Project 50, No. 1: Mid-South Peace and Justice Center
Ed. Note: For the first post of Project 50, I want to tell you about the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center. This organization was founded on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and opened on his birthday in 1982. The timing seemed appropriate. I asked Ace F. Madjlesi, Board Member for the MSPJC and Project Coordinator for the H.O.P.E. Women's Caucus to write this guest post about the Center.
When the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center (MSPJC) opened its doors in 1982, its vision was nothing short of world peace and global equality. Inspired directly by the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi, the MSPJC worked on numerous campaigns to end military action overseas.
The current work of the MSPJC has a decidedly more local focus as they seek to address issues like blight, homelessness, transportation, and criminal justice. One of the Center's most active groups is H.O.P.E. (Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality) whose members are exclusively people who have or are currently experiencing homelessness. Within H.O.P.E., members have organized around multiple issues. For example, the H.O.P.E. Women's Caucus recently completed a 5-week self-defense course while the H.O.P.E. Garden Crew runs a community-based garden co-sponsored by GrowMemphis.
Mid-South Peace & Justice Center members at the MLK Day march on Jan. 20, 2014 (today!) Photo via @aktionkat on Instagram. Used with permission.
"The Center helps to lift up the voices of those who don't normally have a voice. We're trying to create a city where everyone has a voice in the decisions that affect their lives," says Jacob Flowers, Executive Director of the MSPJC. He explains that the MSPJC seeks to organize and support individuals and communities who are most often disenfranchised from society, whether that's socially, economically, or otherwise. "The people who benefit from our work are the people who are ready to make Memphis a better place," he adds.
MSPJC staff preparing for Living the Legacy of Nonviolence Gala on Jan. 18 at First Congregational Church in midtown. L to R: Paul Garner, Organizing Coordinator; Jacob Flowers, Executive Director; Gio Lopez, Training Coordinator.
The MSPJC is also the sponsoring organization for groups like the Memphis Bus Riders Union, Memphis United, and Community-Police Relations.
In addition to its organizing department, the MSPJC is home to an active education branch that offers regular workshops on topics ranging from grassroots organizing basics to media training for activists. Most MSPJC events and workshops have fees based on a sliding scale, and no one is turned away based on an inability to pay.
Official mission statement: "The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center’s mission is to engage, organize, and mobilize communities to realize social justice through nonviolent action."
Biggest annual events: Gandhi-King Community Conference (usually in October- see last year's Facebook event page) and Living the Legacy of Nonviolence Gala (this was on last Friday's 5 Things To Do list – see the Facebook event page for info)
Ace F. Madjlesi serves as a board member of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center and project coordinator for H.O.P.E. Women's Caucus. She is a Research Associate for the Center for Research on Women at The University of Memphis and a world-ranked pinball player.