Using local social justice history lessons and expertise, the College for Constructive Hell-Raising aims for students to “think more like organizers”
January 17- May 23rd
(Dallas)–Saying they want to encourage local residents to organize more effectively around the issues that concern them, clean air group Downwinders at Risk announced today it’s establishing a new “school” for doing just that: “The College of Constructive Hell-Raising.“
Meeting two Tuesday evenings a month from January to May next year, the College will expose its students to time-tested community organizing principles and use past DFW social justice campaigns to make points about strategy and tactics. Its curriculum is designed to assist any kind of organizing effort, not just the environmental fights Downwinders is known for winning.
Downwinders Director Jim Schermbeck said this kind of training is usually only offered at out-of-state facilities like the Midwest Academy in Chicago, or the Highlander Institute in Tennessee, and then only to professional staffers in intense one to two-week sessions costing thousands of dollars. Downwinders is charging just $125 and formatting the information into a more citizen-friendly evening continuing-ed type of class.
Supplementing eight out of the ten lesson plans are “guest lecturers” from past social justice campaigns who’ll talk about their own experiences in trying to change things for the better in DFW, including veteran civil rights organizers Peter Johnson and Robert Medrano, original Bois D’arc Patriot John Fullinwider, former State Representative Lon Burnam, West Dallas environmental leader Luis Sepulveda, long-time AIDS Services of Dallas Director Don Maison, Police brutality organizer Changa Masomakali, anti-nuclear organizer Mavis Belisle, and Zac Trahan, former Dallas Program Director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment.
By using this Who’s Who of change-makers, we’re not only giving students useful case studies in organizing, we’re also passing along important local history lessons,” said Schermbeck. “Many of the controversies facing DFW today are rooted in the past struggles our guests will be talking about.”
He said Downwinders hopes graduates of the College will be able to use what they learn to successfully fight for a grassroots agenda in DFW, no matter the particular issue. “We believe the goal of building a more sustainable world is served through the strengthening of all of our allies. Environmentalism doesn’t exist in a vacuum.”
Only 15 students will be accepted in this first semester. More information and applications are available online at the Downwinders at Risk website: www.downwindersatrisk.org