospect is of a city led by a woman of color, many activists aren’t resting on this achievement but rather they are continuing to push. Having come of age in the era of Obama, they know all too well that black elected officials don’t equal black liberation. They are savvy enough to understand the struggle is much bigger than that. And they have been asserting pressure accordingly.

Indeed, it was the organizers in the campaign to “End the Gang Database,” lead by the primarily Latinx group, Organized Communities Against Deportations, and BYP100 that pushed both mayoral finalists to take a stand against the gang database. (This database, compiled by the Chicago Police Department, racially profiles individuals without cause, with virtually no transparency and questionable criteria). The campaign has been a two yearlong struggle and has created stronger black and Latinx unity on the community level—a feat few aspiring politicians have been able to achieve since Washington.

At the same time, organizations like Southsiders Organizing for Power (STOP) and Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) have been pushing for a community-benefits agreement (CBA) with the new Obama Presidential Center to make sure that low-income, predominately black, community residents benefit from the center and are not pushed out of the neighborhood by rising rents and property values. This, too, both mayoral hopefuls have agreed in principle to support.

For Amara Enyia all of these shifts reflect a new and evolving relationship between movement-building and electoral victories in Chicago. Enyia, a 35 year-old Nigerian-American lawyer, activist and policy analyst, was one of the youngest and most progressive candidates in the first round of the mayoral race; she was also the candidate who reached out most aggressively to young black voters with the support of many in the city’s hip hop community, including activist and artist,

Chance the Rapper. She says that, while some young people who have been newly activated politically are more likely to show up at a protest, than at the polls, the goal is that they do both.

“We have to have a dual strategy to hold politicians accountable,” Enyia says, while declining to endorse either of her former rivals.

And in this moment politicians are taking their lead from organizers—at least rhetorically—not the other way around.

In a conversation several weeks back, Lori Lightfoot conceded: “Without a doubt, if activists had not shut down Michigan Avenue on Black Friday [in protest against Laquan McDonald’s murder and the perceived police cover-up], a lot of the conversation we are having now would not be possible.”

For her part, Preckwinkle said she sees a complementary relationship between “advocates” and progressive elected officials, each with their own role to play in the ecosystem. She was one of the founders of the Progressive Caucus in City Council during her time there.

So, what’s next for Chicago? The time between the February 26 election and the April 2 run was a busy time for Chicago activists. On the morning of Sunday March 3, activists from 15 Chicago organizations, convened by the R3 coalition (R3 stands for Resist. Reimagine. Rebuild. Chicago), gathered to talk about a plan they have dubbed “Heal the City/ Free the City” to push run-off candidates to “clarify and commit” to concrete changes in their first hundred days in office, and to hold them accountable after the election. Among the core issues they want the candidates to address: the ongoing “black exodus” from the city—the fallout, many believe, of gentrification, violence, and the lack of services and resources in many of the city’s working-class black neighborhoods.

At the same time, the vibrant and highly politicized arts community has buoyed activists’ energy and optimism. The Breathing Room, a gathering space curated by playwright and activist Kristiana Colon, artist-activist Damon Williams, and the Let Us Breathe Collective has become an important hub for meetings, strategy sessions and “freedom circles,” and for the “radical imagining” of what a new Chicago might look like.

There are a number of takeaways from the Chicago example. One lesson is not to ignore the black left or underestimate the power and persistence of a solid black-feminist praxis. We cannot have a colorblind view of the organizing going on in Chicago. While it is definitely broad-based and multiracial, black, and Latinx leftists, progressives, and feminists have been at the epicenter of the new surge of organizing.

Some members of the predominately white left are on the right side of economic-justice issues but have nonetheless failed to bring large numbers of black organizers into their ranks. In various ways the Movement for Black Lives and its offshoot, the Majority coalition, have insisted that without black leadership and a strong racial-justice analysis, the efforts of a new New left will falter. The pattern of activism in Chicago underscores that very point.

As Pulley said, “The social movements of our time are completely responsible for pushing back against political impunity, gentrification, and privatization that has resulted in a political crisis which has created the opening for intervention that we saw displayed in the election.”

The momentous 2019 election battles will be over on April 2, but the struggle for the heart and soul of Chicago, for a “freedom city,” will continue.

Barbara Ransby is an historian, writer, and longtime political activist. She is a Distinguished Professor of African American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and History at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where she directs the campus-wide Social Justice Initiative. Professor Ransby has published dozens of articles and essays in popular and scholarly venues. She is most notably the author of an award-winning biography of civil rights activist Ella Baker, entitled Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (University of North Carolina, 2003). Her most recent book is Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century.You can follow Professor Ransby @BarbaraRansby.


Jai Sen

Independent researcher, editor

jai.sen at cacim.net <mailto:jai.sen at cacim.net>
Now based in New Delhi, India (+91-98189 11325) and in Ottawa, Canada, on unceded Anishinaabe territory (+1-613-282 2900) 

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Jai Sen, ed, 2018a – The Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our Dance. Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>
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Jai Sen, ed, 2017 – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ?.  New Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press.  Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>
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