Tag Archives: lessons from activism

Yes, we can win

Recent events have been a shock, the next four years are going to be a nightmare, and too many of the people I know are discouraged. But we can win. How do I know this? Because of the mass movements that have won, across history and across the globe.

But there are obstacles, including some that are not at all obvious. The two I’ll touch on today are:

  • social anxiety
  • ignorance about our own history

This morning while I was in my children’s school the intercom came on and I heard the story of Rosa Parks changing the world with her one refusal to sit in the back of the bus. It’s meant to be inspirational: look what one person can do!

But the vast majority of people who hear the story think, “I could never do that!” Not even for fear of being arrested. Social anxiety is enough to stop most of us.

Once I stepped far outside my comfort zone and freaked out the entire leadership of a big nonprofit. (It’s a long story but I’ll tell it one of these days.) It took me weeks to recuperate. I could not possibly have done it without social support and collective planning ahead of time. So we need to do scary stuff, but we all need help.

To do that, we need to organize. In person. Face to face. With actual people.

We also need to know our history. Rosa Parks was a great leader, but there are also thousands of unsung heroes who contributed in many different ways. Their stories are buried but not lost.

Here’s the book that tells that story. It has the who, what, where, when, how, and why of a mass movement that won. Go read it. Then tell me something: if you could be any civil rights hero from this book, which one would you be?

I’ve Got the Light of Freedom by Charles M. Payne



– Kristin Ann King