Summer for Respect: Walmart Organizing and Oral History Project
Fifty years ago, in the summer of 1964, students from around the country traveled to Mississippi to participate in Mississippi Freedom Summer. Working hand-in-hand with civil rights organizations and African American residents of Mississippi, these students helped to shine a spotlight on the deep injustices of Jim Crow. At the same time, these students came to see the world with “Mississippi eyes,” deepening their own commitment to racial and economic justice in ways that would last a lifetime.
To mark the anniversary of Freedom Summer, OUR Walmart and Columbia University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE) are teaming up on a program to document the economic disenfranchisement that continues to afflict our country. Students from around the country, hand-in-hand with Walmart worker-leaders, will participate in an intensive summer of organizing and oral history documentation.
The project will last from May 26th to August 3. We will begin with an intensive four-day training in organizing, oral history, and video co-facilitated by OUR Walmart and INCITE, to take place between May 26th and May 29th at Columbia University. Students will then travel in teams to one of four regions across the country, where they will embed themselves with existing workers’ organizations. For the next nine weeks, students will be a part of ongoing organizing campaigns, with a particular focus on conducting oral history interviews with workers, customers, and community members. The group will then regroup in New York City at the beginning of August (August 1-3) for a debrief and celebration, where we will plan next steps for the campaign.
Students will learn to do the following:
- Provide support and coaching to existing OUR Walmart leaders as they engage, recruit, and mobilize their co-workers.
- Build relationships with Walmart workers in their communities by visiting stores, identifying friends and relatives of local union members and community members.
- Conduct oral-history interviews with Walmart workers, customers, and community members.
- Identify and produce compelling narrative “shorts” that succinctly articulate the impact of Walmart on workers, customers, and communities.
How to apply
Students will be paid a stipend for their participation in the program, and will be reimbursed for travel expenses. As a part of their participation, students will be encouraged to help raise funds to cover program expenses. Interested students should email firstname.lastname@example.org with a CV and a short letter explaining their interest, with the subject line “Summer for Respect.” Letters of interest are due no later than April 25th, although we will be offering rolling admissions to qualified applicants.