May 1st, 2006
To: Secretary of State of Louisiana
Secretary of State of California
Secretary of State of Mississippi
Vanguard Public Foundation
Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) Interim Coordinating Committee (ICC) of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF)
PHRF Account in Jackson, Mississippi
Community Labor United (CLU) Account in New Orleans
All Donors to PHRF
From: Curtis Muhammad
Re: Funds raised in the name of PHRF
Dollars that were raised in the name of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition (PHRF/OC) were raised specifically for the following particular purpose:
- to support the organizing of poor, mainly black people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast who were hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, and
- to support the specific programs that emerged from that effort.
This stated purpose -- which defines PHRF/OC and makes it unique -- is explicit in all of the public documents that describe the mission and purpose of PHRF/OC, as indicated in the following citations:
The purpose of PHRF is to ensure that people from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region play a central role in all decisions made regarding relief and the rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. PHRF believes that the people are the leaders and that this is the only way justice will be served.
- "PHRF - Who We Are"
We affirm and will continue to play a central role in all aspects of putting our lives back together, individually and collectively. We, the displaced people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, can and will take charge of our own recovery and rebuilding and we demand the appropriate support from the government.
- "Nothing About Us Without Us Is For Us"
The programs and plans of the United Front Organization are subject to the collective decision of the general membership.
- "Unity Agreement"
The People's Hurricane Relief Fund & Oversight Coalition engages in. . .bottom up organizing to ensure grassroots leadership and the building of a people's movement. - "The People's Hurricane Relief Fund & Oversight Coalition engages in:"
The Primary Goals of PHRF Are:
. . . To build and maintain a coordinated network of community activists, organizers, hurricane survivors and community based organizations with the capacity and organizational infrastructure to be accountable to and work with the people most impacted by Hurricane Katrina and governmental neglect.
? To facilitate an organizing process that is based on local, grassroots leadership. - PHRF brochure
Recognizing the historic need for a united front effort, CLU initiated the People's Hurricane Relief Fund & Oversight Coalition (PHRF) days after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. PHRF's fundamental goal is to ensure that those most affected by Hurricane Katrina play an integral role in all decisions regarding relief, return and reconstruction. PHRF believes this goal can best be accomplished through grassroots community organizing.
- PHRF-OC Report (September-December 2005)
A majority of the donations to PHRF/OC came as the result of a national speaking tour by Curtis Muhammad. Donors were explicitly asked to support PHRF/OC based upon the above stated principles. The donors were given every reason to expect that the monies thus raised were for the specific purposes of aiding the Katrina survivors in organizing themselves and for programs created by survivors that emerge from that organizing; and they made their donations based on that expectation.
The people who are now calling themselves PHRF are not associated with Curtis Muhammad or with the original plan under which the PHRF funds were raised. They have indicated their disapproval and disdain for the methodology of Bottom-Up grassroots organizing. They are beginning to circulate and preparing to initiate a "transitional program" made up of campaigns and strategies that were not generated by the survivors' organizations. They are asserting that PHRF should be able to organize campaigns around specific issues that may not have originated with the survivors' organizations. They have indicated that their work is not about grassroots organizing, but rather about a commitment to "party-building."
They have further proposed a constitution for PHRF that would specifically take the decision-making power away from the survivors' organizations and put it in the hands of the leadership group known as the Interim Coordinating Committee (ICC). It should be noted that the ICC has been known as an "interim" committee because it was understood that they would only have a central role in decision-making until such time as the survivors' organizations were fully constituted and organized. The constitution proposed by the ICC explicitly abrogates the survivors' organizations and shifts power to the ICC, as indicated in the following quotations:
"The Interim Coordinating Committee shall also make decisions and policy changes for the PHRF-OC when the General Assembly is not in session."
"Changes to the composition of the Coordinating Committee can be made by the People's Assembly, however ... Any such decision by the assembly shall require three months notice to Assembly Members before a consensus or a vote is taken. ... The assembly shall be convened at least once per year."
"...the political chain of command shall be as follows:
a. coordinating council
b. leadership circle
c. survivors councils
d. work groups"
"Survivors councils shall operate as provided by the council members, except that all councils shall comply with and abide by all policy, rules, principles and structure provided for survivors councils by the survivor general assembly, the coordinating committee, and this constitution."
"All survivors of Katrina shall have a right to participate in the survivor's council in their area, unless expelled from, or excluded by the survivor council membership, the survivor general assembly or the coordinating committee."
- Proposed Constitution developed by those now acting as the PHRF Interim Coordinating Committee
These provisions of the constitution proposed by the ICC would make the highest governing body of PHRF/OC an elected delegate assembly, rather than a general membership assembly. They would put the Survivors Councils under the jurisdiction of the Coordinating Committee and a five-member Leadership Circle, or "management team," whose members are to be selected by the Coordinating Council -- rather than the reverse. They also would allow the Coordinating Committee and the Leadership Circle to expel survivors without giving any criteria for so doing. These provisions are clearly the antithesis of the original principles under which PHRF was founded and its funds were raised.
As a result of these actions which violate the principles for which PHRF's funds were raised, Curtis Muhammad has separated and disassociated himself from PHRF and from any other intentions which are contrary to PHRF's original mission and purpose. He further states that any individuals or entities which attempt to distribute, spend or use the funds raised for PHRF for any purposes other than those made explicit in the documents stating the original mission and purpose of the organization are doing so without his support, and should cease and desist.
We ask that it be ordered that the funds raised in the name of PHRF, since they are not being used for the explicit purposes for which they were raised, should be transferred to the new entity known as the People's Organizing Fund (POF).*
We also ask that any funds raised hereafter for the purpose of "supporting the organizing of poor, mainly black people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast who were hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, and the specific programs that emerge from that effort" should be made payable to IFCO/People's Organizing Fund.
* The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) is serving as fiscal sponsor for the People's Organizing Fund (POF). Donations can be made payable to IFCO/POF and sent to the People's Organizing Fund c/o IFCO, 418 West 145th Street, New York, NY 10031.