"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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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Voting is Pointless?! only when we are ignorant of the past.

Two very interesting articles in today's NY Times.

Students’ Knowledge of Civil Rights History Has Deteriorated, Study Finds
No student had heard of George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, [Julian Bond] said.... That ignorance by American students of the basic history of the civil rights movement has not changed — in fact, it has worsened, according to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, on whose board Mr. Bond sits. The report says that states’ academic standards for public schools are one major cause of the problem.
. . . Many states have turned Dr. King’s life into a fable, said Mr. Bond, who now teaches at American University and the University of Virginia....  Even in schools that try to teach history rigorously, the civil rights movement may get short shrift because in the traditional chronological presentation of United States history, teachers often run out of time to cover post-World War II America....”  

As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe

 Hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Indians cheer a rural activist on a hunger strike. Israel reels before the largest street demonstrations in its history. Enraged young people in Spain and Greece take over public squares across their countries.  Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over. They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.

.....Frustrated voters are not agitating for a dictator to take over. But they say they do not know where to turn at a time when political choices of the cold war era seem hollow. “Even when capitalism fell into its worst crisis since the 1920s there was no viable alternative vision,” said the British left-wing author Owen Jones.

.....In Spain, walloped by the developed world’s highest official rate of unemployment, at 21 percent, many have lost the confidence that politicians of any party can find a solution. Their demands are vague, but their cry for help is plaintive and determined.

.....“The biggest crisis is a crisis of legitimacy,” Ms. Solanas said. “We don’t think they are doing anything for us.” 

To connect the dots: The historical moment is here as it was from 1955-65, but we are not ready, we don't know how to take advantage of it.  What the detailed and authentic history of the Southern Freedom Movement can teach us is that there are several variables or components that need to be in place for a real social movement to occur. 

  1.  The Right Historical Moment: Brown decision, Bandung Conference, African Independence Movements, Cold War
  2. A Vision of where you want to go: The Beloved Community, Freedom and Dignity 
  3. Identification and Research of the Problem: Segregation and Voting Rights as obstacles to achieving vision and the most effective issues around which to organize
  4. Local and Experienced Leadership: JoAnn Robinson, E.D. Nixon, Diane Nash, James Bevel, David Dennis, Aaron Henry, Fannie Lou Hamer, C.T. Vivian, Fred Shuttlesworth, Barbara Johns, Annelle Ponder, Septima Clark, Bernice Robinson, Esau Jenkins and on and on and on...
  5. Infrastructure and Coalitions: Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, NAACP (1911) , CORE (1942), SCLC, SNCC, MIA, Nashville Movement, NAG, Highlander, NCC et. al.
  6. Strategic Use of Nonviolent Resistance: designed according to the "onion theory," gains the sympathy of a wider audience, provides a role for everyone, practical/flexible/scalable, well researched, trained/disciplined participants, dramatizes a specific injustice....
  7. Strategic Use of the Arts:  singing in particular (and not chanting)
  8. Personal Relationship and Community Building: face-to-face relationships.  We must rebuild community today and strategic nonviolent direct action needs to be among the ways in which we do that.
  9. Dealing with the Contradictions within the Movement: e.g., sexism/patriarchy

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