Sunday, June 12, 2011

In Memory of Jim Harris

Jim Harris was a computer consultant, a software developer & programmer, a teacher, a union organizer, president of a trade school, a gifted musician, and a social activist. It is in that last role that I became aware of Jim, soon after he and Pat Murphy co-founded Progressive Secretary in 1997.

Progressive Secretary was not the first organization to see the potential for using email and the net and what we now call "social media" to encourage activism, and bring people together for progressive causes ( had them beat by at least a year), but they were certainly early in the line.

And, for all the changes and advances in technology in the last fourteen years, Progressive Secretary has remained true to their original, simple concept:
Progressive Secretary sends out progressive email letters to Congress, the President, and other officials on peace, the environment, civil rights and other issues.

The letters are suggested by participants in the cooperative and are sent to you as a proposal. If you tell us to "send", then the letters are sent ... over your signature and return address.
Whether or not you consider yourself a "progressive" or not, and whether or not you agree with Jim's politics is not my point here today. It's the simple elegance of the concept of using email to organize cooperative grassroots campaigns. So obvious today; not so much in 1997.

Today, the flip side is that such efforts have become so commonplace that they are derided as "slacktivism" - faux activism designed to appeal to the lazy. But Jim Harris was no slacktivist. He worked for social justice all his life, was part of the Civil Rights movement, going to Mississippi with SNCC, and later working with Cesar Chavez and the UFW. When he co-founded Progressive Secretary in 1997, he was recovering from leukemia, and considered it part of his healing.

Jim finally passed last Friday, June 3, of glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. There will be a Quaker memorial service today at the Sacramento Friends Meeting House. He was seventy-years old. Progressive Secretary lives on.

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