Heather Booth

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Heather Booth
Heather Booth

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Heather Tobis Booth (born 1945) is a Chicago based activist, who has been organizing for "social justice for more than 40 years".

Booth has questioned whether it is useful in an American context to focus attention on socialism, given its anti-democratic record. Instead she has argued that a radical definition of democracy has a greater chance of changing minds and political practice in the United States.[1]

Early life

Heather Tobis grew up in a liberal Jewish family in Bensonhurst, New Jersey.[2]

Activism

"In 1963, at Yad Vashem in Israel, she made a commitment that in the face of injustice, she would work for justice/tikkun olam". Booth was active in the women's movement, founding the first campus women's movement organization in 1965 and beginning JANE, one of the country's first abortion counseling services. She has organized for childcare, health care, and women's rights in many arenas. In 1989, she directed the national March for Women's Lives. She was a founder, Co-Director, and former President of Citizen Action, and is now a Vice President of USAction[3].

She has been a consultant to a variety of social change groups including the Center for Community Change (advising on the development of the Community Voting Project), MoveOn.org, the Campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Campaign for America's Future and NOW[4].

Civil Rights activism

When Heather Tobis was in high school, on hearing about the lynchings in the South, she joined CORE in New York City. Much of the activity focused on protests against Woolworth's refusal to seat blacks at the counters in their southern stores.

In 1963, she started college at the University of Chicago and became the head of the local chapter of Friends of SNCC. the group supported the struggle in the South and in Chicago. Tobis organized a part of the Freedom Schools during a city wide school boycott to protest the policies of Superintendent Ben Willis "who went out of his way to create and preserve segregated and inferior school in the African American community. We supported rent strikes and tenant organizing and other kinds of community organization for civil rights". Tobis was the liaison to the CCCO (Coordinating Council of Community Organizations--the Chicago Civil Rights Coalition).[5]

In 1964, at the end of her first semester of college, Heather Booth went to Mississippi for the civil rights movement and the Freedom Summer Project. "I'd been very active in SNCC already, and I was also active in the emerging anti-war movement on campus"[6].

After the summer Tobis returned to Chicago and "continued with the struggle", also doing national traveling, speaking and fundraising.

University activism/meeting Paul Booth

Back in Chicago, Booth became the chair of the Student Political Action Committee , the University of Chicago’s leftist political group, worked with members of Students for a Democratic Society , and then founded the campus organization Women’s Radical Action Program , one of the first women’s consciousness-raising groups in the country.

As the chair of SPAC, Booth worked with other students to organize a sit-in protesting the University’s participation in Vietnam War-related policies in May of 1966. The sit-in was the earliest student sit-in against the Vietnam War. There she met Paul Booth, a full-time SDS employee. On the third day of the sit-in, he asked her to marry him. Two days later she agreed, and they married in 1967. The couple had their first child in 1968 and their second in 1969.[7]

JANE- an abortion service

JANE can trace its roots to 1965 and a young Heather Booth. While a University of Chicago student "A friend of mine at the time was raped at knifepoint and went to the university health care center, where she was told there were no gynecological services. And she was given a lecture on promiscuity," Booth said.

Situations such as this sparked Booth to help out a friend in need. This friend who came to her with a problem: her sister was pregnant and didn't want to be. The woman was suicidal over the matter because there was no place for her to go for an abortion. Booth's friend was not rich, so Booth took it upon herself to find an abortionist for the young woman. She located a doctor with a good reputation and recommended him to her friend. Word that Booth knew where to locate abortionists grew, and she was soon flooded with requests for doctors. She used the pseudonym "JANE" because of its anonymous quality. She kept lists of abortionists and their qualifications at hand. Soon, the operation became too big for Booth to handle herself. She recruited other women to help with the project and they became the group JANE.[8]

The women of JANE learned to perform illegal abortions themselves. Eventually, the underground collective performed over 12,000 safe, affordable abortions. Word of the illegal alternative was spread through word-of-mouth, cryptic advertisements, and even by members of Chicago's police, clergy, and medical establishment.[9]

Citizens Action

Booth founded, supported, and led a number of other organizations. The most long-lasting and influential of those was Citizen Action, a national organization of 2.5 million dues-paying members in thirty-two states, which supported "grassroots political action for economic and political democracy".[10]

Former Students for a Democratic Society members Heather and Paul Booth and Steve Max, were all leading activists in Citizens Action.[11]

Harold Washington supporter

Booth was been involved with many political campaigns including with Mayor Harold Washington in Chicago.

Democratic Agenda

More than 1,200 people attended the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee initiated Democratic Agenda Conference held November 16-18, 1979, at the International Inn and Metropolitan AM Church in Washington 1 DC. The conference focused on "corporate power'; as the key barrier to "economic and political democracy," concepts many Democratic Agenda participants defined as "socialism.'

The Democratic Agenda meetings attempted to develop anti-corporate alternatives" through influencing the direction of the Democratic Party during the period leading to the July 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York.

Workshops included "Energy Agendas for the 80s': Theirs and Ours" - Jack Clark, moderator; Heather Booth, Joel Jacobsen, Ed Rothschild[12]

New Directions

Institute for Policy Studies connections

Heather Booth, Director Midwest Academy, Chicago was listed[13]among those participating in the Institute for Policy Studies affiliated Conference on Alternative State and Local Policies {CASLP} Bryn Mawr August 3-5 1979.

Alinsky fan

Heather Booth has stated, "Alinsky is to community-organizing as Freud is to psychoanalysis.[14]"

Writing

Booth has one book with former New American Movement radicals Harry Boyte and Steve Max, "Citizen Action and the New American Populism", published in 1986.[15]

68/86 - Student Activism in the 60s and 80s - Columbia University 1986

"Panel discussion featuring '60s Student leaders

Wollman Auditorium, Columbia University

Sponsored by Columbia National Lawyers Guild and Barnard-Columbia Democratic Socialists of America

Source: Notice in the Guardian Calendar, issue of November 5, 1986, p. 10

Moseley Braun official

In 1992, Heather Booth and Janice Bell were the two key leaders of Carol Moseley Braun for Senate.[16]

Heather Booth was Field Director for Sen. Carol Moseley Braun's successful Senate race.[17]

Consulate invasion

In January 1985 Alice Palmer helped organize an invasion of the South African Consulate in Chicago. Among those arrested were Bob Lucas, Heather Booth, Addie Wyatt, and Buzz Palmer. The next day Buzz Palmer went to see mayor Harold Washington to see that the defendants went to trial, to make political capital.[18]

Midwest Academy

Heather Booth founded Midwest Academy, which has trained thousands of social change organizers since 1973[19].

The 2009 Midwest Academy board of directors consisted of[20];

  • Heather Booth President

Booth claims to have started Midwest on "funds I won from a labor back pay suit".

Midwest Academy, has helped to build the field operations and/or strategic plans for such organizations as Sierra Club, NARAL, United States Student Organization, Children's Defense Fund and many other groups.[21]

Going political

According to a January 2010 profile in Chicago weekly Online organizing gives activists access to what Booth refers to as “levers of power,” but early community organizers shied away from fighting their battles through electoral politics, believing that "community organizing had a certain moral clarity that electoral politics could not have". They inherited the views of famed community organizer Saul Alinsky, who maintained that grassroots organizing that places pressure on those in power is more likely to lead to social justice than electing leaders to operate on the inside of the manipulative political world.

But after the election of Ronald Reagan, Booth says she realized that “we needed to do something about elections.” At the Midwest Academy’s annual retreat in 1981, she gave a speech emphasizing the importance of involvement with electoral politics. She declared that in a democracy, citizens must become involved with electoral politics in spite of the compromises inherent in politics because without that involvement, one of the main “levers of power” is denied to them. Her speech was “a brilliant analysis that treated on the cost of not (becoming involved with electoral politics),” says friend Jeff Blum, and it was “a very seminal moment of change for many of us . . . she did what she often does: articulates a trend or a challenge or a vision that then many other people follow.”[22]

Booth founded the State and Local Leadership Project to help support "progressive leadership" in running for political office.[23]

Coalition for Democratic Values

In 1990, Democratic Socialists of America "friend" Heather Booth became director of the Coalition for Democratic Values, a new national Democratic Party organization founded, under the leadership of far left Senators Howard Metzenbaum, and Paul Simon, to hold the Democratic Party to "progressive standards."[24][25]

DNC

Starting in 1993 Heather Booth worked on electoral campaigns and with the Democratic National Committee and was the training director for the Committee during the Clinton administration.[26]

NAACP voting project

Heather Booth was the founding director of the NAACP National Voter Fund in 2000, which helped to increase African American turnout by nearly 2 million votes[27].

DSA connections

In the early 1990s Heather Booth's husband Paul Booth was a confirmed member of Democratic Socialists of America.

The Chicago DSA's New Ground Archive Spring 1992 issue includes an article entitled[28]"Heather Booth, Jackie Grimshaw and Michael Dyson Wow Crowd at the University of Chicago". The meeting was sponsored by the University of Chicago DSA.[29]

DSOC "Initiator"

According to the December 29, 1979, issue of Information Digest, the "initiators" of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (forerunner of Democratic Socialists of America) , formed in 1973 as a result of a split within the Socialist Party USA, largely over the issue of cooperation with communists, included Julian Bond, Heather Booth, John Conyers, Ronald Dellums, Douglas Fraser, Joyce Miller, William Winpisinger, and Jerry Wurf.

Debs dinner award

Chicago Democratic Socialists of America's 29th Annual Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Dinner was held on May 9, 1987, at the Congress Hotel in Chicago. The Master of Ceremonies was Leon Despres. Mayor Harold Washington was to present the awards to Jackie Grimshaw and Heather Booth, but he was unable to attend because of a meeting that ran over long. In his absence, Leon Despres did the honors. United Steelworkers of America President Lynn Williams gave the Thomas - Debs Address.[30]

You have dedicated yourself to enabling people to develop a sense of their own power and alter the relations of power in order to build a more just and humane society.

Through the Midwest Academy, you have inspired and trained thousands of new activists in the Citizen Action movement, the peace movement, and the women's movement.
You have reached across the generations to connect with and maintain the best traditions of the old radical movement while reaching out to upcoming student activists with a new vision and strategy for a better future.
By work and by deed your energy and commitment inspire us all.
For this, the Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Award is hereby presented to you on this 9th day of May, 1987.

Campaign for America's Future

In 1996 Heather Booth, Founder Midwest Academy was one of the original 130 founders of Campaign for America's Future.[31]

Chicago Area Friends of SNCC

In 2005 Chicago Area Friends of SNCC organized the "Tell the Story: The Chicago SNCC History Project, 1960-1965" Chicago Area Friends of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Chicago Civil Rights Movement, c. 1960-1965. The event was held October 21-22, 2005 Roosevelt University, Chicago, Illinois.

Members of the advisory committee included Heather Booth.[32]

Wellstone Action

In 2009 Heather Booth was listed as a member of the Advisory Board[33] of Wellstone Action, a Minnesota based organization based on the political legacy[34] of that state’s late ‘progressive” Senator Paul Wellstone.

Wellstone Action and Wellstone Action Fund combine to form a national center for training and leadership development for the progressive movement. Founded in January 2003, Wellstone Action's mission is to honor the legacy of Paul and Sheila Wellstone by continuing their work through training, educating, mobilizing and organizing a vast network of progressive individuals and organizations.

Center for Community Change board

In 2009 Heather Booth, Director of Health Care Reform Campaign AFL-CIO Washington, DC served on the board of Center for Community Change.[35]

Social Policy

The Editorial Advisory Group of the magazine Social Policy includes[36];

Noam Chomsky, Janice Fine, S. M. Miller, Peter Olney, Frances Fox Piven, Heather Booth, Peter Dreier, Maya Wiley, Robert Fisher, Ashutosh Saxena, Ken Grossinger

Americans for Financial Reform

On January 28, 2010 Booth wrote in the Huffington Post;[37]

Last night in his State of the Union address, President Obama reinforced his ambitious agenda to fix the economy and enact financial reform, including measures to hold Big Banks accountable for their reckless actions that led to our financial crisis and the loss of millions of jobs:
The House has passed financial reform...And the lobbyists are already trying to kill it. Well, we cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back.
At Americans for Financial Reform, we are fighting to make this possible. Financial reform will protect working families and small businesses by reining in the greedy, reckless behavior of big banks on Wall Street and will crack down on the abuses committed by credit card companies and the mortgage lending industry. These reforms will hold Wall Street accountable and prevent another financial crisis.

Jeff Blum

Jeff Blum is a colleague and longtime friend of Heather Booth, who also attended the University of Chicago, “She has always been very good at being at the intersection of powerful agendas and organization.” says Blum.[38]

America's Future Now!

Heather Booth was one of the 148 speakers who addressed the 2010 America's Future Now Conference.[39]

Endorsed radical manual

In 2011, Heather Booth, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Gregory Cendana all endorsed an updated edition of "Organizing for Social Change :Midwest Academy Manual for Activists, by Kim Bobo, Jackie Kendall and Steve Max.

Booth wrote; "Organizers! this is the book you have been waiting for".

PDA meeting, Maryland

Thursday March 15, 2012, PDA National Director Tim Carpenter, PDA National Vice Chair emeritus Stephen Shaff, PDA National Deputy Field Director Andrea Miller and Mike Hersh welcomed speakers Rep. Donna Edwards (Md-6), Professor Eric Kingson from Social Security Works, and Alex Lawson from We Act 1480 AM Radio to Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, Maryland.

Current and former PDA National Board Members Medea Benjamin, Joe Libertelli and Steve Cobble, Healthcare NOT Warfare co-chair Donna Smith, and Maryland Senator Paul Pinsky also helped welcome progressives to Prince George's County's newest meeting place. The turnout included several important progressive leaders from Maryland's 4th, 6th, and 8th districts.

Special thanks to the Very Important Progressive Host Committee including--Stephen Shaff; PDA board member Bill Fletcher, Jr., Raucus Activist Writer; Alex Lawson, Social Security Works and WE ACT Radio; Heather Booth, Activist; Steve Cobble, PDA Political Advisor, and Institute for Policy Studies; Medea Benjamin; Tom Hucker, MD Delegate, D-20; Greg Moore, NAACP/Political Consultant; Beth Becker, Progressive PST; Naomi Bloch, Activist who donated a small library of books; David Hart, Physicians for Social Responsibility; Beth Schulman, IPS; Greg Smith, Activist; Joe Libertelli; Mark Dudzic; Jimmy Tarlau, Communication Workers of America; Kerren-Pope Onwukwe, Attorney/Activist; and Andrea Miller.[40]

Elizabeth Warren fundraiser

On March 21, 2012, Young Professionals Event fundraiser was held at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Boston, for Elizabeth Warren

Hosted by: Alisha Bhagat, Heather Booth, Paul Booth, Robert Borosage, Chris Bowers, Denise Bowyer, Laura Clawson, Carla Ohringer Engle, Robert Friedman, Rich Goldberg, Adam Green, Sarah Harrison, Sabrina Hersi Issa, Mike Lux, Kate Ottenberg, Jonathan Parnes, Ami Patel, Cecilia Poon, Joel Silberman, Stephanie Taylor, James Williams, Jenny Wu, Zaid A. Zaid

Contribution: $1,000 chair; $250 Sponsor (VIP reception included); $50 guest.[41]

Midwest Academy awards

Bob Creamer, Heather Booth, Roberta Lynch, Elizabeth Warren
Bob Creamer, Heather Booth, Roberta Lynch, Elizabeth Warren

When Democratic Socialists of America controlled Midwest Academy held its annual award ceremony December 12, 2012, at the Eatonville Restaurant, Washington DC, Elizabeth Warren was guest speaker.

Pictured right, Elizabeth Warren mingles with Heather Booth, and Democratic Party strategist and long time DSA associate Bob Creamer, and in the background, well known Chicago Democratic Socialists of America member Roberta Lynch.

Long time Democratic Socialists of America member Julian Bond was given a “Lifetime Achievement Award”, while another one time DSAer Mike Lux, was given a Progressive Leadership Award, as was Damon Silvers.[42]

Fred Ross award campaign

In early 2013, mainly Democratic Socialists of America aligned activists, together with many elected officials across the United States came together to urge President Barack Obama to award posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the legendary organizer, Fred Ross, Sr.. The Saul Alinsky trained radical was the first to organize people through house meetings, a mentor to both Cesar Chavez and DSAer Dolores Huerta, and a pioneer in Latino voter outreach since 1949 when he helped elect Communist Party USA affiliate Ed Roybal as Los Angeles’s first Latino council member, "Ross’ influence on social change movements remains strong two decades after his death in 1992".

Endorsers of the proposal included Heather Booth.[43]

References

  1. Leaders From the 1960s, A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism, Edited by David DeLeon, page 477-481
  2. Leaders From the 1960s, A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism, Edited by David DeLeon, page 477-481
  3. http://jwa.org/feminism/_html/JWA004.htm
  4. http://www.midwestacademy.com/board-directors
  5. [1] Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, Community Organizing Discussion — 2003
  6. http://jwa.org/feminism/_html/JWA004.htm
  7. [2] The Progressive: For over forty years, Heather Booth has worked to build a small-d democracy, Chicago Weekly Online, January 7, 2010
  8. ttp://www.chicklet.com/hb.html
  9. [3] Jane: An Abortion Service, accessed June 2, 2010
  10. Leaders From the 1960s, A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism, Edited by David DeLeon, page 477-481
  11. A companion to post-1945 America, page 291 By Jean-Christophe Agnew, Roy Rosenzweig
  12. Information Digest, December 14, 1979, page 370/371
  13. Information Digest August 24 1979
  14. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6404/is_4_59/ai_n28718506/pg_4/?tag=untagged
  15. Leaders From the 1960s, A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism, Edited by David DeLeon, page 477-481
  16. CMBFS letterhead May 29, 1992
  17. [4] Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, Community Organizing Discussion — 2003
  18. Interview with Alice Palmer, Katherine Elizabeth McAuliff, Columbia College - Chicago, Spring 2010,
  19. http://www.midwestacademy.com/board-directors
  20. http://www.midwestacademy.com/board-directors
  21. [5] Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, Community Organizing Discussion — 2003
  22. [6] The Progressive: For over forty years, Heather Booth has worked to build a small-d democracy, Chicago Weekly Online, January 7, 2010
  23. Leaders From the 1960s, A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism, Edited by David DeLeon, page 477-481
  24. Leaders From the 1960s, A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism, Edited by David DeLeon, page 477-481
  25. DEMOCRATIC LEFT SEPTEMBER- OCTOBER 1990, page 20
  26. [7] Green Tracking Library, Midwest Academy, accessed June 2, 2010
  27. http://www.midwestacademy.com/board-directors
  28. http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/index.html
  29. Democratic Left, March/April, 1992, page 12
  30. http://www.chicagodsa.org/d1987/index.html
  31. CAF Co-Founders
  32. http://www.ben.edu/programs/cafsncc/
  33. http://www.wellstone.org/about-us/board-directors
  34. http://www.wellstone.org/about-us/our-mission-goals
  35. http://www.communitychange.org/who-we-are/our-board
  36. http://www.socialpolicy.org/index.php?id=804
  37. [8] Obama Is Right to Fight for Real Financial Reform: Let's Organize to Hold Big Banks Accountable, H.Post january 28, 2010
  38. [9] The Progressive: For over forty years, Heather Booth has worked to build a small-d democracy, Chicago Weekly Online, January 7, 2010
  39. Our Future website: Take Back America 2010 Speakers (accessed on July 12, 2010)
  40. [http://www.pdacommunity.org/maryland/1281-donna-edwards-joins-pda-in-hyattsville, PDA website, Donna Edwards Joins PDA in Hyattsville Friday, 16 March 2012 14:46 Written by Mike Hersh]
  41. OpenSecrets.org, Fundraising Events Senator Elizabeth Warren
  42. Midwest Academy Facebook, Academy Awards 2012! with special guest Elizabeth Warren, at Eatonville Restaurant
  43. Momentum Builds for Honoring Legendary Organizer Fred Ross, by Randy Shaw, 2013-03-05
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