Fred Ross Sr.’s AXIOMS FOR ORGANIZERS is a gem–a concise and inspired treasure trove of tips for people committed to building organizations and movements for social justice. It provides a stirring portrait of Ross, Sr., one of the most influential grassroots organizers of the 20th century, and spells out his philosophy and guiding principles for organizers.
The bilingual (English-Spanish) AXIOMS FOR ORGANIZERS captures a lifetime of Ross Sr.’s work with disenfranchised and oppressed people and their struggle to win respect and dignity.
As former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich writes in his glowing introduction to AXIOMS,
"From the migrant farm worker camps of California’s Central Valley to the streets of Los Angeles, from union halls to the halls of state legislatures, Ross taught people of all backgrounds the art and science of standing up for their rights in the face of racism, bigotry and greed. He stirred the imagination and helped communities break down barriers and achieve the seemingly impossible. In the 1950s, Ross worked to build chapters of the Community Service Organization (CSO) throughout California, and it was during this time that he identified and mentored a young farm worker in San Jose named Cesar Chavez."
Cesar Chavez once said of his mentor: "Fred did such a good job of explaining how poor people could build power, I could taste it."
As Dolores Huerta recalled, "Fred Ross, Sr. changed my life. He inspired and taught me how to organize. He had so much faith in the power of ordinary people to make history."
In AXIOMS FOR ORGANIZERS, Ross Sr. culls the lessons drawn from five decades of organizing experience under thematic headings followed by short nuggets of organizing gold. Chapters range from “Characteristics of a Good Organizer,” to “Fundamentals,” “Pitfalls,” “Hope, Motivation and Action,” and “Organizing in the Internet Age,” (the last chapter, a contribution by his son, legendary organizer Fred Ross, Jr.) In Fred Ross Sr. style, axioms are succinct and compelling.
The duty of the organizer is to provide people with the opportunity to work for what they believe in.
If you think you can do it for people, you’ve stopped understanding what it means to be an organizer.
To inspire hope, you must have hope.
To win the hearts and minds of people, forget the dry facts and statistics; tell them the stories that won you to the cause.
When you are tempted to make a statement, ask a question.
The first of its kind ebook, each chapter is laced together with archival photos and artwork portraying the array of social justice fights Ross Sr. helped lead. Black and white stills of Ross at work are combined with Roger Leyonmark’s lithograph, “American Nightmare,” memorializing the internment of Japanese Americans with whom Ross worked to secure housing and jobs and Rafael Lopez’s U.S. postal stamp design commemorating the 1947, precedent setting Mendez v. Westminster court decision, the forerunner to Brown v. the Board of Education.
House Minority Leader and former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi declared, “Fred Ross, Sr. left a legacy of good works that has given many the courage of their convictions, the powers of their ideals, and the strength to do heroic deeds on behalf of the common person.”
United Farm Worker Organizer Jessica Govea Thorbourne summarized Ross Sr.’s impact this way: "Fred taught us how to turn our grief into action and hope. We learned to ‘tell our story,’ create a plan of action and to track our progress.”
CA Governor Jerry Brown recently announced his selection of Fred Ross, Sr. into the California Hall of Fame in the Fall of 2014.
This collection of Fred Ross Sr.’s axioms offers invaluable insight to his thinking and method. It is a roadmap for students of history and organizers seeking to continue the good fight and a must read for students, teachers and community, labor, immigrant and human rights organizers committed to social justice.