For a Multiracial Black-Led Reconstruction Movement: the New Orleans Solidarity Program

Catalyst Project Annual Report 2007
Date Published: 
October 27, 2007

For a Multiracial Black-Led Reconstruction Movement: the New Orleans Solidarity Program

We went to New Orleans (NOLA) to join in the grassroots struggle for the soul and future of this country. With rage for the conditions of poverty and white supremacy and love for the people and organizations we worked with, the fight for New Orleans has brought us to tears, inspired us and pushed us to grow and learn.

The primary constituency of Catalyst is younger white social justice activists, who make up the majority of volunteers working in NOLA with Common Ground. NOLA based organizers, people of color and white, encouraged us to take on anti-racist organizing and political education with Common Ground volunteers. Our goal was to support these out of town activists in developing a deeper understanding of white supremacy and a practice of anti-racism for their work. We joined with allies in Common Ground (CG), People’s Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF), People’s Institute For Survival and Beyond, and European Dissent, to develop and implement a strategy and program. In 2006, we led anti-racism trainings nationally for white activists preparing to go to NOLA. We held two “Study and Struggle” strategy discussions in the Bay Area on NOLA solidarity work. We sent full-time organizers to NOLA; one for six months, one for a month and two who each went for two weeks. We recruited experienced anti-racist comrades from around the country to come to NOLA, and mentored new activists and emerging anti-racist leaders we met there.

We focused on the following:

  1. Support grassroots organizing with PHRF, Peoples Organizing Committee (POC), a Black-led group building working class resident power, and CG,
  2. Support and develop anti-racist leadership and organizing in CG,
  3. Support multiracial alliance building between PHRF and CG, and between POC and CG,
  4. Support volunteers to have a radicalizing experience and make a long-term commitment to racial justice activism,
  5. Help build the Left nationally with NOLA as a central struggle.


The strategy we worked from included several components. We worked with PHRF and POC to support their community organizing in the Lower 9th Ward. With allies in People’s Institute and European Dissent, we worked to build an Anti-Racist Working Group in CG (see photo). The working group was a core of emerging leaders in CG who wanted to move CG to incorporate anti-racist political education for volunteers, and to build stronger, principled relationships with organizations based in Black communities. The work group served as a hub for anti-racist strategizing, leadership development and planning. We focused on one-on-one leadership development with long-term volunteers to build the group. We helped implement a political education program for spring break 2006, when several thousand students came to CG. This included biweekly People’s Institute trainings, a political orientation for all volunteers, race-based caucusing for white people and people of color, and a weekly series called “Community Voices” where local organizers and leaders talked about their work, and NOLA’s history. The work group ran the political education program through spring break, and continued through the summer rush of volunteers. We supported multiracial alliance building with the Lower 9th Ward resident led Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association. In the fall, PHRF and CG launched a joint national campaign called “Home for the Holidays” that focused on bringing volunteers to do house gutting and go through anti-racist political education.

Organizing in NOLA reconfirmed three core beliefs.

  1. We must prioritize building democratic grassroots social movements rooted in working class communities and communities of color,
  2. The Left needs to learn how to lead in creative ways that overcome our own divisions and move people to collective action,
  3. White anti-racists need to develop their capacity as organizers and step up to help provide leadership in majority white sectors of the movement, rather then critiquing from the sidelines.


Catalyst organizers are returning to NOLA in 2007 and we will continue to find ways to support this grassroots movement that is key to rebuilding the Left in this country. With both our rage and love we fight for justice in the Gulf Coast!

The conditions in NOLA continue to be devastating, and the need for solidarity, financial support, and volunteers is on going. To learn more about the struggle in NOLA and how you can get involved check out: and