Because the Civil Rights Movement Wasn’t Just a March…

I’m probably going to piss some people off with this post but it’s a risk I’m willing to take because I’m here to tell you that…marches are not movements.  

Selma didn’t just happen, ya know.  Fresh in people’s minds is Bloody Sunday when hundreds of civil rights activists were terrorized and brutalized by Alabama law enforcement while marching through Selma.  What people don’t know or forget is that those activists were marching to the state capitol to force the governor to uphold the Civil Rights Act that forbade discriminatory practices in voting on the basis of race.  With continued pressure and other organizing actions, the Voting Rights Act was passed later that year. PROGRESS.

People remember the white bus driver telling Rosa Parks to vacate her seat on the bus and Rosa’s infamous response being “nah”.  When Ms. Parks was arrested and fined at a court hearing days later, that kicked off the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  For 386 days, blacks protested segregated seating by refusing to ride the bus until the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state of Alabama to fully integrate its transit systems. A MOVEMENT.

Today, a black person gets killed by police. The black community is outraged by ongoing and ever present police brutality.  Then, black people and allies march and protest for several days.  When the protesting and marching ends, black people and allies go back to their regularly scheduled programs…until someone else is murdered and then cycle repeats.  But, what real change have we seen?  

Now, I’m not knocking those who take to the streets to advocate for their rights and the rights of others.  In fact, I applaud your tenacity and commitment to the cause.  However, there has to be an organized and tactical strategy behind these actions in order to effectively perpetuate change.  And with that strategy, we have to insert ourselves into an arena that is daunting and marginalizing—politics.

So here’s how we do this.   First, we hold our elected officials accountable.  They’re in office for one reason and for one reason only—to represent OUR best interests.  Therefore, if there are organizational reforms that need to take place, an economy or infrastructure that needs strengthening, or any issues threatening our quality of life, we take those concerns and needs to our representatives for them to take to City Hall or to the capitol.  And if they fail to make headway, we vote them out.  CIVIC ENGAGEMENT.

Second, we ORGANIZE!  Organizing, simply put, is a method in which a group of people with similar interests unites to strategically advocate for those interests and effect change. Just as the SCLC, SNCC, NAACP and other civil rights organizations banded together to develop a plan to ensure that blacks had the freedom to vote back in the 60’s, we have to do the same thing now.  In terms of police brutality against minorities, we must identify a target (who or what we’re trying to change/implement), goals (benchmarks that indicate progress), tactics (actions that will help achieve said goals) and obstacles (barriers to achieving our goals) and persevere until we win.  Organizing STRATEGY.

Lastly, we have to be accountable.   Let’s be real—there are things happening in our communities that hinder us from achieving real progress.  We can’t preach nonviolence when violence is rampant in our neighborhoods.  It’s difficult to command respect when some of us don’t even have respect for our neighbors.  It’s inconceivable to ask for more when what we already have is being destroyed by us.  We must acknowledge, address and overcome our issues at the community level before we can even proceed with a larger and more organized movement to combat systemic injustices and external menaces.   EMPOWERMENT.
Y’all, we have to quit it with the media movements, the periodic protests and the momentary marches.   If we want REAL change – and I think we all do – we have to exercise our power to plan, organize and execute.   And although change may not come instantaneously, with grit, fervency and unity, we can be assured that one day, change is gonna come…we just have to put in the work.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
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Tanesha Peeples

Tanesha Peeples

Tanesha Peeples is the Deputy Director of Outreach for Education Post. She was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, is a Chicago Public Schools alumna and proud Englewoodian. She blogs elsewhere about Hope and Outrage. As an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University, Tanesha began to develop a passion for and understand the importance of public service. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration, she returned to Chicago with a new perspective on community, politics and civic engagement. Tanesha then attended and graduated from DePaul University with a master’s degree in public service management and urban planning and development. Throughout her professional career, Tanesha has used her education, passion and experience to navigate a number of nonprofit, political and independent ventures, advancing her mission to educate and empower marginalized populations. Prior to joining Education Post, she also managed her own consulting firm specializing in community relations. Tanesha’s vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or zip code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. Find her on Twitter at @PeeplesChoice85.

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