Dear young and emerging (post)Ferguson-Providence activist/organizers… (or just those seeking to sharpen their social justice lens on the world)
Ella Baker, one of the most influential figures in the civil rights movement, left us a powerful reminder: “Strong people don’t need strong leaders.” Certainly no one was better positioned to understand this than Baker. As the visionary architect of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) she organized a critical mass of Black college students into perhaps the most formidable civil rights group of the twentieth century.
In the spirit of Ella Baker I have identified four essential themes for young activist/organizers into the acronym C.U.R.E.
1. COMPREHEND how crucial it is to be properly theoretically grounded. Quiet study and close reading equip us with the necessary analytical tools so imperative to our political struggle. We must be careful to heed our elders and hear our ancestors. Not because we should attempt to retrofit what they’ve done to our current moment, but because we must learn through the study of our radical history that our ancestors have bequeathed to us a robust tradition of revolutionary struggle toward liberation. And we are responsible to bear that mantle of knowledge appropriately so that we might, in due time, build upon it, then pass it on to our progeny, knowing full well that we will need use of their thoughts — herein — for the present and future world to come. Truly, as Dr. James Turner taught, “the primary responsibility of any people is the preservation of their history.”
Unsound theory often leads to dogma formation rather than ideological maturation. Dogma, like so much cotton candy, appears robust at first. But by way of close examination we soon discover that dogma is unsustainable because it is anti-dialectical. Dogma, when confronted by truth, takes only one path: ossification. That is, it hardens against facts. Whereas ideology holds the dialectical potential to incorporate new truths which serve to ultimately strengthen the ideology. I state all this to say that in order to fight a system we must be clear about what it is — and what it is not. Dr. Greg Carr, Chair of Afro-American Studies at Howard University, makes clear that “aliteracy [not illiteracy] is the contemporary crisis.” So Read, Read, Study and Read!
2. UNDERSTAND that capitalism and colonialism are western European ideas. Capitalism is now and has always been inimical to African people both on the Continent and in the diaspora. But not just Black people, in fact all working-class laborers, as well as their middle-to-upper class colonial administering counterparts. So do not imagine that we can somehow reform capitalism or modify neo-colonialism in order to make it function for all people everywhere. These sometimes mutually indistinguishable systems were not designed to render equity and thus must be completely dismantled by any means necessary. Throughout the 20th century Black radical thinkers of every stripe, from Hubert Harrison and Claudia Jones to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Assata Shakur all understood and taught this.
3. REALIZE that movement-based organizing is the fundamental avenue through which revolutionary change is created. This is in no way to suggest that a single individual through selfless acts of kindness cannot make a substantial difference in the lived experience of others. However we must remain mindful of the reality that Spiderman and Django are mythical characters.
4. EMBRACE revolution, not reform. We are contending with “spiritual wickedness in high places.” Patriarchy, misogyny, heterosexism, white supremacy, imperialism, capitalism, and the like, these cannot be reformed. They require a revolution fueled by radical ideas. The notion that human beings can actually live free from want and in harmony with each other and the environment must be a thing which you learn to embrace with your soul. In the words of M1 from Dead Prez, rise each morning, look in your mirror and say, “I Am a Revolutionary.”