Mike Miller got his start in activism as a student at UC Berkeley in the 1950s, well before the Free Speech Movement that placed Berkeley on the map politically. A white SNCC staff member between 1962 and 1966, he worked briefly thereafter on a Saul Alinsky project in Kansas City, then returned to his native San Francisco, where he has had a lifelong career as a community organizer and as a trainer of community organizers. For related documents, see Mike Miller's entry on the Civil Rights Movement Veterans website. (http://www.crmvet.org/vet/mikemill.htm)
This position paper provides a snapshot of the support and infrastructure of one chapter of Friends of SNCC, a powerful financial and communication arm of the Movement. The loss of northern support from "Friends of SNCC" that coincided with the decision to exclude whites had a significant impact on movement finances and public relations.
TO: SNCC National office
RE: Organization of Friends of SNCC in Bay Area
From: Mike Miller, Bay Area Rep.
Talked with Jim Forman yesterday, who suggested I write this up for the staff conference. I quickly add that this is written as if everything worked perfectly, which it doesn't.
There are about a dozen Friends of SNCC groups in this area. In fund-raising terms, they raise anywhere from several hundred to well over $10,000 a year. Each Friends of SNCC group works out its own internal structure, maintains its own bank account, and organizes its own program. To make sure that this kind of autonomy works out well, we try to make sure that the people starting a Friends of SNCC are our kind of people. Each group sends a representative to a Bay Area Council which meets every two weeks to coordinate and plan area activities--like speaking tours, concert series, our conference and so forth. Generally, and this is best, the representative on the Council is the Chairman of his group plus one other active person.
In addition to the Council, we are organizing Bay Area committees: a news-letter committee, a conference committee (temporary), a treasurer committee, and others that will be needed.
These committees, the Council, and the Friends of SNCC groups are serviced by the staff. The staff operates the regional office. The Regional office serves as a communication center, a source of program ideas, and a servicing center for the different groups. The Newsletter is edited by a volunteer staff person in the Regional office, but each Friends of SNCC group has a person who is responsible to get news into the Newsletter.
The Regional office also organizes new groups. In organizing our Mid-Peninsula group, we asked people in all the other Friends of SNCC groups who they knew in Mid Peninsula. We put all the names together and found a couple good ones, visited them, talked with them and got them to initiate the formation of a group.
The Regional office receives major information from Atlanta and relays it to Friends groups.
The Regional office mobilizes the Friends of SNCC groups when there is a crisis in the South.
The Regional office will handle major publicity work with the metropolitan press.
The Regional office will develop a volunteer staff to aid it in its work in the area. This is essential because one of the problems with this way of organizing is that the local groups give their own program and immediate needs such top priority as to make it difficult for them to free people for regional office needs.
We haven't had any internal problems about who gets how many votes; whether that would be based on membership or how much money you've raised is beyond me. If the problem ever arises, I think I'll just quietly flip out.