Monday, February 11, 2008
I’m sure Andrew Stankevich is a nice guy. He started a Food Not Bombs chapter in Rochester, NY several years ago with the aim of feeding the poor persons of that city. Mr. Stankevich’s operation became successful enough for him to open a distribution center/store called Friends Helping Friends. Everything went swimmingly until members of a violent black separatist cult called the Nation of Yahweh (NOY) began attending the organizational meetings. Apparently, the cultists were offended by a white activist running a non-profit institution in a predominantly black neighborhood. As Friends Helping Friends is run under a democratic model of organization, it was fairly easy to force Stankevich out. The NOY members simply packed the organizational meetings with their themselves and their supporters, then voted him off of the managing board based on bogus charges of embezzlement and attempted murder (!). If Stankevich was more familiar with how extremists operate, he might have seen this coming. The old Communists Party USA had a long history of taking over unions and other leftist organizations using this method, and recently the Sierra Club had to fend off an effort by anti-immigrant extremists trying to do the same thing. Stankevich has probably wisely decided to move on with his life and not challenge the NOY takeover. This whole episode however might serve as a good lesson for those trying to start grassroots organizations: Sometimes, democracy is overrated.