Let’s make Athens a vital training ground for the progressive movement!

By Damon Krane
October 11, 2007

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[Editor’s note, 2/11/13 — From 2005 through 2008, I directed the Athens-based nonprofit center for progressive activist development People Might. The organization was an outgrowth of the predominantly student activist group InterAct — which was itself the successor to an earlier group Students Against the War.

As for the name “People Might,” I never liked it. No one else seemed to either, accept for the majority of the nonprofit’s founding board of directors that out-voted me at the name selection meeting. Ironically, all but one member of People Might’s founding board bailed on the group within six months, but I had to live with the name for three years. The best I could do was to come up with the additional tag line: “Turning potential into power.” Oh well.

Despite the accomplishments outlined below, People Might was forced to dissolve in 2008 due to inadequate funding. A big problem was that the organization’s flagship project was The InterActivist magazine, and, while a wonderful project, the magazine’s basic nature precluded it from receiving any grant funding. Although there were foundation grants to fund citizen journalism and foundation grants to fund issue-based organizing, there were no grants at the time to fund citizen journalism covering issue-based organizing — save for one annual $3,000 grant from the Campus Progress Division of the Center for American Progress (which we applied for and received through our student group co-publisher, InterAct). Thus People Might was forced to rely more heavily on local donors and fundraising events, but the nonprofit’s dedicated group of generous donors never grew large enough to sustain the organization. People Might managed to squeak by for three years because, in the final analysis, I paid to work a 20-40 hour per week job and spent a four-month stretch living in the People Might office.

The following letter from the fall of 2007 is an overview of People Might’s agenda, past accomplishments and structure, as well as fundraising appeal for the organization.]

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PEOPLE MIGHT is a center for activist development in Appalachian Ohio dedicated to turning more of the progressive movement’s potential into the power to achieve change. Through innovative grassroots media projects, we develop the skills of young activists while simultaneously supporting local campaigns for change and expanding local movement infrastructure.

THE INTERACTIVIST is People Might’s flagship project. Athens’ only politically progressive monthly magazine, The InterActivist is produced by an all-volunteer staff of 30 students and community members, under the direction of People Might, with support from four progressive student organizations at Ohio University and the Washington D.C.-based Center for American Progress. Each issue features up to 52 pages of non-corporate news, progressive commentary, profiles of local social justice activists and organizations, and a calendar of upcoming events. To reach beyond the “choir” of those who already identify as progressives, all 3,000 copies of each issue are made available to readers free of charge at sidewalk distribution boxes and at several dozen other locations in Athens — from the Athens Public Library and Stimson Ave. Post Office, to OU’s dorms and dining halls, and at numerous local businesses.

OUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Within the past two years…

• 14community activist groups and 22 campus activist groups have received free publicity for their efforts within 17 issues of The InterActivist;

• People Might has provided over 60 InterActivist staffers (most under 2l years of age) with experiential learning and intensive instruction in progressive journalism, alternative media production, grassroots organizing and direct democracy;

• The InterActivisf has brought underreported news and progressive analysis to thousands upon thousands of readers;

• People Might has delivered activist training sessions to more than a dozen campus activist groups at OU.

OUR VISION

Located in the southeast corner of Ohio, People Might’s home base of Athens County is an unusually progressive place. The only one of Ohio’s 88 counties to vote against an anti-gay marriage measure in2004, Athens is at once a Democratic Party stronghold and host of several major anarchist conferences. Thanks to the scores of life-long activists who make their homes here, the area features an abundance of community-based social and environmental justice organizations. Meanwhile, nearly 5,000 new young people move to Athens County each year to attend Ohio University and Hocking College-many of them eager to get involved in grassroots activism.

These strengths notwithstanding, social justice organizers certainly have their work cut out for them here. Athens is among Ohio’s poorest counties, with an annual per capita income of just over $14,000 dollars and more than 20 percent of the population living below the poverty line. The county is situated among some of the richest ecology in Ohio and some of the worst industrial pollution in the United States. The 230,000-acre Wayne National Forest and 28,000 – acre Zaleski State Forest are magnets for nature lovers as well as sources of perennial conflict between environmentalists and the state government’s timber sale program. Meanwhile, the Associated Press has ranked Athens County’s easterly neighbor, Washington County as worst in the nation for potential health risks from industrial air pollution. More recently, the U.S. Department of Energy has begun exploring the possibility of establishing a nuclear waste dump or reprocessing facility in nearby Piketon, Ohio, less than an hour’s drive west of Athens County.

Rather than duplicating the efforts of other local social justice groups, People Might strives to link incoming students to the local progressive community in order to improve our own region while simultaneously making Athens County a vital training ground in the broader struggle for social justice. Of the thousands of graduating students who leave Athens County each year, we can ensure that among them are highly skilled activists ready to employ their training in numerous locations across the country.

OUR DIRECTOR

Damon Krane is People Might’s director and co-founder. A 28-year-old freelance news reporter and opinion columnist with 10 years experience as a grassroots activist, organizer and media producer, Krane has received training from the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Z Media Institute, the Institute for Democracy in Education and the Center for American Progress. His first organizing project was to create an independent, student-run, public access magazine his senior year of high school. At the age of 19, he moved to Athens County to launch an effort to inform local high school students of their legal rights to do the same, promoting grassroots, community-based media as an empowering forum for public dialogue in the lives of teenagers. This project resulted in a highly-publicized free speech battle between students and administrators at Nelsonville-York High School which ended with victory for the students and their principal’s resignation.

As a college student activist, Krane traveled to Seattle to participate in the 1999 demonstrations against the World Trade Organization; co-founded InterAct, the primary multi-issue progressive activist group at Ohio University; exposed the Ohio University administration’s violations of its federal legal resposibilities to inform students of sexual assault and anti-gay hate crimes on campus (part of The Clery Act), and organized the walkout of hundreds of OU students that forced OU into compliance; received United Campus Ministries’ 2003 Social Justice Award in recognition of his campus organizing against the war on Iraq; and helped form an alliance between OU students and a coalition of regional building trade unions striving to improve working conditions at OU.

Krane has spent the past two years building People Might and The InterActivist while training nearly 75 young progressive media producers and campus activists.

OUR BOARD & COOPERATIVE STRUCTURE

People Might is run as a democratic cooperative. That means all of our members (InterActivist project staff and our financial donors) are entitled to serve on People Might’s board of directors, which makes decisions through a unique and efficient process of direct democracy. Among our current board members are: Evan Young, Spiritual Director for UCM: Center for Spiritual Growth and Social Justice and Minister for Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens; Rod Nippert, member of People for Peace and Justice and former board member of Athens County Habitat for Humanity; Bob Sheak, Ohio University Professor Emeritus of Sociology and frequent contributing writer for The InterActivist; Kathy Galt, former board member of the Appalachian Peace and Justice Network and River Valley Community School; Jonathan Maffay, APJN board member and publisher of The Peace Patriots newsletter.

OUR NEED FOR SUPPORT

People Might exists because its director has worked 20-40 hours per week, for two years, with little to no pay. Our accomplishments are significant, but they cannot be sustained – much less expanded – without desperately needed funds to cover rent and our director’s $17,000 annual salary. We have already secured funding to cover The InterActivist’s printing costs and to create a forthcoming online version of the magazine. However, none of these funds can be spent on office rent or paid staff. While People Might continues to pursue larger grants from private foundations, ii is absolutely imperative that we receive the financial support of the progressive individuals who believe in our efforts.

DONATE TO PEOPLE MIGHT

Donations of $100 or more are tax deductible when made payable to the Buckeye Forest Council, people Might’s fiscal agent. Smaller donations are also greatly appreciated and should be made payable directly to people Might. All donations should be mailed to People Might / ***** Court St., Suite **** / Athens, OH 45701. For more information, please contact us at th

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