KEY COMPONENTS OF SUCCESSFUL SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

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"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reflections on the student strike in Farmville, VA

On July 24th, we saw excerpts from With All Deliberate Speed. The movie describes the history of two of the five cases that were bundled together to form the 1954 BROWN decision, overturning the constitutionality of segregation of public schools. The movie also went into contemporary classrooms in Farmville, VA and Clarendon County (Briggs case) to see what effects these cases have had.

The excerpts watched Saturday morning at SFFS focused on the Farmville case. This case originated with a student strike organized by 16 year old Barbara Johns in 1951. Barbara and her classmates wanted a new school. The NAACP was persuaded by Johns to consider adopting their case as part of the five cases they were looking for to overturn Plessy v Ferguson.

Here are some reflections by SFFS participants after watching the film:

Barbara was really not very well known at school, she had a hidden fire--when the need for justice became unbearable, that fire had already been kindled in her heart and mind. She was ready to act.

Fear: touching the Bible
Ignorance: Imposed v. conditioned
Outcome: Better than desired goal
Perpetuating bad behavior: It only takes a few bad people to make things bad and only a few good people to make things right.

I didn't realize how unequal the schools were for black students. It was also striking how blatant the superintendent of schools was about not caring about the unequal facilities. It was amazing he told the black students he did not care if they received an education!

Is everybody prejudiced? Are there degrees of prejudice...depending on their access to power?
Barbara Johns put in strategic effort for her vision of having better schools.

The thoughtfulness of the students at Moton to do the strike as peers without the help of teachers and faculty shows insight into the resistance of their opponents. The youth inspire me to see how underutilized our youth are today.

In a social movement, there seems to be a tension between a desire for practical gains and a desire for idealistic gains among two groups of people:
1. practical gains = a better school environment with quality water, food, no cracked paint
2. Idealistic gain = integration of racial groups.
---Tension = does it hinder effective mobilization among groups; does it even exist; how do you resolve such a tension?
I see this tension playing out in communities today. Let's integrate the neighborhoods by mobilizing poor people (Ideal). However, poor people don't prioritize integration as much as they care about better living conditions.

It was mostly the girls.
They seem to have a strong sense of entitlement, to deserving a good education in a well equipped school. The parents apparently had agreed to risk being jailed for the kid's acts though that wasn't explicitly shown.

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