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How to Conduct a Revolution

A lot has gone on since my last post. Basically the country imploded. Exploded? Basically police are running amok. And people are rightfully outraged and saying so in a myriad of ways. A few days ago I posted the following facebook status:

Over the last few days I have heard, overheard, and participated in conversations about the current resistance movement(s) and its impact on working people. In the spirit of Ella Baker I humbly offer my thoughts here: Step one of every black political movement from voters rights, to bus boycotts, to the Panthers was to provide daily necessities (food, clothing, etc) for those affected by and committed to the cause. Go easy on our brothers and sisters who take issue with the shutting down of streets for protests because they can’t get to and from work. Fear of losing jobs or arrest is real for those who have families in particular. Not having to worry about these things is a privilege. Remember these folks as you organize and demonstrate. Make sure that your collective or organization works to put infrastructures in place to provide resources to the black working poor who can and should be in positions of leadership as those most affected.

Similarly, I have been praising the efforts of domestic workers, Walmart workers, and fast food workers. They should be our examples for how to organize. They get it.

For example, domestic workers plan meetings on days when household workers are usually off. At these meetings they provide childcare for members. Ai-Jen Poo, head of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, plans to use her MacArthur grant to provide wages for women to work on the movement full time.

More importantly, domestic worker organizers have figured out how to facilitate a transnational movement that pays very close attention to local contexts. While immigrant rights are central to women working in New York, in Atlanta the history of African American women’s labor takes precedent. As it should.

The resistance work that these folks do is highly organized and very strategic. It is done in the interest of serving the folks each movement represents.There is a tremendous amount of thought and research that goes into each step.

But most importantly it is done with the greatest amount of empathy. There is room for folks to feel. The most effective movement leaders, past and present, figure out ways to say “I hear you.” They can simultaneously build a resistance movement and a community of people who are strong enough to sustain it in spite of obstacles.

I do not profess to be some sort of expert on organizing. There is certainly not only one right way to do it. What I am saying is that there are movements happening now that we should look to as we begin an urgent and necessary movement against police brutality.  Humbly I share with you my thoughts, from the cutting room floor.


About Shana Russell

Woman. Scholar. Liberationist.

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