Movement-Building After Charlottesville
Many of us in this community are movement builders. Which means that as we watch the news roll in, refresh our social media feeds, talk to friends, and wade through our own staggered waves of revulsion and numbness, we are also thinking about what to do. It is a gift and a burden -- the power to act, and to give others a chance to act -- which we carry together in the Momentum community.
2 key ways to take strategic action in this moment are to escalate & absorb. Below are some resources to support you in building movement out of this moment.
Time to Escalate
Charlottesville is a trigger event. Bill Moyer describes a trigger event as a "highly publicized, shocking incident" that "dramatically reveals a critical social problem to the public in a vivid way." But that problem can fade quickly from public conscience unless our movements keep it in the spotlight.
Organizing for racial justice has been happening for centuries, and will happen long after this moment. But this week, the public has been forced to see the reality of white supremacy in the U.S. today. This is an instance of polarization: the optics of white nationalists bearing torches, shouting Nazi slogans, and launching violent attacks have alarmed centrists and alienated conservatives.
But white supremacy will cycle out of the news soon unless we make it a crisis that the public must contend with.
It’s time to escalate: Keep the heat on by planning an action and getting your networks to turn out to existing events. If everyone on this email list planned a small action, we could turn this trigger event into a moment of the whirlwind that changes what is politically possible for years to come.
In your actions, give the public a clear choice: Make powerful demands that speak to the moment, such as removing symbols of the Confederacy, firing the white supremacist in the White House, and calling for reparations.
Here are a few resources for planning actions in the weeks to come:
- How to pick targets that speak to the moment - symbolic vs. instrumental demands
- Escalation, Disruption, and Sacrifice - 3 key elements of protest movements (2014)
- Take risks, but take care - a principle on taking risks in actions
- PLAN Format template - planning actions and communicating key information quickly (and a description of the PLAN Format from CANVAS)
- Messaging Guide: Rejecting Bigotry, Demanding Action
- Save the date for POC Momentum Oct 20-22 in Minneapolis. Application to come soon.
For an example, check out BYP100 in Durham, NC earlier this week, where organizers and allies tore down a Confederate statue in downtown Durham. The action was a perfect example of escalating around a trigger event: it was quickly organized, dramatic, symbolic (visibly tearing down white supremacy), and is easily replicable at sites of Confederate monuments across the country (see database here).
Absorb the Energy to Keep Building Momentum
To keep building on this moment so our movements can become stronger and stronger, we need to think about absorption.
Absorption means giving people a role and a “next thing to do.” Send out a petition or a trigger pledge (“If we get 1000 signatures we will…”), and make sure you have someone taking names at any event you plan. This is how we turn the energy of the moment into fuel for the long haul.
Here are a few resources for thinking about how to absorb the energy from this weekend and keep it going:
- What is absorption?
- 5 quick tips for absorption after an action
- Webinar: Text Messaging for Organizers - How to use SMS to recruit supporters and move them to action (with Thaís Marques, digital organizer for Cosecha, and others)
- Using SWARM roles to distribute organizing responsibilities
- Interoccupy has a Maestro Conference account that organizers can use for free
- In a whirlwind moment, glimmers of big organizing - a reflection on absorption and digital organizing after the election
For more resources, check out PowerLabs’ crowd-sourced list of resources for organizers Responding to Charlottesville, including creative action ideas, calls to action, political education resources, and more.
We send love and gratitude to all of you who are taking action this week to make justice winnable. We are with you.
Lissy & Cicia