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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Monday, January 10, 2011

Chickens Coming Home to Roost -- or "Until the Killing of black men...is as important as the killing of whte men"

Re “Congresswoman Is Shot in Rampage Near Tucson” (front page, Jan. 9):
I read with deep shock, horror and sorrow of the massacre in Arizona on Saturday and write to express my outrage at this barbaric event and my condolences to the victims.....We must do all that we can to work together as fellow citizens of a democracy and civilly debate these polarizing issues (like immigration reform) until we resolve them, instead of resorting to violence, which will consume and destroy us all.
         Michael Pravica
         Henderson, Nev., Jan. 9, 2011  [printed as Letter to the Editor, NY Times]

I meant that the death of Kennedy was the result of a long line of violent acts, the culmination of hate and suspicion and doubt in this country. You see, Lomax, this country has allowed white people to kill and brutalize those they don't like. The assassination of Kennedy is a result of that way of life and thinking. The chickens came home to roost; that's all there is to it. America—at the death of the President—just reaped what it had been sowing
                           Malcolm X quoted from Daniel Pipes' website
Well, it seems to me that the movement itself is playing into the hands of racism, because what you want as a nation to be upset when anybody is killed, especially when one of us is killed...it is almost as if for one of us to be recognized, a white person has to be killed.  Well, what are you saying?
Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael) (quoted from Eyes on the Prize)



Until the killing of black men, black mother’s sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mother’s sons
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

    from Ella's Song (Bernice Johnson Reagon's song version of Ella Baker's speech before the 1964 Mississippi Democratic Party state convention)

Yesterday, I was having brunch at my house with several women from my partner's church.  We were all talking about the shooting attack in Tucson.  I mentioned that this kind of rampage has been going on all around us in the Bay Area for years and "we" (white women) don't seem to be equally shocked.  One of my guests responded, "they are just shooting each other."  Another guest responded, "these shootings are confined to specific areas, and I don't go into those areas."  And this is how "we" wash our hands of responsibility.

Then, in this morning's paper, I started reading the above letter to the the Editor of the NY Times and was overwhelmed by the double standard the dominant culture applies in the shooting of white people versus black and brown people.  This double standard made me think of
  • Malcolm X's response to the shooting of Kennedy and 
  • Ella Baker's speech before the 1964 MFDP state convention and 
  • Stokely Carmichael's (Kwame Ture's) response to the double standard shown by white America in the different responses to Jimmie Lee Jackson's murder by an Alabama State Trooper and the killing of Rev. James Reeb.  President Johnson sent flowers to Mrs. Reeb but not to Mrs. Jackson.
The Southern Freedom Movement transformed into a black power struggle (eventually destroyed by the FBI - Cointelpro; probably by the "war on drugs," and white liberal refusal to give up their economic privileges gained from racism) after the MFDP was not seated at the 1964 Democratic National Nominating Convention.  This failure revealed to many black leaders that, as James Forman said, sort of, that white America was not going to let them have a seat at the table.  So black power was the response -- instead of trying to integrate into YOUR restaurants, YOUR schools, YOUR political processes, WE are going to create OUR OWN -- black power = black political, economic, social and cultural control over their own community.  This was unacceptable to white America and many many more were killed in order to stop this from happening.

When will white America understand that we are all connected...what happens to one will happen to us all?   Where this applies to murder, unemployment, health, housing or global climate change.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wazir Peacock on long heated mtgs and the personal benefits of activism.

Wazir spoke to four students and 3 adults this afternoon at Gateway High School.  We had watched excerpts from Boycott in the morning.  In the afternoon, one of the students asked Wazir if the heated arguments among the planners of the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 portrayed in the docu-drama were exaggerated?  Wazir assured her that they were understated if anything and explained that one reason why they were so heated was that they all had to be sure about what they were doing since they were often putting their lives on the line.  The students were surprised at how much the ministers and leaders of NAACP and WPC argued amongst themselves in the midst of the boycott.  Wazir also pointed out that such an event had never happened before in Montgomery and that they were having to find consensus for the first time and were fighting against their own fears of the repercussions of their actions (some had more to lose than others).   Also, there was some ego involved that they all had to learn how to process -- Ella Baker helped the young SNCC activists figure out how to do that, said Wazir.

When asked what he gained from being an activist, Wazir explained that he learned to eradicate selfishness, learned to love deeply and be loved and respected in turn.  He gained a community that has been there for him ever since.  He learned that we are all connected, whatever happens to one person affects every other person.