is the fourth article of a 7-part series that will focus on the
issues in our radical movements that I think need our immediate and
ongoing attention. I am using the ancient eastern concept of chakras
for the body as a parallel to our movement’s energy
wheel. Healers believe sickness occurs when the body’s
chakras are blocked or out of alignment. Likewise, the U.S. Left and
our social justice movements need our collective introspection,
analysis and adjustments that lead to unblocking our energy/chi
points. A weakened Left, and especially the Black Left, have been
unable to provide this critical guidance over the last twenty years.
I do not have the space to go too deep into my thinking although I
have been pondering and talking about this very subject for a few
years now. I am looking to stimulate a higher level of principled
discussion about how to energize and organize the social forces
coming into play at this pivotal juncture in history and how we can
rebuild a formidable radical movement in this country.
never have a real movement without locally rooted, organized bases of
More Than We Imagined Report
Organizer. These two words have become so diluted and used
incorrectly as to render them almost meaningless. Being an organizer
is not a self-identification like racial identity. These days you can
literally claim whatever race or races you want. Being an organizer
is not the same as being a protestor or being an activist. Organizing
is not synonymous to mobilizing or protesting. The organizing chakra
has been obstructed for too long. It’s past time to unleash the
intensity of this chakra and stand back to witness its force.
intent here is to get us closer to some working definitions and most
critical, to understand the “who” we organize and the
“how” so that we can make colossal strides towards our
strategic goals in this latest configuration of neo-liberalism.
social justice organizations talk about vision and mission, strategy
and tactics, programs and action plans, some may also advance a
theory of change (TOC) . The TOC is basically how you see making the
change happen that you envision. For example, Black Workers for
Justice (BWFJ) seeks to make Black workers central to the both the
Freedom and Labor movements. It’s basic theory of how that
will be done is by building the strength and leadership of Black
workers in those movements.
might be saying “I didn’t know all this went into
organizing!” I frequently say that organizing is both a science
and an art. You can put your own creative flourish on a universal
organizing principle but you have to first know the basic principles.
The organizing forms used by people across the globe under various
conditions is endless. Some more successful that others from winning
the fight for a $15-hour wage in Seattle to the fight for a
progressive, African American district attorney in St. Louis.
Conversely, when a strategy was unclear or under-developed, massive
mobilize do not result in reformative or transformation changes. We
saw this with the U.S. Occupy Movement and with the Arab Spring.
our movement may not have an algorithm for perfect outcomes, there
are universal organizing principles. The elements outlined above must
be observed and put in place or you will fail to reach your goal. One
can have all the ingredients for bread but if you leave out the yeast
or you don’t let that yeast rise at a certain temperature for a
certain amount of time, what comes out of that oven can technically
be called bread but…well, you get the picture.
whose theory of change is rooted in organizing the working class as
the key link to transformative change seem to be in short supply. If
there’s no base building going down among the working class,
I’m unsure of how our movement is going to grow, challenge
structure and take power. Base building may not have the same appeal
as mobilizing a protest but the outcomes are far more enduring and
impactful. Wrongfully or not, I’ve concluded that people steer
away from organizing a base because 1) they don’t know how; 2)
they don’t want to know how; and/or 3) they’re fearful of
the working class especially the Black working class.
few years ago, a compelling report was released that, in hindsight
had our movements taken it more seriously, we may be in a different
place now as we face president trump and his neo-fascists forces.
“More Than We Imagined” was an introspective probe into
the status and well-being of the US social movement in 2013 and how
to move forward. NTanya Lee and Steve Williams embarked upon an
earnest process and engaged movement forces in thoughtful
conversations to draw out certain themes and to assert informed
recommendations. There are many gems of wisdom laden in the report
and it needs to be circulated to the legion on new and younger
activists who’ve come into the movement since the Ferguson
Uprising. While some are building their personal brand, many of them
are eager to learn how to organize. This is forcing us to hold our
models of organization up for scrutiny and to overhaul our organizing
strategies. This should be an exciting time for organizing and
40% of the participants in “More Than We Imagined”
identified as coming from base building organizations. I found this
curious because I rarely see groups organizing in this way. We
morphed into a movement of consultants with theoretical
understandings of organizing and nonprofits who mobilize one another.
An updated critique is needed of the nonprofit industrial complex and
its impact on the radical social movements. The starting point would
be The Revolution Will Not be Funded: Beyond the Non-profit
Industrial Complex, then fast forward to 2017. The groundbreaking
book by Incite! Women of Color Against Violence is now about a decade
old and the nonprofit world continues to pluck up some of our most
talented thinkers and organizers. I don’t believe this scenario
is inherently antagonistic. We do need a healthy discussion to
clarify each one’s roles and limitations so that we can build
the strongest, broadest and most unified movement possible. There’s
plenty of room in our tent if first you do no harm to the movement.
also don’t believe that technology/social media are
incompatible with 21st Century organizing. Again, role and
limitations must be clarified so that young activists (mainly)
understand that social media is no substitute for face2face
organizing. FaceBook, Twitter and other social media platforms can
be useful tools that support organizing. We should pursue innovative
ways to integrate the technology into our organizing practices. Umi
Selah of the Dream Defenders does an effective critique on the topic
in “Blackout Reflection: No one Should Have all that Power.”
is to build power for the masses of people victimized by capitalism
and all its tentacles. Organizing is to build organizations or
institutions that expand and defend that power. If people are
intentionally organizing for power, if people are strategically
building a base to expand and amplify the voices demanding justice,
equity and dignity, I believe our movements will be closer to the
vision of the world we deserve. As veteran labor organizer Bill
Fletcher aptly reminds us, magical thinking will not get us there. We
must be bold, methodical, consistent and imaginative in carrying out
a strategy for human liberation.
article: Unblocking the chakra of redemption.