Volunteers are the lifeblood of community organizing, but there is no reason we should not take advantage of available resources to help us grow the resistance here in Seattle. In full disclosure, I’ve granted the community a year of my unemployment checks to sustain my own volunteer work to help build the movement. It was my choice and my sacrifice to walk away from two careers to do so and I now have the honor and privilege of saying I had a hand in bringing to life the critical grassroots organization in Seattle that we’ve come to call SAFE (Standing Against Foreclosure & Eviction).
SAFE exists today and is growing because many people like myself saw how important it was to organize, cared, and volunteered our time to make it happen. SAFE is a classic grassroots organization that was built from nothing save our rich history of struggle. People have volunteered to do everything from being present at our meetings, speaking out, bringing coalitions together, showing up at actions, stepping forward to draft SAFE’s literature and framework, planning strategy, doing work to present SAFE online, making calls, addressing letters, and spreading the word. This is something to be proud of.
I will never make the fifty to seventy thousand dollars a year I could have made as a school teacher or commercial electrician, but I’m okay with that knowing what we’re building. I first approached the two careers to begin with, because I wanted to make a difference in a union and working with other people. I found that both left me wanting some more direct and radical way to make an impact.
Josh is from a small town in South Eastern Washington called Lyle. Son of a carpenter and a secretary who adopted more than a few kids, he grew up with extended family on a small farm and barely graduated with a class of less than 25 people in 1999. He joined the military in 2000 and served in Korea, Germany, and finally Iraq just before he got out and was honorably discharged in 2004. Josh received a slight commendation after his vehicle was hit with a road side bomb while on patrol and is proud to say that he never once fired a bullet at another human being while stationed in Baghdad. Josh’s experience in the military made him a staunch opponent of any war of aggression.
In 2004 Josh used his military award to “pay” for an education, enrolling at the Seattle Central Community College. He graduated from the UW in 2008 and did a year of post graduate work in education in 2009, leaving school with only $14,000 in debt. During his time at college he worked as a dishwasher, deckhand fishing in Bristol Bay, English tutor, and activist amongst other things. Josh met the Spanish Civil War veteran and lifelong activist Abe Osheroff in 2005. Josh was honored to have his mentorship right up until Abe died in 2008.
During this time Josh became an active voice (finding it!) in the Peace movement, that culminated with him marching in front of Rage Against the Machine with his brothers in the Iraq Veterans Against Wars. This was the march on the AT&T-sponsored National Democratic Convention in Denver in 2008 to oppose the Dems continued support of the wars after receiving landslide electoral victories in 2006—a clear mandate to end the unpopular wars. The march finished with a showdown between a formation of about a hundred combat veterans led by Ron Kovic against hundreds more riot police. Josh said hello to Amy Goodman after the people won the face-off, and was happy to hear her say that “This is what democracy looks like.” It wouldn’t be the last time he heard it. Josh also fondly remembers telling Senator Maria Cantwell how wrong she was to support the wars after a 36 hour sit-in in her Seattle office, learning for certain that direct action works.
In 2010 Josh shifted gears to become a union electrical worker. He had been long motivated by a passion for energy issues—and further motivated by his experience in an oil war—to learn about alternative sources and how to now install them himself. Another positive about this time was working within organized labor, advocating for working class interests. However, Josh found that “organized” labor was not nearly as organized as the right wing would have us believe. Only the type of radical activism that first organized labor would see us through and only radical systemic changes in the way our society used energy would sufficiently address our worsening social, economic and ecological problems (all one and the same).
In the fall of 2011, Josh took his last layoff in construction and joined the Occupy movement. He spent perhaps a hundred hours each week for the next three months organizing, and in a way, went through a type of accelerated and intense organizer training in the streets. He finally found a way to truly follow his bliss putting everything he learned over the years to test and took naturally to community organizing. He believes that we may need a union at home more than we need one at work. In the Spring of 2012 Josh had found many other likeminded people and began to help spearhead an effort to build a durable organization dedicated to building a resistance movement and fighting for justice here in Seattle.
Josh considers himself a lifelong radical humanist and loves science fiction, thinking about the future, and tickling his girlfriend.