Richard Moore is the program director for Los Jardines Institute, a member of the Environmental Justice & Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform which advocates for stronger, safer and just chemical policies. He served as the executive director of Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (Southwest Network), from 1993 to 2010, when he transitioned to senior advisor.
Previously, he worked with the SouthWest Organizing Project for 12 years as the lead organizer and primary trainer of SWOP’s organizing model. As a widely respected national leader in area of environmental justice,
Mr. Moore has served on numerous governmental and nongovernmental panels and was a recipient of the 2005 Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award.
Life of activism
Since arriving in Albuquerque in the 1960's, Richard Moore has been working with others to build local, regional, national and international movements for social, environmental and economic justice now for over 50 years.
As a founding member of the Chicano movement's Black Berets in Albuquerque, he helped create the Bobby Garcia Memorial Clinic, a cultural school, free breakfast programs, a dental clinic and other co-ops.
Richard Moore spent the 1980's, 90's and 2000's as co-founder and Co-Director of the SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) and later helped lead the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ).
It was during this period that SNEEJ took a pivotal role in organizing the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, which produced the Principles of Environmental Justice that define the movement today.
To further this work, in 1997 Richard co-founded the Just Transition Alliance, an initiative to bring together fence-line residents and workers to address issues of toxic exposures and health and safety.
Founded in 1969 and similar to the Black Panther Party, the Berets mounted community patrols, opened free medical and dental clinics, fed hungry children and issued a 12-point program that called for Chicano self-determination, community control of institutions, armed self-defense and liberation. Ahead of the times, the program attacked machismo by name and upheld equality for women.
In the late 1960s, police brutality was a huge issue in Albuquerque, and community members turned to the new activist organization for protection, recalled Black Berets co-founder Richard Moore. “They were beating and shooting our people throughout the city”, Moore said at an Albuquerque forum held this month on the history and legacy of the group. “We were facing incredible, incredible police repression.”
The black beret itself evoked the group’s international outlook, as the hat was chosen in honor of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara. “It was said Che is alive and well in the mountains of northern New Mexico,” Moore said, repeating a popular slogan of the times.
Moore detailed how the Berets’ activism was done on a financial fly, with people donating supplies, labor and skills to keep the movement pumping. Sympathetic mechanics kept the troops’ old cars humming, while gas station franchisees quietly donated free tanks of gas to keep the vehicles running. Carpenters lent their muscle, and 32 doctors volunteered their time and talent when the Bobby Garcia Memorial Clinic got started, he said.
“There was no way we could do all this without community support, tremendous community support,” Moore reflected. Accurately gauging the popular “pulse” and making everyone a stakeholder were two crucial lessons in community organizing the Berets took away with them from those years, Moore affirmed. “Everybody volunteered something,” he said.
“Everybody can do something, no matter how old or young you are. And to us, those somethings add up to a lot.” The Berets’ motto, Moore continued, was “Serve, Educate, Defend.”
According to Betita Martinez In Albuquerque, the Black Berets also followed an internationalist approach. They adopted principles and a program sometimes modeled on the Black Panthers, for example, its breakfast program, that made it less strictly nationalist than Brown Beret groups in Texas and California. The Black Berets also founded the Bobby Garcia Memorial Clinic, committed to the idea that health is a human right, not a privilege. Their main leader, Richard Moore, and others went to Cuba on the Venceremos Brigade. The Berets and El Grito were partners, sharing news, analysis and sometimes members like reporter Antonio Cordova, who along with Beret Rito Canales, was killed by police in 1972.
In the early 1970’s, El Grito began looking for a new strategy and tactics, both for the newspaper and the movimiento in general. To do this, we ceased publication of the paper in 1973, and some of them moved to Albuquerque. With other local activists we launched the Chicano Communications Center (CCC) as a multimedia, educational barrio project. Soon after, the CCC established a formal alliance called CLARO (Chicano League Against Racism and Oppression) together with the Bobby Garcia Memorial Clinic and the Canoncito Wood Cooperative based in a land grant area just outside the city. CLARO had a central committee for decision-making; it set up a study program on Marxism and contemporary socialism, attended by CLARO people.
In 1974, self-identification with the socialist vision reached a high point. That was the year Richard Moore went to Cuba with another Beret leader, Joaquín Lujan. Marvin Garcia of Cañoncito went with a group to China. A major meeting took place to discuss strategy in the face of what we saw as heightening repression. Over fifty seasoned activists came from all over the state. In a dialogue about our long-range goals, someone asked what was socialism. Betita Martinez some basic points and added it was a stage on the way to communism but not the final goal, communism. At that point a Chicana cried out, “Well, in that case, we’re communists!” and everyone clapped to my and others’ amazement.
Also in 1974, another group that wanted to focus on mass organizing started and linked up with CLARO. Its name: MAO (Movement Against Oppression). Happily, this name did not mean CLARO had decided there were two equally destructive imperialisms or spend time on endless battles over that and other lines. This was largely because of New Mexico’s relative isolation from the national left mainstream, an isolation that proved both a blessing and over time a limitation. The Socialist Workers Party (SWP), did exist but in very small numbers, although some members commanded personal respect. The major, crucial exception to that isolation was travel to Cuba, going back to El Grito and now the Venceremos Brigade. Richard Moore served on the Brigade’s National Committee and went to Cuba every year through the 1970s. That experience is why he could say, as he did recently, “we didn’t pull any punches about being for socialism then. We might use slightly different language with grassroots folk but the ideas were there. We were not afraid of saying so.” It didn’t hurt that Richard was a big, tough-talking guy whose politics came more from the street than books.
It was also in 1974 that some CLARO members, mostly from the CCC, received a series of visitors from national Marxist-Leninist formations to see about possibly affiliating with one of the groups as a way of sharpening our strategy. The only formation to attract serious interest was the August 29th Movement , founded in 1974 and named after the historic August 29, 1970 Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War, in Los Angeles. ATM had emerged from the Labor Committee of the La Raza Unida Party (LRUP) in Los Angeles, which was well to the left of most LRUP chapters. It had a primarily Chicano membership rather than the almost all-white leadership of most other national formations that visited, and it included local activists personally known to the CCC.
Today, the left tradition can be seen in New Mexico, for example, in the battle against environmental racism where the enemy is so clearly capitalism. The SouthWest Organizing Project of Albuquerque (SWOP) and the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ), with headquarters in that city, confront capitalism and imperialism constantly.
Richard Moore of the Black Berets was cofounder of SWOP and coordinates SNEEJ. In the homeland of the atomic bomb and crucial military bases, New Mexican radicals also confront militarism firsthand on many levels including environmental racism. Chicanos/as and other Latinos in New Mexico, as elsewhere, have a long way to go to develop a strategy and tactics for social transformation.
Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice
Pam Tau Lee, contributed an article to Unity Organizing Committee's Unity, October 14, 1991, on the recent Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice conference in Albuquerque New Mexico. Speakers included Richard Moore of the SouthWest Organizing Project, Lupe Galvan Fuerza Unida, Dr. Cynthia Hamilton Los Angeles, Susanna Almanza, Esperanza Maya El Pueblo, Locille Charley, Patsy Oliver Friends United for Safe Environment..
"Where to in'92"
Those interviewed were Rose Sanders, civil rights attorney, Selma, Oscar Rios, mayor of Watsonville California, Roger Green, state assemblyman Brooklyn, Wilma Chan school board president Oakland, Dr. James Zogby, president Arab American Institute, Pedro Noguera, president Berkeley School Board, Richard Moore, SouthWest Organizing Project, Tajel Shah, United States Student Association president, Merle Hansen, North American Farm Alliance, Wilma Mankiller, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Walter Johnson, secretary treasurer San Francisco Labor Council, Ginny Montes general secretary NOW.
Richard Moore, Co-Director of the SouthWest Organizing Project, and board member of the SouthWest Network for Economic and Environmental Justice contributed an article "Confronting environmental racism" to a joint issue of Freedom Road Socialist Organization's Forward Motion, and CrossRoads, April 1992.
Endorsers of the project included Richard Moore, executive director, Southwest Network for Economic and Environmental Justice .
Manuel Criollo March 19, 2017:
Look what I found Richard Moore Louis Head Catherine Murphy Pam Tau Lee I was so lucky to share that moment with many of you Lanita Morris Robert Battles Majora Carter Katynja McCory Roberto Roibal — with Shirley Pate, Esperanza Luzbert and Richard Moore.
Where do we go from here?
Eric Mar October 21, 2016.
Join us this weekend! from our '66 movements over 50 years to the present: Where do we go from here?http://www.bpp50th.com/conference-tickets-information/ Looking foward to seeing brother Richard Moore of Black Berets/SWOP/SNEEJ, Pam Tau Lee of Chinese Progressive Association/Red Guard/IWK, LA Brown Beret Founders Carlos Montes and Cruz Olmeida, my teachers from New College and the NLG Paul Harris & Stephen Bingham, Fallon Young Patriots, Young Lords, Indigenous leaders, youth, Danny Glover, Davey D, Ricky Vincent, Digital Underground, Emory Douglas, John Carlos, X-Clan and many others!
- [https://www.facebook.com/events/118576034958775/ FB New Mexico's Black Berets: An Untold Story Hosted by Richard Moore Albuquerque NM South Broadway Cultural Center]
- Black Berets Live On By Administrator | Published October 10, 2012
- [ http://monthlyreview.org/2002/07/01/a-view-from-new-mexico/ Monthly review, A View from New Mexico Recollections of the Movimiento Left by Elizabeth (Betita) Martinez]
- WAR TIMES January 29, 2002