Jane Fonda and Alicia Garza on orienting yourself toward lasting change through relationships and collective action

“Oh Maureen, Maureen, keep marching gal, just keep marching, and we’re with you, and we love you, promise you’ll keep marching!” — Jane Fonda in a video message to my mother (November 8th, 2019)

My mom, Maureen Dolan, showed that sixteen-second video to everyone she knew in the four months she had left on this Earth. It was the best present I ever gave her. My mom was recovering from cancer surgery in the fall of 2019 when I recorded this video with Jane…

How to disrupt the strategic use of racism by the Right and their corporate overlords and build a progressive majority

People’s Action (2011)

“Make America Great Again” — Ronald Reagan

The parasites that control the Right’s corporate agenda have already moved on from their last host, Donald J. Trump, and crawled into new bodies. Even as a new hope spreads across the land after a period of resistance, the reality of what we’re up against is sobering.Changing the guard in the White House, Congress, and local government is important. But creating structural change that shifts power from the wealthy and corporations to people…

“Darth Trump” by greenoid is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Book review: A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet

The pandemic has me watching a lot of Star Wars with my kids. Defeating Trump feels a lot like blowing up the Death Star at the end of the original movie. But as the rebel alliance found out, evil is always ready to rebound: in the next episode, and in the next franchise, there’s a new Death Star AND a Starkiller Base.

So the resistance needs to rebound, too. It matters little what the forces of racial capitalism and corporate power call themselves from era to era.

But what happens if we fail at this again?

© Billie Kirkton and People’s Action

Folks, we have hit the social movement trifecta: a racial justice uprising and pandemic in an election year where everything is on the line under an increasingly authoritarian president. This is creating a real opening for structural change, one we have not seen in generations.

The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade (and too many more to name here) have exposed the deep pains of the intertwined relationship between race and class in the United States as never before. Violent and racist police forces, the disproportionate…

What kind of a world do we have the will to win?

Creator: Adair733 License: CC BY-ND 2.0

It feels like everything is on the line right now for our country, our planet, and for humanity.

We have a global pandemic in the middle of a climate emergency. The corporate-conservative Radical Right has taken over country after country. Inequality and inequity are rising. It feels overwhelming. But there is a path toward a green new world if we have the will to win.

There’s no better place to start when looking for inspiration than Ella Baker, the trailblazing African-American organizer who over five decades was a…

Well, you know, there is a recipe.

Image by Billie Kirkton for People’s Action.

It is the beginning of 2020. I am hoping for changes bigger and more transformational than a new president. If you are like me, you also fear for friends, family and neighbors in the rise of white supremacy and fascism in the United States and across the globe. You may be asking yourself where to put your energy in this very important year.

For answers, let’s listen in on a conversation across centuries between organizers and people’s movements that have worked to achieve transformational change. If we are wise, we will heed their advice.

So with the freedom to choose…

“double-hearted” by anacharlottee is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

First published in Social Policy Magazine in 2008.

After two years of community organizing, I was asked a deep, penetrating, and typical question by my great-grandfather (affectionately called Bump). “So, what do you do?” he asked.

Bump was a retired cookie maker whose first job was as a pin boy at a Buffalo, New York bowling alley in 1907. But I knew him later in life, as a tall kindly man with a car trunk full of cheap cookies. My first attempts to describe community organizing resulted in a confused jumble of jargon, “I help people who live in Chicago…

“-= Spirit of Earth =-” by Bram & Vera is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

First published in Social Policy Magazine in 2007.

Relationships are the crucible within which we clarify who (and why) we are. The clarity that comes from being intentional about ourselves, our relationships, and our realities, focuses a burning light on our self-interest. We see more clearly through our attachments and aversions, and become more able to act. We free ourselves through the unqualified love that is liberated in relationship.

People’s relationships with God, mentors, teachers, and lovers all sharpen this direct experience of life. Love exposes us to the nature of self and reality, the dialectical tension of a grounded…

“CITY” by Jesse Zhao, F uture, WYSTAN 陈威延, SPECTRO 菱视 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

First published in Social Policy Magazine in 2003.

It may be an exaggeration to say that a butterfly’s wings can produce a tidal wave across the world, but if we amplify this premise then we must discern the implications of our relationships with others.

Our fates are linked — urban and suburban, first world and third, indigenous people and colonizer. In Peter Dreier, John Mollenkopf and Todd Swanstrom’s Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-first Century and David T. …

Have you heard about the life-affirming, healing power of direct action? You might need it.

You may think direct action — the kind of protest that directly confronts power and shifts it from the hands of the few to those of the many — is something you do when everything else fails to get people in power to change.

You’d be wrong.

Veteran organizer Lisa Fithian — who has played a key role in hundreds of protests, describes direct action as “a way of life and a strategy to heal ourselves in the midst of the struggle.”

“Direct action,” she continues. “is not about asking permission, but rather doing what needs to be done to…

James Mumm

All opinions here are my own. I tell my kids I have superpowers, but they don’t work around children. I also serve as the Campaigns Director for Greenpeace USA.

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