This is my great-niece that I refer to in the article. Her name is Genevieve but I call her Zawadi, KiSwahili for gift. Watching her fight for her life, to be a part of this universe became a metaphor for what’s happening right now in the Black community: We are in the fight of our lives. Baby G aka Zawadi fought to survive and now she’s on her way to claiming her space, her voice in a world that wants to pre-determine her destiny as a Black warrior-child. It ain’t gonna happen. Not. on. my. watch.
Published in St. Louis American, June 23, 2017
After my fellowship in Madison, Wisconsin, I headed to Kansas City to check on family including the premature arrival of my great-niece. I don’t know why she was so anxious to come into this world. During my time there, there were seven deaths including that of a 3-year old child.
Then I came to St. Louis where violence took the lives of 11 people in a week – five homicides happened in a 24-hour period. In that count were the deaths of a seven-year-old and a 13-year old. The combined magnitude of the human carnage was enough to temporarily bring down my high spirits. Read more
Everyone is talking about the Senate intelligence committee hearing starring Former FBI Director James Comey. Yes, he called your president a liar (he is) but I want to back track on a bigger story with far greater consequences. The decision of trump to pull out of the Paris Agreement is no small matter.
The Paris Agreement is not some French government mandate. It is a historic part of the United Nations Framework on Climate Control agreed on by all nation members of the UN. President Obama signed the Agreement only to have the current U.S. president slam the legitimacy of the goals. The U.S. stands alone in the world on this issue. Read more
“No movement can survive unless it is constantly growing and changing with the times. If it isn’t growing, it’s stagnant, and without the support of the people, no movement for liberation can exist, no matter how correct its analysis of the situation is.”
– Assata Shakur
I’ve received incredible response to the Chakra series already; the articles are resonating with freedom fighters. I believe it’s because over the last several years I’ve been listening to your frustrations, pain, insights and aspirations. There’s enough of us seriously doing the work to create a sea change in movements for transformative change. Let’s start, or in some cases, accelerate the important discussion about what we are building and how we will organize for power.
I started off the year with talking about the 3 S’s—what we need more of in our movement building. To be more strategic, more serious and more sophisticated. I talked about the 3 S’s publicly as a panelist in the M4BL webinar on “Political Power.” Since then, I’ve added two more S’s: More science and more study. All five are critical to thinking about organization for transformation.
Winona LaDuke reminds us that there is no “social-change fairy.” Neither can we chant or talk our way to power. We must organize the masses of people based upon a vision and a strategy. It takes a plan to build a house, write a book. It takes a protocol to do surgery, to work in the pit stop. Individualism in our movements is on steroids and contributes to the erroneous view that we can come into the movement, and stumble and fumble up on social change.
In our current situation, to resist is to almost be passive. It’s like trying to hold back the floodgates of neo-liberalism but not move forward. There must be an action verb connected to resist. Resist and rebuild. Resist and renew. Resist and organize. It imperative that we don’t lose the political ground that we’ve fought so hard to gain. Now, we must be bolder and more creative in our strategy and tactics. We should start thinking about disruption tactics (like a national strike!) to turn up the heat and to win our demands. This is a good time to discuss campaigns like UnGovernable2017 as a focus for strategic action.
Last year the New York Times report on protests of police killings in 88 cities over a two-week period. I wondered what our movement’s net gain was given the amount of energy and resources these actions took. Did we get a cop convicted? Did we change a department’s policy on deadly force? Did our organizations grow? We know that these mass actions are psychological boosters for our people but we need to be planning protests in a way that advances our struggle, pushes a set of demands. This is the time to be more sophisticated and strategic. Let’s rally people beyond a protest sign and around a strategic, principles of organizing and a revolutionary code of conduct.
First, do no harm to our movements and its committed members. If we take ourselves seriously, the way in which we do our work reflects whether you believe our struggle is worthy and winnable. There’s gonna be hustlers in our movement. There’s gonna be those who don’t do the work but take credit for the work of others. We should make it difficult for these blood-suckers of the movement to operate and to operate without consequences. We must create healthy and safe space for the vigorous practice of self-criticism and criticism as well as for redemption and healing.
What study and retooling does our movement need to better understand the period we are in? Groups like Project South, School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL) and institutions like The Highlander provide us with valuable popular education and training modules. Can we give them feedback when we use their resources to improve their relevancy and potency? Of course we can, but we must be disciplined enough to conduct trainings and political education for our networks, then facilitate a summation that allows us to build and grow. Feel free to add to the accompanying resource list to the Chakra series.
The Movement Chakras of vision, strategy, organizing, workstyle, redemption, transformation and summation are congested, obstructed, jammed up. I have often said some of the brightest and imaginative people are in our social justice movements. We can—and must—figure out our collective vision and purpose. Our goal in the next five years is to build highly disciplined organizations and formidable movements that actively engage in political education, constructive criticism and radical workstyles. We need to get our people ready for battle. It’s time to get in formation.
Unblocking our Movement Chakras: Recommended Resources
(Please share any readings, videos, etc. related to the series that we can add to this list.)