The People's Organization for Progress has long appreciated the support of our local metro NJ-NYC area Pacifica radio station WBAI. Thanks to friends at the radio station, Public Service Announcements on WBAI have often been very helpful in building POP's campaigns and street actions. Recently POP's leadership has come under sharp attack from a faction of the Listener Advisory Board and their associates.
I write to deal with this because there are many folks outside of POP's base areas in New Jersey who have been given a bum steer about the group. I recently wrote two articles (see The Community Fights "Hollywood" Booker Over Water-Rights, and Hollywood Mayor Looks to Move Up) about a "budget balancing" bid by Newark's ambitious and mediagenic mayor, Corey Booker, which resulted in the cutting off of water to many tenants in city apartments. POP played a key role in defeating this scheme, at least for the time being.
When these articles were reposted at the left liberal Daily Kos website and similar venues, well-meaning Booker fans, who only knew our mayor and Newark from what they'd heard on Oprah or Conan O'Brien, were quick to to defend the Mayor and challenge our descriptions of Newark politics.
These new attacks by folks deeply involved in WBAI internal politics are a more conscious effort to undercut and isolate an organization that has been fighting for the people of New Jersey for 25 years.
It's no secret that there are sharp divisions about WBAI's role and future. Still, when a longtime POP friend began using the organization's internet message board as a campaign vehicle and folks at BAI with opposing views monopolized the LISTSERV with diatribes, the People's Organization for Progress membership voted to shut down the list and open a new moderated message board.
Although the POP membership voted to endorse the Justice & Unity slate, and POP chairman Lawrence Hamm separately sent in his personal endorsement, both Justice & Unity supporters and POP members supporting other candidates or slates remain active in the political life of the organization and its individual chapters in New Jersey and NYC. This is the nature of a democratically-run organization, and so POP members were shocked to see us characterized as a cult by individuals opposed to Justice & Unity.
One particularly rabid comment suggested that POP's leadership was similar to Jim Jones of People's Temple cyanide-laced Kool-Aid notoriety. POP is unquestionably one of the most democratically-run progressive organization in the country today, tied to no political organization, party, or religious institution (often to the chagrin of the "church-ladies" that make up the bulk of POP's membership, as well as Muslim members, and members affiliated with various non-religious organizations).
As a rule, Fire on the Mountain avoids publishing polemics. Regular readers will have noted that all essays I've written are about POP and other campaigns against injustice rather than articles of the who-shot-John type. We'll strive to keep things that way, but we also will not be silent when someone with an ax to grind takes aim at our organization, for whatever reason, and seeks to spread slanders and undermine our work.