The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center (MSPJC) released its “Annual Report 2012” in January. The nonprofit organization is a longstanding Memphis establishment dedicated to building justice for the community.
The mission of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center is to “engage, organize, and mobilize communities to realize social justice through nonviolent action.” According to the 2012 report, the organization values “the inherent power of the individual” and provides resources to help individuals build “communities of liberation”—groups that strategically work to end oppression by altering systems and opinions that propagate inequality.
A main focus for MSPJC is on community training and engagement. According to the 2012 report, the organization’s core training program, known as G.O.T. Power, grew in 2012. A new Core Organizer Training Program was implemented in English and in Spanish.
At the same time, the staff chose to shift training methodology to a mix of “direct education and popular education, leading to trainings which are people-centered”—i.e., giving people the chance to discover and explore their own existing knowledge and expertise, a potentially empowering experience that can build confidence at the same time the program builds organizing skills.
A fee-for-service payment model was also initiated as part of the G.O.T. Power program, which trained 330 people in 2012. Scholarships were offered for interested community organizers who could not pay the $200 fee for training, so that the average participant paid $30 this year.
Gandhi-King Community Conference
According to the report, in 2012 MSPJC “took the lead” in redesigning the long-standing annual Gandhi-King Peace Conference as a “local convening of grassroots organizations addressing Memphis’ most pressing issues. This year, about 140 people attended the conference, while 350 high school students attended the related Youth Conference. MSPJC led workshops on “Nonviolent Direct Action” and “Community-Police Relations,” working with 160 youth during the course of the conference.
Part of MSPJC’s work in the community is regular outreach to other organizations, building awareness of both the existence of MSPJC and community issues. In 2012 the Center spoke to more than 600 people about a broad range of topics, including homelessness and poverty, community activism and organizing, community-police relations, and general introductions to the MSPJC’s work and mission. Over the course of the year MSPJC staff spoke to such diverse organizations as the staff of Catholic Charities, Memphis College of Art, the Urban Child Institute, Tillman Police Ambassadors, MLGW, and the Neighborhood Alliance.
MSPJC works to build and sustain social movements in Memphis, the Mid-South, and beyond. In 2012 they were active in:
Launching a “citywide grassroots campaign for positive community-police relations.”
- Organizing at the statewide level to develop grassroots leadership across Tennessee by building partnerships among local communities.
- Helping to create a grassroots organization for bus riders in Memphis, Memphis Bus Riders Union (MBRU) as a forum for advocacy action on transit concerns.
- Provided material and administrative support in the creation of the Women’s Action Coalition of the Mid-South, which will work against sexism and for gender equality in the Mid-South.
- Provided planning, material support, and training “for TN Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition GOTV operations for 2012 federal elections.”
- Served as a fiscal sponsor and hosted community building trainings for Occupy Memphis.
In addition, Executive Director Jacob Flowers reported at the Center’s yearly anniversary fundraising Gala that the Center expanded its staff by two members this year.
As the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center enters its 32nd year, its expansion signals a mix of successful organizing and successful administration. This venerable organization has worked since 1982 to build the sustainable, socially responsible world envisioned by Martin Luther King. They deserve—and need—the support of the Memphis community, in 2013 and beyond.