Chris Crass is a longtime organizer working to build powerful working class-based, feminist, multiracial movements for collective liberation. Throughout the 1990s, he was an organizer with Food Not Bombs, an economic justice anti-poverty group, strengthening the direct action-based anti-capitalist Left. In the 2000s, he was an organizer with the Catalyst Project, which combines political education and organizing to develop and support anti-racist politics, leadership, and organization in white communities and builds dynamic multiracial alliances locally and nationally. He has written and spoken widely about anti-racist organizing, lessons from women of color feminism, strategies to build visionary movements, and leadership for liberation. He graduated from San Francisco State University in Race, Class, Gender and Power Studies and currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his partner and their son, River. He is a member of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.
Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy Author: Chris Crass with Introduction by Chris Dixon and a Foreword by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz Publisher: PM Press ISBN: 978-1-60486-654-4 Published March 2013 Size: 9 x 6 Page count: 300 Subjects: Activism $20.00
Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy is for activists engaging with dynamic questions of how to create and support effective movements for visionary systemic change. Chris Crass’s collection of essays and interviews presents us with powerful lessons for transformative organizing through offering a firsthand look at the challenges and the opportunities of anti-racist work in white communities, feminist work with men, and bringing women of color feminism into the heart of social movements. Drawing ontwo decades of personal activist experience and case studies of anti-racist social justice organizations, Crass insightfully explores ways of transforming divisions of race, class, and gender into catalysts for powerful vision, strategy, and movement building in the United States today.
Over the last two decades, activists in the United States have been experimenting with new politics and organizational approaches that stem from a fusion of radical political traditions and liberation struggles. Drawing inspiration from women of color feminism, justice struggles in communities of color, anarchist and socialist movements, the broad upsurges of the 1960s and '70s, and social movements in the Global South, a new generation of activists has sought to understand the past while building a movement for today’s world. Towards Collective Liberation contributes to this project by examining two primary dynamic trends in these efforts: 1) the anarchist movement of the 1990s and 2000s, through which tens of thousands of activists were introduced to radical politics, direct action organizing, democratic decision making, and the profound challenges of taking on systems of oppression, privilege, and power in society at large and in the movement itself; and 2) white anti-racist organizing efforts from the 2000s to the present as part of a larger strategy to build broad-based, effective multiracial movements in the United States.
Crass’s collection begins with an overview of the anarchist tradition as it relates to contemporary activism and an in-depth look at Food Not Bombs, one of the leading anarchist groups in the revitalized radical Left in the 1990s. The second and third sections of the book combine stories and lessons from Crass’s experiences of working as an anti-racist and feminist organizer, combining insights from the Civil Rights Movement, women of color feminism, and anarchism to address questions of leadership, organization building, and revolutionary strategy. In section four, Crass discusses how contemporary organizations have responded to the need for white activists to lead anti-racist efforts in white communities and how these efforts have contributed to multiracial alliances in building a broad-based movement for collective liberation. Offering rich case studies of successful organizing, and grounded, thoughtful key lessons for movement building, Toward Collective Liberation is a must-read for anyone working for a better world.
"In his writing and organizing, Chris Crass has been at the forefront of building the grassroots, multi-racial, feminist movements for justice we need. Towards Collective Liberation takes on questions of leadership, building democratic organizations, and movement strategy, on a very personal level that invites us all to experiment and practice the way we live our values while struggling for systemic change. " —Elizabeth 'Betita' Martinez, founder of the Institute for Multiracial Justice and author of De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century
“Chris Crass goes into the grassroots to produce a political vision that will catalyze political change. These are words from the heart, overflowing onto the streets.” —Vijay Prashad, author of Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World
"A deeply important, engaged, and learned defense of anarchism, class politics, and anti-racism. Grounded in study, organizing, and struggle, Towards Collective Liberation is a significant contribution to the recent history of the U.S. left." —David Roediger, author of Wages of Whiteness
"In his activism and writing, Chris Crass has been able to articulate and practice a transformative model for social change. Guided by a vision of collective liberation that centers the experience and leadership of women of color, Chris has done groundbreaking work to realize the revolutionary potential of grassroots multiracial alliances." —Harsha Walia, co-founder of No One Is Illegal and Radical Desis
"Chris Crass offers penetrating analysis and a keen understanding of the political and cultural dynamics shaping the U.S. We can all learn from reading this." —Rev. David Billings, The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond and United Methodist Church Elder
"Part political biography, part political history and thoughtful political analysis, this book is on-time in its laying out of personally tested strategies for eliminating racism, sexism, and capitalism. The juxtaposition of feminist, anarchist, and anti-racist thinking is a great jolt to the weary practices of progressive non-profits that skim the surface of change."—Suzanne Pharr, author of In the Time of the Right: Politics for Liberation and Homophobia: a weapon of sexism
“In Towards Collective Liberation, Chris Crass has shared with us a valuable collection of thoughtful, honest and humble reflections on what it means to build the world that we are waiting for. Chris achieves the difficult task of practice driven theory—encouraging and allowing all of us to be present in our work, to lead with our hearts, and to embody the change that we seek. It is through these critical and sometimes painfully honest reflections that we as organizers, activists and social change makers are given the courage to do the same.”—Alicia Garza, People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER)
Towards Collective Liberation: A Review None But Ourselves Can Free Our Minds: Chris Crass' "Towards Collective Liberation" By Dr Zakk Flash Truthout January 18th, 2014
More than just an anthology of essays, Chris Crass's Towards Collective Liberation is a coming-of-age tale for the modern activist. Crass chronicles his growth as an organizer, illustrating how the rewards and challenges of being a college-age activist with Food Not Bombs has shaped his current endeavors in feminist work with men and anti-racist work with majority white groups. In tracing his own evolution as an activist, Crass examines his involvement in half a dozen activist groups, showing how current sociopolitical issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and US wars abroad are linked to struggles at home.
Veteran radical Left activist and anarchist writer Crass draws primarily from his own experiences in grassroots organizing to form this collection of case studies and strategic maps. Crass is a white male activist with years of experience in groups such as Catalyst Project, the Heads Up Collective, and the seminal anarchist organization Food Not Bombs. Focusing squarely on anti-racist and feminist concerns within activist communities, Crass regularly directs his conversation to other white people and men, offering suggestions for how those activists of gender and race privilege can better contribute to movements that dismantle rather than exacerbate racism and misogyny. By nature of this focus, the text is clearly of most use to those who identify as either male or white. For that audience, however, the attention to praxis, the autobiographical narratives of grassroots organizing, and the interviews with diverse anarchist collectives provide some clear and practical advice. At the same time, Crass maintains a heartfelt and honest desire to see the world made better through radical organizing, and his sincerity emerges as one of the book's strengths. While the organization of the text leads to some unnecessary repetition, activists operating in a similar milieu as Crass will benefit from his hard-learned lessons, while those first encountering the modern anarchist tradition will find a forthright portrait of its aspirations and frailties from the mind of an engaged and persistently optimistic movement veteran.
Uniting to Win: A Review of Chris Crass' "Toward Collective Liberation" By Jason Hurd TruthOut September 22nd, 2013
Crass' essays and interviews build momentum by mirroring a developmental path similar to what any activist or organization might experience. The reader not only gets a sense of what it's like to move from being a new activist to an experienced organizer but also what it's like to move from being a young, chaotic organization to a more mature, highly functional and visionary one.
Crass spends substantial time discussing his own personal development throughout the 1990s as well as the organizational development of San Francisco Food Not Bombs (SF FNB). Within that narrative, he discusses FNB's larger role helping build the anarchist Left, showing how FNB functions as an important gateway for activists. He highlights years of important organizing work, drawing out many lessons concerning organizational structure and leadership development.
Grassroots Social Change: Lessons from an Anarchist Organizer - Towards Collective Liberation: A Review By Brian Martin ZNet August 11th, 2013
Crass has provided an exemplary volume for informing anyone interested in strategy and organizing in the US. It should serve as an inspiration for sympathizers in other countries to know what is being done, and what can be done, in the heart of the US empire. It can also serve as a model for organizers in other countries to analyze and document their own experiences. These insights can then be fed back to receptive audiences in the US. Chris Crass will be among them.
Towards Collective Liberation: A Review by Katy Otto Sadie Magazine June 28th, 2013
This is what makes Crass’s book such a vital read. It provides a balanced look at the value of historical understanding, ongoing analysis, imagination, self-inquiry, critique, sustainability practices, communication and messaging, and loving interrogation of ourselves as equally urgent components to building a groundswell social change movement. Crass is honest about his own mistakes and shortcomings, and humble in his assertion that we must be able to, not only face these head-on as organizers, but also to recognize that addressing ingrained systems of oppression within our own thinking is absolutely necessary to doing this work authentically.
"It takes hard work to create and refine “liberatory processes and practices in the here and now while we fight for the future.” Crass has given white activists and others an excellent resource to continue this work. Towards Collective Liberation is a powerful and honest work that underscores the importance of confronting racism and sexism and nurturing the leadership skills of new organizers to reach their full potential as a force that can radically transform society."
Towards Collective Liberation: A Review By Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz The Feminist Wire May 4th, 2013
"Finally, I was deeply moved by Chris’s essay entitled “Going To Places That Scare Me: Personal Reflections on Challenging Male Supremacy.” I loved this chapter becauseit’s so rare to read somethingwritten by a“mostly heterosexual” (Chris’s language), cis-gendered, able bodied, middle class white man that is deeply vulnerable and direct about sexism. Chris’s understanding of sexism is personal and political and, as a result, he does not shy away from letting all of his shit hang out there. This chapter embodies some important modeling for anyone, including myself, who is on a life long journey of intentionally examining, struggling with, and owning their privilege accountable ways."
Towards Collective Liberation: A Review By Laura Campagna Feministing.com May 30th, 2013
“Crass seeks to bring his white audiences to consciousness about racism through articulating how white supremacy instills an internalized sense of superiority over people of color. This work is not easy as it requires confronting feelings of fear, guilt and shame. However, Crass believes that everyone is needed to build a powerful and successful movement. He states that his overall goal in writing is “to help turn race, class and gender into catalysts to help us build our progressive Left movement rather then have them continue to divide us.”
“If Towards Collective Liberation challenges people in the movement to face the problems of patriarchy and white supremacy, EF!ers will accept and welcome this challenge, while upping the ante not only by insisting on a safe(r) space to talk about animal liberation and earth, but by actively working on campaigns for economic, food, and environmental justice with our allies. ”
Towards Collective Liberation: Building Successful Social Movements: A Review By Holly Roach Emergent Voices April 1st, 2013
“Transformative social movements are always much more dynamic and intelligent than individual organizers, no matter how reflective, tireless and courageous such individuals may be. This is one of the amazing things about collective struggle for justice. At the same time there are always individuals who crystallize movement experiences, who distill and share hard won insights and help to catalyze much needed discussions. Chris Crass is one of these people. For two decades, he has consistently given expression to the ideas, questions, and lessons of a generational cohort of radical organizers and activists in the United States.”
New Book Explores Organizing Strategies for Anarchists: A Review By James Tracy Left Eye Books March 25th, 2013
Crass walks anarchism down a very different road. His anarchism, and that of the political organizations he helped build, isn’t afraid of community organizing. It also isn’t afraid to reach across the radical aisle and work with marxists, feminists, liberals and just about any other category that makes it to the meeting. His new book, Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy may be the “Rules for Radicals” for a growing trend of anarcho-practicos who up until this point have had little literature to make their case with.
As a woman of color, who has experienced working with white activists who are struggling to figure out their role as an ally, I was struck by Chris’ sharing of his personal praxis, his willingness to describe the challenges he faced and continues to engage with in his own development as an organizer to be aware of and understand his privilege as a white man. This is something that many other white activists have a hard time acknowledging out of shame or fear – as if admitting the challenge will somehow delegitimize their commitment. Chris’ vulnerability and honesty models how our commitment to social justice movement building can and needs to be drawn from an “ethic of love.”
Towards Collective Liberation is a thoughtful and generous invitation to organizers to build off the history of radical movement building with creativity, authenticity, and love.
We Are the 99%: United for Justice, Not Divided By Racism poster project by Melanie Cervantes and Chris Crass reposted from DignidadRebelde Originally posted October 30th, 2011
Goals of the "United for Justice, Not Divided by Racism" poster
1. We want to build up powerful, working class-based, feminist, multiracial movements for collective liberation. The Occupy movement is an incredible convergence of movements for economic, social, racial, gender, and environmental justice. The Occupy movement notonly resonates with millions of people, but it actively invites millions of people to participate in the creation of both the movement and the vision of what we are working towards. This poster is a tool to help build up the Occupy movement, deepen the anti-racist analysisof the movement, and express the solidarity of white communities with immigrant families of color in the 99%. We hope the poster will help express the Occupy movement's support for immigrant rights struggles around the country.
Update on the United for Justice, Not Divided by Racism poster project by Melanie Cervantes and Chris Crass reposted from DignidadRebelde November 22nd, 2012
Thank you so much to all of you who played many different roles in making this project highly successful. From raising money, making donations, giving feedback, distributing the posters, and spreading the word about the project. Special love to Caitlin Carmody who shipped all of the posters from Berkeley.
Overview of the impact of all our efforts thus far.
• We printed up 15,000 11x17 inch posters at the radical printing press Inkworks, in Berkeley. They also hooked up low cost shipping. The posters went out to thirty cities in twenty states.
• We know that the anti-racist collective Groundwork, gave out hundreds in Madison, Wisconsin at a Recall Gov. Walker rally. Posters have been given out at political education sessions at Occupy Washington D.C.
Occupy Opportunities for Collective Liberation: Catalyst Project’s Anti-Racist Organizing Strategy By Chris Crass Left Turn Originally posted December 14, 2011
The Occupy movement is one of the most profound organizing opportunities in decades, because of its mass invitation for the 99% to step forward and challenge systemic economic inequality. For white anti-racists, this is a moment when we can engage with, support, and organize hundreds of thousands of white people to deeply connect economic justice to racial and gender justice.
Catalyzing Liberation Toolkit: Anti-Racist Organizing to Build the 99% Movement by Catalyst Project and Chris Crass Organizing Upgrade February 7, 2012
Amie Fishman of Catalyst Project and Chris Crass recently developed a toolkit on anti-racist organizing in the Occupy moment. We are excited to share the introduction to the toolkit with our readers.
Why anti-racist organizing?
Catalyst Project believes that anti-racist practice and organizing can help us to build the vibrant massive movements for global justice we need to create a world where all people are free from oppression. We are fighting for a world where everyone has housing, income, food, education, health care and is able to live in a way that is sustainable and in harmony with the earth. We call this collective liberation, and it is at the core of our work.