This letter was originally intended to update you on last summer's Making the Road seminars to Southern Africa and Cuba (see photos and links below). But as Prexy approaches his 75th birthday in February of next year, and is engaged in the major transition of trying to sell his house to provide for his remaining years, a group of friends is coming together to support his efforts. As a first step, we are reaching out to the people who have been most important to Prexy in one or another dimension of his remarkable life and work.
Prexy is deeply grateful that help from many of you made it possible to complete both a 2-week travel seminar in South Africa and Namibia (with eight participants) and a 1-week seminar in Havana (with seven participants). Special thanks to old and new friends who facilitated these seminars, including Carrie Pratt in Johannesburg, Vernon Rose in Cape Town, Jackie Asheeke in Windhoek, and Susana Hurlich in Havana.
With journalists at The Namibian newspaper in Windhoek in July 2018
Since the summer of 2016, Prexy has led four seminars to Southern Africa and three to Cuba for multigenerational, multiracial groups of students, teachers, and activists. Each seminar has featured substantive dialogue within the group as well as with progressive activists and educators in the cities visited, including Maputo, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Windhoek, and Havana. These trips have had a lasting impact on the participants and their wider communities, drawing more people into struggles for social justice. Financially, however, the seminars have barely managed to break even. Prexy has received almost no compensation for planning, organizing, and leading these seminars, except for one co-organized with the Village Leadership Academy in 2016.
As you know, during the school year Prexy works as an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago, teaching courses on liberation and resistance in Southern Africa. He began at Columbia College more than 30 years ago, but in recent years the situation there has become much more precarious. Prexy is among adjunct professors in a union with an expired contract, and they are trying to defend against erosion in the minimal rights and job guarantees they have previously won. A strike this fall is likely.
Prexy plans to continue both teaching and leading seminars for as long as possible, as his contribution to collective struggles for social justice. Retirement is not an option. But he now faces a difficult transition, as do many of our elders in the social justice movement.
In this context, a group of friends, including the signers of this first letter, is beginning to plan a Making the Road "A Luta Continua" Fund in anticipation of Prexy's 75th birthday. We want to ensure that he is adequately compensated for the countless days of unpaid activist work over a lifetime. Just as important, we want him to be able to continue this critical work as long as he is physically able, and to spend time working with a researcher on his memoirs for the benefit of future generations of activists. The birthday plans we are developing will give an opportunity for you to contribute memories that can assist Prexy in compiling his memoirs.
Here's a tentative timeline, indicating the kind of help and participation we hope you'll be able to provide at each step along the way.
Immediate: It's essential for Prexy and for Making the Road to get through this uncertain period during which his house is up for sale but not yet sold. We are targeting $10,000 in contributions in the next six weeks. In addition to seeking your support with this email, we will be reaching out personally to as many of you as we can. Every contribution counts, whether small or large.
Make your secure tax-deductible donation on-line through the South African Development Fund, which serves as the fiscal sponsor for Making the Road. Be sure to designate your donation for Making the Road. You can also send a check, made out to the South Africa Development Fund and designated for Making the Road, to SADF, 555 Amory Street, Boston, MA 02130.
Late fall: We'll be in touch after the 2018 election, in mid-November or early December, to update you on evolving plans for the birthday and the fund. We hope you will want to help out – by contributing financially, by sharing your memories (and old photos, etc.) with Prexy, and by reaching out to an even wider group of people to get them involved.
Early 2019: We hope that Making the Road will be able to announce more specific plans and start accepting applications for one or more travel seminars for summer 2019.
Thank you for all you are doing in our shared struggle for social justice.
A luta continua,
Imani Countess, Allen Isaacman, Heeten Kalan, Bill Minter
In Southern Africa 2018
With educational activists in Johannesburg in June 2018
At Deaf Federation of South Africa in Cape Town in June 2018
Lucelle Campbell, one of South Africa's leading experts on the slave trade, speaks to group members at the "Slave Lodge" in Cape Town.