This amazing thing I kinda forgot to tell you about

Based on an email I just wrote

So this is a bit embarrassing.

For the past several weeks, we in the Justice League been working really hard on a secret project. We were so excited and worked so hard to make it happen that we sorta forgot to unveil it. Whoops. Consider this a quick 5am belated special surprise announcement.

Announcing the first (annual?) Social Justice Alumni Kicking Ass Weekend Fest.
(This name is subject to change)

We’ve contacted five impressive awesome alumni – and flown then to campus this weekend to meet you! They will hold workshops, share skills, talk about careers in social justice, their experiences at Brandeis – all that and more.

The quick info:

Thursday, 7:30, Shapiro Dorm Lounge: Andrew Slack
Friday, 3:30, SCC 315: Aaron Voldman and Sam Vaghar
Saturday, 2:00, SCC 313: Joshua Kahn Russell and Jay Mandel

The why-you-should-care info:

Andrew Slack ’02 will talk about using the power of Harry Potter to fight evil in the real world. Seriously. He’s awesome. You’re awesome. You two should connect.
7:30 – 10pm in Shapiro Dorm Lounge

Aaron Voldman ’09 and Sam Veghar ’08 both founded successful national non-profits – while they were still undergrads! These guys are going places and they want to meet you.
3:00 – 6:00 pm, SCC 315

Joshua Kahn Russell ’06 and Jay Mandel ’80 are both way too accomplished for these few sentences to do them justice. Suffice to say that Josh was the alpha badass activist when he was at Brandeis, and he’s still being great in the “real world.” Jay has been actively involved as an alum – he’s been involved with the Peace Circle, Peace Room, endowed a scholarship, and many more behind-the-scenes great things. You can learn more about them on the facebook event.
2:00 – 4:30 pm SCC 313

Exciting, right?

Yeah so we are very proud of ourselves, and we want to make sure that everyone knows about this exciting opportunity. You should go to one of these workshops/hangouts. Heck, you should go to all three. You know, everything is better with friends; bring yours.

Oh also!

Special bonus event:
Friday at Noon. Super-special peace vigil at the peace circle outside Usdan. Jay Mandel ’80 (who will be speaking/workshopping on Saturday) actually funded the peace circle and there’s going to be a big presence there in his honor. I hear there’ll be some special surprise guests there as well.

So I’m pumped. This weekend is going to be great.

Hope this all makes sense.

P.S. Remember our food and freedom campaign? We’ve raised over 1000 ballots, and now we’re in talks with the Union and Adminstration to bring fair dining practices and student democracy to campus. Expect more info soon.

What we did last semester

So you may know that some of us, in addition to blogging on Innermost Parts, are also staff on the Justice League, which is a new online organizing group on campus. We just sent out an end-of-the-year email laying out all that we accomplished in fall 2010 to all our members. Here’s a slightly modified version of what we wrote:

Dear friends,

Happy New Year. Now that we’re in Winter Break – I hope you are enjoying it! – we’d like to thank you for working with us at the Justice League over the last semester. Thanks to you and hundreds of other Brandeis community members, we achieved a lot. Together, we:

  • Elected Adam Hughes Junior Representative to the Board of Trustees.
  • We rallied together to support Adam Hughes in his campaign, and he won. Adam is smart, humble, and he is a member of the activist community. During his two-year tenure, students will have a devoted and strategic advocate. This was big.

  • Trained 70 students to be leaders and community organizers.
  • At the tail end of September, we hosted a “Campus Camp Wellstone” with three trainers from Wellstone Action, a national center for training and leadership development. The hours of training covered topics like campaign planning, crafting a message, leadership development, how to work with the media, recruiting volunteers, and more.

  • Brought cage-free eggs to campus.
  • We partnered with the Real Food Challenge to turn out 877 people to vote on cage-free eggs at Brandeis. 877 voters is huge – more people voted in that poll than the vast majority of student union elections. The results were lopsidedly in our favor as well – 89.1% voted for cage-free eggs. This campaign gave us a great model for how we could work effectively with other groups in the future. The Real Food Challenge did a wonderful job taking the lead on this and we look forward to working with them again on future campaigns.

  • Hosted alumni to teach and inspire us
  • Corey Hope Leaffer, a strategist with SEIU Boston and all around rad individual, joined us to run a workshop on creating effective leadership and building strong organizations. Later, we brought Andrew Slack to a Hillel dinner of 400 people to talk about Brandeis, Social Justice, Harry Potter and changing the world. He spoke and then engaged with community members for over two hours; it was truly incredible. With your help, we will be able to replicate these awesome experiences and expand this promising program in the future.

  • Brought the progressive community on campus closer together.
  • We held 3 summits for the leaders of progressive clubs. Together, we discussed common problems, came up with collaborative solutions, shared best practices, and made connections. We also worked with our partners at to give progressive clubs access and a platform on the site. Now they can get their ideas heard by administration and faculty, reach out to potential members, and coordinate with other activists.

  • Invested in progressive groups on campus.
  • We value solidarity and we value the larger social justice movement. That’s why we gave over $500 out in grants to six progressive groups on campus. We helped fund STAND’s successful fundraising barbecue, Positive Foundation’s hunger banquet, SEA’s postcard campaign, the Labor Coalition’s meet the janitor lunch, the Dem’s Food Not Bombs speaker, and Real Food’s amazing end-of-year banquet and strategy meeting.

  • Influenced Peretz Apology.
  • This semester opened with a bang. Marty Peretz, a famous and powerful Brandeis Alum, sparked an uproar when he wrote inflammatory, hurtful and shocking things in The New Republic. Almost 500 of us immediately signed an open letter rebuking him – Brandeis was founded specifically to defend the marginalized or minority, after all. New Voices magazine wrote a feature about us, and we were covered in the Boston Globe, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, and other media. Two days after the launch of our campaign, Peretz backed down and apologized. Friends of Peretz told us that they had no doubt that he knew about us and that we had a large role in his decision to apologize.

  • Celebrated Brandeis.
  • The Westboro Baptist “Church” scheduled a demonstration attacking Brandeis. We united as a community to plan our response together. Our hastily-assembled group of volunteers raised $4301.72, gathered commitments of 1417 members of the Brandeis community to celebrate everything that Brandeis stands for, threw a festival on the great lawn, held events throughout the day, earned media attention, got the entire school on-board, and grew together as leaders and citizens. I am so proud to have been part of this with you all. In planning and executing all this, we showed that all Brandeis students are leaders and can be leaders – when a challenge came our way, students from all different parts of the community stepped up to take it on. Much of our work at Brandeis involves prodding this institution forward, pressuring those in power to live up to our values. I’m proud to have been able to work with you on something different – a cheery event that reminds everyone why Brandeis is worth it in the first place.

Wow. When the two of us began writing this letter, we did not fully realize how much we had accomplished in one short semester; but looking at this list – wow. We hope you’re impressed with yourself.

Brandeis was founded upon a revolutionary idea: that this University could also be part of a movement for justice. The Brandeis Justice League’s mission is to fight injustice, to right that which is wrong, and to make sure that vision comes to pass.

Over the last semester, we’ve worked with this goal in mind, focusing our efforts in two primary directions – boldly taking a stand for Brandeis values, and building the strength of progressives on campus. Morgan and I couldn’t have done a lot of this without your help and participation. Thank you. I hope you approve.

If you like what you see and want to join us as a team member, please let us know in the comments or via email. I hope you do.

It’s been our pleasure to report back to you. I hope you find joy in seeing how the campaigns you’ve worked on with us have ended successfully.

Please, let us know what you think of all this.

Enjoy the rest of the break.
-Sahar Massachi and Morgan Gross, Justice League


Just something I sent to a few friends … 🙂

Hey everyone. We won. Read this:

“I do not think that any group or class of persons in the United States should be denied the protections of the First Amendment, not now, not ever … I do not mean to suggest that the Constitution and its order of rights should in any way be abrogated. I would abhor such a prospect. I do not wish upon Muslim Americans the sorts of calumnies that were endured by Italian Americans in connection with Sacco and Vanzetti and Jewish Americans in connection with communism.”

That was Marty Peretz, apologizing this Monday morning. What a change.

Now, his full apology was not that great. He tried to explain away some of his words, instead of fully acknowledging that they were hurtful and incorrect. Still, in the course of a weekend, we were able to persuade the editor-in-chief of The New Republic to swallow his pride and admit he did wrong. That took courage on his part, and solidarity on ours.

We accomplished something special together. With the simplicity of sincerely speaking out for our beliefs – just with the power of speaking from the heart and boldly declaring that attacking the dignity of our fellow man is unacceptable – we made this world a better place.

Good work!

Listen. Peretz apologized; that is victory. Another victory: we as a community publicly demonstrated our commitment to our shared values. Sometimes, it takes courage to stand up for your beliefs. When a member of our family does wrong, the ethical life demands that we condemn his actions, and steer him towards justice. Courage is not found only in censuring your opponents.

Yes, we had the obligation to take a stand, because Marty Peretz is a prominent and honored member of our family. We had this obligation not just because of who he is, but because who we are, and what Brandeis is.

You know the story as well as I. 1948 was a time when Universities across America were barring their doors to the unpopular, the feared, and the other. As a bold challenge to this mentality, the founders of Brandeis did something amazing. They created a place where everyone, regardless of race, religion, or class, was welcome. That spirit of social justice is baked into the bones of this place. It is the foundation upon which all else is built.

That is why Peretz’s words were so reprehensible. That’s why we had the obligation and the duty to act, to remind him of the Brandeis way. That’s why he realized his mistake.

We love Brandeis. Marty Peretz loves Brandeis. We succeeded for that reason.

Thank you. We’ve done a wonderful thing.

– Sahar Massachi, Kevin Diep, and the rest of the Justice League.