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Review for Thomas Merton Center, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I am a board member, volunteer and consultant at the Center. There is plenty to be critical of. We haven't figured everything out and we're human and it's hard to please everyone. This one star review is written by someone who has continually slammed us in the press, to various large groups of email recipients, unsolicited sent email and letters to our members and been red-baiting me (I am proud to be a socialist and won't take that as some kind out outdated, hysterical blanket condemnation of my work and who I am). Her story is full of misunderstandings about how things work, using little bits of information to prove evil intent and pulling various details that are of no consequence. Every single point is dripping in hypocrisy and lies. It's the ravings of a seriously upset woman and I can respect her outrage on a personal level, but it is not representative of most criticisms of the organization because it's only been experienced by a single person. No one else has demanded unfettered, free access for a project that currently takes up about 1/3 of our rented space. What is true of things ignored and not provided to Book'Em, ones that are true, is true of other projects and the Center. We did not keep up the building and we have had a rough transition to a Center run entirely by part-time staff and volunteers.

It's a great organization. Most cities don't have a peace and social justice center and we do. Pittsburgh is better for it, but we can certainly use it more effectively. Unfortunately, the Center suffers from what much of the left in the U.S. and globally does - fragmentation, demoralization, lack of practical training of new activists in basic organizational skills, lack of communication between groups and cow-towing to the Democrats. We are also a non-profit and those are hard to run. We currently run on very little paid staff labor and so there have been slip-ups, but we have assembled an amazing group of very dedicated volunteers (those who do not ask of the Center, such as this reviewer, that which would be insane and counter-productive to give up to merely a single project out of many) and a very committed membership. We have NOT lost 2/3 of our membership. Some mythical 1,000 number is floated from 2000, I'm not sure if we ever have that many and there was a time when people who were not members were counted as them (such as those who came to our award dinner, that routinely draws non-members). Our membership has grown quite a bit recently, considering how difficult it is for us to reach out and do the work necessary to do this because we are so strapped getting the bare necessities covered.

I wish we were able to be THE clearing house for progressive activism in the Pittsburgh area. But we are much too white, much too old and fail to convince others on the left in the city to join in with us, identify with us and work with us. We represent a rather tiny portion of the activism happening in Pittsburgh - we are better than not having a Center, but not up to the tasks ahead if we don't change things drastically and get seriously. We should engage with communities of color more and with young people, many of whom are just plain not involved in activism or only hooked into certain venues, not to the city as a whole and its activist community. We should also have more constructive relationship with our anarchist and anti-authoritarian brothers and sisters. There will be disagreements, but they are not worthy of keeping us from working together if it would benefit us both to do so and cultivate a more cohesive, organized, effective resistance to all the problems we are facing. We are on the same side and there is just too much to accomplish.

All the exploitation, oppression and injustice is out there and there are a lot of people resisting it, but we have to get together, get more people on our side, etc, if we will win and really change things. I believe it can and must and will happen, but it won't happen automatically.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I have seen it organize protests and facilitate activism in a way other organizations can't really pull off.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

make it more serious about activism, more cohesive, reach out more, get real about practical matters of finances, outreach, etc.

Role:  Volunteer & I work here, volunteer here and serve on the board.