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Reveille for a New Generation Organizers and Leaders Reflect on Power

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Reveille for a New Generation
Organizers and Leaders Reflect on Power

Second Place, Anthology, 2021 Catholic Press Association Book Awards

Powerful or Powerless?

You too can do something, you too can make a contribution, you too can get in the way; but if you’re going to do it, do it full and with love, peace, nonviolence, and that element of faith.—John R. Lewis, interview with Krista Tippett for the On Being Project, March 28, 2013

One way to think about power is that organizing is a right, at least in a true democracy. This collection of some fifty stories, essays, letters, poems, sermons, eulogies, and other pieces of writing by leaders and organizers connected either directly or in spirit with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) shows how people in America—from the very beginning to today—have always figured out how to “fight back” and “fight for” against those who would ignore, abuse, or oppress them, their families, their institutions, and their communities. Each entry is accompanied by background information on that writer and three provocative questions for personal reflection or group discussion.

The idea that change usually comes incrementally, over a long period of time, as people build their own power organizations that address the root causes of social problems (“root” being the very definition of the word radical) is newly relevant during the triple-headed crisis we are experiencing in the world today: novel pandemics; growing and unsustainable inequalities of wealth; and volatile racial, religious, and ethnic tensions. To be successful, people’s organizations need to follow the universals of relational power written about so passionately and eloquently by the more than fifty organizers and leaders in this book. Here are a few of those principles.

  • People’s organizations must be non-partisan. Not “non-political,” but not beholden in any way to elected or appointed officials or political parties, including taking their money or endorsing their candidates.
  • People’s organizations must be diverse in as many ways as humanly possible in each situation: by race, ethnicity, faith and philosophy, political persuasion, economic circumstances, education levels, gender identity, sexual orientation, geography, age, class, or caste. This diversity must be real (not token), non-negotiable, and absolutely non-exclusionary.
  • People’s organizations must be made up of a collection of dues-paying “people’s institutions” (defined as institutions that people have—or should have—control over) such as religious organizations, labor unions, not-for-profit service providers, community and small-business groups, ethnic and civil rights organizations.
  • People’s organizations must follow the Iron Rule: Never do for people what they can do for themselves. This requires a commitment to leadership training and development, reflection and mentoring, reading and power analysis, and action and evaluation.


Introductions, Notes, and Questions
by Gregory F. Augustine Pierce

Part One: Roots of Organizing
by Omar bin Said, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Emma Lazarus, Lucy Gonzáles Parsons, Ohiyesa, Mother Jones, John L. Lewis, Stoyan Pribichevich, Pauli Murray, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Ella Baker, John R. Lewis

Part Two: Foundations of Organizing
by Saul Alinsky; Cesar Chavez; Michael Gecan; Zeik Saidman; Tom Mosgaller; Ernesto Cortes, Jr.; Arnie Graf; Kathleen O’Toole; Lionel Edmonds; Jeff Krehbiel; Ed Chambers; Dick Harmon; reflections on Christine Stephens by Ernesto Cortes, Jr., Elizabeth Valdez, Anna Eng, Lady Carlson, Krysten King, Josephine Lopez Paul, and Pearl Ceasar; Ronnie Crudup; Martin Trimble

Part Three: Future of Organizing
by Cheri Andes, Stephen Applegate, Chevon Chatman, Bob Connolly, Dean Deida, Keisha Krumm, Alisa Glassman, Matthew Marienthal, Cynthia Marshall, Adrienne McCauley, Malik Mujahid, Perry Perkins, Burns Stanfield and Larry Gordon, Amy Totsch, Richard Townsell, Paul Turner

by David Truer from his book The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

Read more about this book on the editor's blog: Writing for Community Organizers and Leaders.

Format: Paperback book
Product code: AP466831
Dimensions: 5½" x 8½"
Length: 432 pages
ACTA Publications
ISBN: 9780879466831
Written by Gregory F. Augustine Pierce