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Life Arts    H3'ed 7/19/10

Adrienne Maree Brown of the Ruckus Society, Where Actions Speak Louder than Words

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My guest today is Adrienne Maree Brown, Executive Director of the Ruckus Society. Welcome to OpEdNews, Adrienne. Can you tell our readers about the Ruckus Society?

Ruckus Society Slogan by The Ruckus Society

Absolutely! The Ruckus Society is a network of trainers and activists who train communities in nonviolent direct action strategy and tactics. We are committed to advancing eco-justice in every way possible - getting communities to think in terms of the actions that they need in order to increase their resilience, rather than just say no to and critique injustice. Our website is

That sounds lovely and worthwhile but rather abstract. Can you give our readers some examples they can sink our teeth into, so to speak?


Most people think direct action happened during the civil rights movement - that Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King did their thing. We work with modern day Rosas and Martins, folks like Elouise Brown with Dooda Desert Rock who stood up to Sithe Global and stopped a coal-fired power plant from being built in her year by holding a blockade with her neighbors so the trucks couldn't get supplies in. Folks like Take Back the Land in Miami who have applied blockades and occupation tactics to keeping families in their homes [and who we're partnering with to take the campaign national!]. We work with communities who are directly impacted by economic and environmental injustices - to be heard, and to actively practice both resistance and resilience.

This is still a little abstract; I don't have a feel for it yet. Can you walk us through an actual Ruckus project, from beginning to end, so we can see how it works?

Sure. Groups usually hear about us through word of mouth, or because they get impressed by a piece of work we do...They reach out to us and tell us about their campaign and their goals. If they are at a beginning level, we do intro-level training on nonviolent direct action with them, so they know the history and the possibilities of action. We want the actions that we support folks to do to be as historic and inspiring as the lunch counter sit-ins during the civil rights movement. Once folks have an idea of what's possible, we do strategy sessions to think of what action will have the most impact given their target, resources and goals. Then, we train on specific tactics or pieces of the work - like action messaging, or action art, climbing to drop banners, blockades and occupations - often that training happens while we're supporting the group on the action. Our goal is that folks become self-sufficient in action.

Is that clearer?

It is, thanks. How long has the Ruckus Society been going, Adrienne? And how did you get started?

Ruckus is in our 14th year of existence. We started to produce action-ready climbers and direct action folks for the forest movement - folks sitting in trees and blocking loggers from getting their equipment in to decimate forests. Direct action and civil disobedience obviously predates us to the beginning of time - but focusing on growing the technical skills in the environmental community felt necessary and Greenpeace, who had been doing it, had shifted focus in a way that created an opening.

Along the journey, other communities held us accountable for growing our analysis of who we needed to develop and how. We now focus on developing skills within communities, as well as those who are specialists in a tactic and can travel to teach and execute it.

Brown by Adrienne Maree Brown

Tell us a little about yourself. Where did your interest in social action come from originally?

I was a military brat and rebelled early against uniformity and hierarchy. In college, I got involved in social justice organizing as my eyes were opened to the reality of militarism and imperialism, but I focused a lot on the circumstances of young women as a survivor of sexual assault. My first job was with the Harm Reduction Coalition, working with active drug users and sex workers to reduce the harm in their lives and increase the self-determination and power. When the Bush administration cut the funding for that work, and then responded to 9/11 by obliterating Afghanistan and Iraq, I got into electoral organizing for a while. I see how all the pieces could fit together for a strong movement, and I saw a gap in our ability to take action - so I came to Ruckus seeking to learn and spread that tactical and strategic capacity.

You have a wide array of partners and allies, so your message is spreading. Other than groups that contact you, are you also proactive? And, how does it work?

We definitely spend the majority of our time working with communities who come to us, because those are the folks who are ready for action. When we're proactive, it's generally for a larger community project, like our Indigenous People's Power Project, where we pursued funding to support the development of an all-indigenous training circle. We get tons of requests, and those go out to our network...The ones we prioritize are those from directly impacted communities.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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