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PM Press: Chris Crass

Chris Crass


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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.

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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 on two 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.

Praise:


"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)

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towardsTowards Collective Liberation: A Review
by Milan Rai
Peace News
October-November 2014

When I’ve heard white people committed to social change start talking about racism and activism, the conversation has often veered rapidly to the question: ‘How can we get more of them to come to our meetings/activities?’ In Towards Collective Liberation, a powerful, humble and thought-provoking book that deserves the widest possible readership, white US activist Chris Crass poses very different questions: ‘How can white radicals work with other white people against racism?’ and ‘How can white radicals be trustworthy allies to people targeted by racism?’ He poses similar questions in relation to male supremacy and patriarchy.



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towardsTowards Collective Liberation: A Review
by Joshua Stephens
War Resisters League
September 2014

"With Towards Collective Liberation, veteran activist and writer Chris Crass has filled a number of conspicuous voids in radical literature, seeking to render the aspirations of feminist and antiracist struggle plain, practicable, and their realization imminently possible. Through autobiographical reflections on his early years as an anarchist organizer in San Francisco, a few brief essays, and a series of interviews with key figures in contemporary horizontal organizations, he has crafted what might be the first primer on the intersection of antriracist/feminist politics and anarchism aimed squarely at a white cis-male audience..."

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towardsMost Social Change Groups Grapple with White Privilege—But This Book Can Help
by Joshua Kahn Russell
YES! Magazine
September 17th, 2014

"As an organizer in the climate movement, I see many young white people grappling with racism and privilege, struggling to break through the limitations of middle-class white environmentalism. So it’s exciting that compassionate facilitator Chris Crass has written a book that will help.

Towards Collective Liberation is a memoir, toolkit, self-help book, strategy reflection, and call to arms all at once. Its lessons about how to work in solidarity with frontline organizations ring true to current challenges and remind us that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel..."

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towardsAnarres Project with Chris Crass: Social Justice and Hope
by Anarres Project and Chris Crass
Earth First! Journal
July 2nd, 2014

"Anarres Project: Who would you consider your social justice heroes and why?

CC: My initial heroes were the Chicago anarchist leaders of the labor movement in the 1880s who were organizing tens of thousands of working people and families into a militant labor movement that fought the bosses, dreamed of a democratic commonwealth, and united revolutionary aspirations with reform oriented struggles for the 8 hour work day, the right to form a union, and better pay. These were people like Lucy and Albert Parsons, and August Spies. In addition to picket lines, strikes, and mass rallies, they also organized ice cream socials for families and kids, socialist ballroom dances, athletic and social clubs. I was inspired by the culture of solidarity, the vision of socialist and free society, and the strategy of counter-hegemonic reform fights (meaning they not only demanded an 8 hour day, but challenged the legitimacy of economic inequality and capitalism as a whole)."

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towardsTruthout Interviews Chris Crass on Feminism
by Ted Asregadoo
Truthout
June 22nd, 2014

"We are not unaware of the irony of this "Truthout Interviews" segment featuring two men talking about feminism, but you don’t have be a woman to be a feminist, since feminism, while about many things, is primarily about smashing the ideology of separate spheres that reinforces female subordination and male supremacy. Many know that ideology by another name: patriarchy. Whatever the term one uses, the everyday sexism that pervades society is something that feminists want to overcome. Since sexist behavior often stems from men, Truthout contributor Chris Crass primarily addresses men in his Father's Day offering for Truthout and other articles. As one of his friends pointed out years ago, despite his progressive political ideals, Chris had many sexist tendencies. He often explained things to women in long-winded speeches (i.e.,"mansplaining"), wouldn’t acknowledge women in meetings, rarely made eye contact with them, and dominated conversations..."

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towardsTowards Collective Liberation: A Review
by Adam Lewis
Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture and Action

May 2014

Crass has assembled a key resource for anarchists and all those who are committed to, or realizing their commitment to, movements of ‘collective liberation’. His work brings anti-racist and feminist struggles front and centre with an eye to building long-term, resilient, and effective movements of resistance and change for all people. His own positioning as a “white, mostly straight, man” means that there are key lessons in this book for those who might share a similar identity. He is candid and speaks from the heart about his own struggles and experiences of coming to consciousness in a world that is rife with oppression and domination and where those with privilege are often able to take the easy way out of ignoring continuing realities of oppression. Crass is clear that his own struggles have not been just his individually but that there have always been a strong number of mentors ready to challenge his own perspectives and help push his own understandings forward.

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towardsTowards Collective Liberation: A Review
by Nora McKay
Noramckay.weebly.com
May 8th, 2014

Of course, there are moments when I felt like Crass knew that the book was serving the purpose of a how-to guide even though he didn’t frame it in that way. The last chapter in the book for instance is called, “We Can Do This: key Lessons for More Effective and Healthy Liberation Praxis”. In it he includes eight tips for successful activism. Some of them are more practical like, “Cultivate a developmental organizing approach. Continually look for patterns, stages, and common dynamics that help move individuals, relationships, and efforts towards their goals, as well as what hinders them.” (274) Others have that distinctly hopeful, ethereal tone that I associate with whole-hearted activists, particularly: “Embrace the beauty and joy in the world. It is important that, even as we have a keen eye  for injustice and a passion to end it, we also open ourselves up to the beauty and joy of the world around us.” (282) This last one is my favorite; a reminder that being hard-core, passionate activists doesn’t mean we have to feel guilty about appreciating all of the good stuff and the beautiful stuff that’s happening in the world as well. Because there is always something.

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towardsTowards Collective Liberation: A Review
by Lesley Wood
Interface: a journal for and about social movements
Volume 5
November 2013

Personally, this is a book I’ve waited a long time for. Crass is a white U.S. anarchist who became politically active in the 1990s via suburban punk rock.The book articulates the evolution of an anarchist politics that some of us came to in the 1990s and 2000s, out of a recognition that hierarchy couldn’t be reduced to race, class, gender and sexuality. It is a politics that took into account the idea that the personal was political, and the feeling that large, ritualized protests were not creating a more just and fulfilling world. While such anarchist work is widespread in a wide range of contemporary organizing, including immigrant rights, Occupy, police brutality, and student movements--it is more visible in workshops than in publications. Crass puts this ‘small a’ anarchist approach into historical context.

This is not just a book for anarchists, and indeed many anarchists won’t see themselves within it.

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towardsTowards 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.

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towardsTowards Collective Liberation: A Review
Publishers Weekly
August 2013

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.

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towardsUniting 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.

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towardsGrassroots 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.

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towardsTowards 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.

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towardsTowards Collective Liberation: A Review
By Yutaka Dirks
Briarpatch Magazine
May 1, 2013

"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."

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towardsTowards 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."

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towardsTowards 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.”

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towardsTowards Collective Liberation: A Review
By Sasha
Earth First! Newswire
May 9th, 2013

“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. ”

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towardsTowards 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.”

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towardsNew 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.

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towardsTowards Collective Liberation: A Review
By Stacy Kono
Asian American Movement Ezine
April 24th, 2013

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.

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Interviews

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 Talks

United for Justice Posters, Blogs & Toolkits

In the News

 

we are the 99%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.

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we are the 99% spanishUpdate 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.

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we are the 99%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. 

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toolkitCatalyzing 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.

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Check out Chris Crass speaking at a talk in the Catalyst Project Study and Struggle session on "Lessons from Immigrant Rights Organizing in Arizona 2010" 

Chris's talk begins at 2:50 in this first video
 
Continue watching the talk here