Five Dollar Friday: Giving to MayFirst

For today’s Five Dollar Friday I’m going to give $5 to MayFirst, because tomorrow is May first, and because the world’s best, most ethical, most progressive, most visionary internet service provider actually knows the meaning of May first. Check out http://mayfirst.org. These are the people who helped me start a website within 5 hours of Cindy Sheehan camping out at Bush’s “ranch” and telling me she wanted a website. These are the people who showed me how to make websites myself so that now I can make one in 4 hours without asking anybody, but can still call up Alfredo or Jamie in the middle of the night if I need to. Here’s how they describe themselves:

What is May First/People Link?

MF/PL is an organization that redefines the concept of “Internet Service Provider” in a collective, progressive and collaborative way.

The members of May First/People Link are like a coop: we pay dues, buy equipment and then we all use that equipment as we need to for websites, email, email lists, and just about everything else we do on the Internet.

At MF/PL members are encourage to use all the resources necessary to be successful – whether that’s additional email addresses, web sites or other services: there are no pre-defined limits to what you can use. All you do is pay your dues. Dues are on a sliding scale, starting with $200 for an organization and $100 for an individual (90% of our members pay this level of dues). A small number of organizations pay more based on the cost of their additional resource usage.

MF/PL is comprised of both individuals and organizations and is directed by a Leadership Committee comprised of 12 MF/PL members who named two Co-Directors to oversee operations day to day. The MF/PL “staff” is a group of members who donate their time to the organization. All who work for MF/PL do so voluntarily; there is no paid staff.

At this point, MF/PL is one of the few organizations of its type in the world and one of the world’s oldest and largest politically progressive Internet providers.

How did it develop?

May First/People Link formed in May 2005 when May First joined forces with People Link.

People Link started in 1995 as a project of the Institute for Mass Communication. Back when pictures on the web was a new thing, People Link was hosting web sites, setting up email accounts, and providing email discussion lists for activists all over the country.

May First Technology Collective began in 1999 (then it was called Media Jumpstart). A worker run collective from the beginning, MFTC provided technology support to New York City nonprofits, ranging from designing web sites to fixing networks.

In May 2005, faced with funding cuts and increased overhead, MFTC decided it was not able to effectively meet it’s mission. However, several of its staff and board members expressed a desire to continue with its social mission of providing technology support to the social justice movement but to now concentrate specifically on the Internet.

For several years, May First and People Link had been collaborating on many projects; in fact, members of each of the groups were members of the other’s Board of Directors.

With the outgoing Board’s blessing May First formed a new board to pursue this goal by combining the skills, experience and the already developed technology, equipment and infra-structure of both organizations to build a new, larger and more ambitious one.

That new Board now directs May First/People Link activities in collaboration with several other “decision making” bodies assigned to specific tasks within the organization.

Who’s involved

May First/People Link is made up of hundreds of people who contribute in any number of ways. The organization has two Co-Directors. You can read their bios below.

Jamie is the co-director of May First/People Link. Prior to working at May First, Jamie worked at Libraries for the Future network administrator, national Youth ACCESS coordinator, and Information and Technology Policy Specialist. Jamie was formerly on the Board of Directors of Paper Tiger TV where he was an active producer and activist between 1994 and 2004. Previously, Jamie worked as a video instructor for Sidewalks of New York, teaching basic production skills to homeless youth. He also worked as a community organizer for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and was an active member of ACT UP New Orleans.

Alfredo is a co-director of May First/People Link.

He has been involved in movements for social change for 40 years.

As a college student, he was among the leadership of the Puerto Rican Student movement in the United States and was involved in the struggles for Open Admissions and other reforms in the New York City University system.

After graduating from college, Alfredo led the Carlos Feliciano Defense Committee (which worked to free that reknowned Puerto Rican political prisoner) and in 1972 joined the Puerto Rican Socialist Party and became the editor of the U.S. Edition of its newspaper Claridad. He remained in the top leadership of the PSP until 1980.

It was during his PSP days, that Alfredo worked on organizing a coalition, of which he became Executive Director, to organize a mass rally for Puerto Rican independence in Madison Square Garden. That rally, on Oct. 24, 1974, filled the Garden and remains among the largest demonstrations of its type in U.S. history.

He helped organize the U.S. Delegation to the first International conference supporting Puerto Rican Independence, held in Cuba in 1975 and in 1976, he was principal organizer of a large, national anti-imperialist rally taking place on the country’s bi-centennial: July 4, 1976.

Since then, he has worked on many campaigns around a wide range of issues — including anti-privatization of hospitals, labor rights for “workfare” workers and anti-repression and anti-racism campaigns.

Alfredo has written five published books including Dona Licha’s Island (one of the more popular books about Puerto Rico), produced and directed over a dozen documentary films, and produced two radio series and a television documentary series: City Look.

He’s written articles for a wide variety of publications, has spoken and lectured to audiences in virtually every state of this country and has been a faculty member at nine colleges in New York City.

In 1994, Alfredo founded People Link and has directed the organization until it merged into the May First/People Link organization, of which he’s co-director.

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