All over the country there are wonderful organizations dedicating time, money, and resources fighting for the common good. We are thankful for our fellow Americans and their resolve not to let the downtrodden go by the way-side. It is thanks to these such organizations that many Americans are able to pursue their dreams knowing that their rights are being guarded and that help is there for those that need it. This article intends to bring awareness to the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, located in Memphis, Tennessee.
Who is MSPJC?
“The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center is a multi-issue, multi-race organization whose mission is to engage, organize, and mobilize communities to realize social justice through nonviolent action.”
Straight from their website, the MSPJC makes a few things clear from the beginning that I think are truly powerful in today’s social climate:
- Multi-race organization
- Mobilization of community members
- Nonviolence as a means to instigate change
Emphasis on Multiple Races
America’s social fabric is made up of a diverse collection of races and ethnicities. Even before the 20th century, the American population was a mix of the Natives and the settlers that came from many faraway places in search of a dream. In recent years, the divide between racial groups has fluctuated wildly with each coming election. That’s why groups, like the MSPJC, are so important right now. They bridge the gaps that go unnoticed in the every-day. They remind us that we are human before society imposes any other description.
Mobilizing Communities to Take Action
Change is always coming even if we are not specifically the agents acting it out. Groups like the MSPJC know that for the winds of change to be favorable, action must be taken. So they cultivate the skills necessary for organizing communities in meaningful ways that lead to actions that actually affect change.
The Importance of Nonviolence
Change enacted through violence creates reactionary violence, it may not always be immediate but there is always a consequence. Understanding this means that, for change to be healthy and viable, it has to be adopted willingly and peacefully.
More than a Mission Statement
The MSPJC website opens with its mission statement:
“Engage, organize, and mobilize communities to realize social justice through nonviolent action.”
But what does it mean to engage a community?
Since its foundation in 1982, the MSPJC played a part in operations all over the world in an effort to bring peace to a world in desperate need. In 1984 the organization mobilized community members in its hometown of Memphis to stop a train, called “The White Train”, carrying nuclear munitions through town. A little digging turned up that the train through Memphis came within inches of hitting a nun. This was to broadcast a message of denuclearization both to the American government, and governments around the world.
Operations in Central America included sending delegations to places like Venezuela and El Salvador and partnering with local churches to create safe channels by which refugees could flee the destruction of civil wars and the abuses of human rights being committed by totalitarian regimes. They also opposed U.S. interference in the region. The American government funded pro U.S. Contras in Nicaragua who notoriously used guerrilla tactics (advised by the C.I.A.) taking schools and hospitals as targets, executing civilian leaders who allied with the established Sandinistas, and inciting mob violence. The MSPJC lobbied congress alongside other political activist groups eventually leading to the Boland Amendments, which reduced the ability of the U.S. government to involve itself in the affairs of resistance groups in other countries, though Reagan circumvented such regulations in order to fund Iranians in the following years.
A task-force was mounted and sent to South Africa to tackle the issue of Apartheid on the ground. South Africans were brought to America to speak and give first-hand accounts of what the situation for blacks really was in a nation too far away otherwise for the average American to come in contact with. Memphis adopted a sister city in South Africa in order cement feelings of solidarity on American soil.
For the MSPJC, engaging a community means taking average community members and teaching them how to take action, how to organize, and what to do with the powers associated with a group of like-minded individuals.
Current MSPJC Projects
These days, the organization is focused on issues that are more localized to the Mid-South Delta, offering a number of programs that reach into the heart of disempowered communities and shining a light on the path to realizing their collective strength.
There are currently 5 ongoing projects as per their website and I’ve gone ahead and Hyperlinked them below:
These projects aim at giving power back to communities who are otherwise at a disadvantage in the current system. The Modern world has a tendency of overlooking those with quiet voices, so the need for empowered and active members of the community to voice their frustrations and for those frustrations to be heard is palpable, but there are so few taking up the mantel and charging forward. Kudos to you MSPJC.
“What does it take to mobilize a community?” “What can 1 person really do? “ “How am I supposed to take on a massive bureaucratic machine like the U.S. government?” The Grassroots Organizer Training for Power program teaches people the skills necessary to be an effect organizer, including the things you might not think of at first. Time-management at home, how to effectively use the hours in a day, Facilitation skills, how to manage large groups of people and be sure their needs are met while keeping focused on the common goal, and De-escalation training are just a few examples of G.O.T. Power workshops.
Homelessness is a problem that stretches far beyond Memphis City limits, but the MSPJC is taking action by giving the homeless a voice. Issues facing the homeless community are too often overlooked by those of us with a roof over our head right now. Lobbying costs money and when you’re working out where you’re going to sleep during the cold of winter, political action is one of your least concerns. The homeless need their community to be mindful of their needs and the MSPJC is there for them. H.O.P.E. aims to change the conversation about homelessness by changing the perception of the homeless community.
In 2013, the KKK came to Memphis in force to protest the changing of names for several local parks, one of which, specifically honored a Klan leader, Nathan Bedford Forrest. In response, the Memphis United coalition formed in order, not to give into the obvious provocation from the Klan, but to create a positive alternative and simply draw public attention elsewhere, neutralizing the power of the White Supremacist agenda. Then in following years, the coalition reformed, specifically targeting racism in the Criminal Justice System. Memphis United fought to force policymakers to outline the legality of filming the police in order to hold them accountable as civilians and has since, continued to fight on other issues.
Memphis Bus Riders Union
Those who rely on the public transit system the most are often without the means to voice their concerns, thankfully the MSPJC organized the Memphis Bus Riders Union. The Union understands that the design of public transit infrastructure has a massive impact on impoverished communities and their ability to secure employment. In order to speak up on these issues, the MBRU has organized rallies and campaigns for public awareness and given these people a chance to be heard.
Juvenile Justice Project
The project stands to create partnerships in the community centered on community service opportunities for those with court mandated community service hours. It can be difficult to find willing participants. The JJP reaches out into the community and secures these opportunities while increasing the awareness of the need thereof.
Liking the Facebook page and all their other associated social media pages (listed at the bottom of their website homepage) will give them more exposure which, in the information age, has a real dollar value. They also accept donations here, and offer a membership here .
I want to say thank you to the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center for all of its hard work in the fight against oppression in America, the world is a better place with you in it.