Veteran Bay Area organizer Taj James founded the Movement Strategy Center (MSC) in 2001 to promote “state-level policy” changes that would advance the cause of “racial justice” and help “build the progressive movement.”
According to James, “structural racism … continues to be the biggest social force” shaping not only America’s allocation of resources, but also its policies vis a vis education, welfare, housing, and foreign affairs. “Right-wing political and research strategies,” he says, “are developed to deepen, expand and exploit structural racism and prejudice as a way to maintain power and divide oppressed groups.” James explains, for instance, that by promoting the “association of criminality with blackness and people of color,” conservatives were “able to inflate the prison population and pass ‘get-tough-on-crime’ laws that endanger our [nonwhite] communities, even while violent crime was dramatically decreasing.” “The Right approaches their work from the standpoint of waging low-intensity racial and class warfare,” says James. “They view and treat information as propaganda to be wielded.”
Operating on a $1 million annual budget, MSC is composed of organizers, community-based researchers, consultants, political strategists, and communications specialists. On the theory that “effective alliances are essential to creating change on a broad scale and to building strategic, collaborative and sustainable movements,” the organization has worked with more than 300 likeminded groups and philanthropies, including the Center for Community Change, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the Gay Straight Alliance Network, the Ruckus Society, the United States Student Association, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Supporting mainly membership-based organizations that seek to help “low-income people of color” attain “reproductive justice,” “educational justice,” “media justice,” and “environmental justice,” MSC has established the following 4 major programs:
The Movement Sector Intensive program—founded on the premise that “movement building is far beyond the capacity of any single organization”—works “at the sector scale, rather than with single organizations or alliances,” to develop “movement strategies that effect change in broader systems, beliefs and policies.”
The Spirit In Motion program seeks to “create social change from a place of compassion.” Toward this end, it works with individuals, groups and alliances to promote a number of generally nebulous concepts: “a balanced approach to work and life”; “sustainable organizational cultures”; “a safe space for letting go of fears and the negative energies that hold us back”; “room for transformation”; “healing from within”; and “connectedness to spirit.”
The Field Building program partners with foundations, donor networks, individual funders and community-based organizations to direct more resources to social-justice organizing.
In early 2012, MSC supported “The 99% Spring,” an effort “to utilize the momentum begun by the Occupy Movement” in late 2011. Among the scores of organizations that joined MSC in backing this initiative were: 350.org, the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the American Federation of Teachers, the Campaign for America’s Future, Change to Win, Citizen Action of New York, Color of Change, Green for All, Greenpeace, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Midwest Academy, MoveOn.org, the National Education Association, National Peoples Action, the New Organizing Institute, the PICO National Network, Progressive Democrats of America, the Rainforest Action Network, Rebuild the Dream, the Ruckus Society, the Service Employees International Union, the SNCC Legacy Project, UNITE-HERE, the United States Student Association, and the Working Families Party.
For a complete list of groups supporting “The 99% Spring,” click here.
MSC serves as the fiscal sponsor for Rebuild the Dream, which was created in 2011 by the self-identified communist revolutionary Van Jones to be a “progressive” counterweight to the Tea Party movement.