What it Takes to Build Movements

I find it interesting to hear the sentiment that one person built or builds a movement.  I see it differently.

Throughout history there have been movements for numerous causes.  They have usually grown out of the concepts, ideas and inspiration of a collection of individuals or one individual who dedicated their lives/life to ending injustice. The ideas blossom into inspiration which in turn creates a domino effect of various forms of the ideas into movements. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between movements and organizations, so we have to dig a little deeper to discover the inspiration behind the creation of the organization.

Here are a some examples of movements that have grown out of concepts, ideas and inspiration, with links provided to read more details.

Food Not Bombs

Food Not Bombs was born out of the concept  of feeding people, not war. FNB started after the May 24, 1980 protest to stop the Seabrook Nuclear power station north of Boston in New Hampshire in the United States. The people that started Food Not Bombs shared their first full meal outside the Federal Reserve Bank on March 26, 1981 during the stock holders meeting of the Bank of Boston to protest the exploitation of capitalism and investment in the nuclear industry.” Today there are Food Not Bombs groups all over the world.

Boycott Movements

Boycotting, Divesting and Sanctions are concepts that have long histories in a variety of forms,such as Fossil Fuel Divestment, the British Anti-Apartheid Movement / InternalResistance to Apartheid .  The original “Boycott Movement” was founded in London in 1959 at a meeting of South African exiles and their supporters. Members included Peter Koinange, Claudia Jones, Steve Naidoo and Ros Ainslie. The Boycott/Divestment/Sanction (BDS) movement was organized in 2005 by the Palestinian BDS National Committee.

Green New Deal

Green New Deal is a concept that was given prominence by journalist Thomas L. Friedman. Green New Deal has taken on a variety of platforms by numerous groups and individuals, inlcuding Van Jones, Jill Stein, Colin Hines (Green New Deal Group),The Green Party of the United States and The European Green Party.

Non-Violence

Mahatma Ghandi is credited for the inspiration that ended the colonial occupation of India. He gained notoriety due to his British education and ability to articulate to the issue of non-compliance with the demands of the colonizers.  His vision and bravery inspired a movement of actions by the people that ultimately resulted the end of British rule. His influence is the catalyst for many peace and justice organizations today.

Civil Rights

Civil Rights Movements are numerous throughout history. An example is the Civil Rights Movement for African-Americans in the United States in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is largely credited for leading the civil rights movement from 1954 until his death in 1968. His visibility and outspokenness influenced and resulted in a mass movement of non-violent direct action by millions. Dr. King’s vision is carried on by numerous organizations and individuals promoting the concept of non-violence in activism.

Dr. King also organized the Poor People’s Campaign  which is an economic justice and  human rights campaign for poor Americans of diverse backgrounds, spurring a movement that has grown and continues today.

The list is endless. There is the Occupy Movement , Black Lives Matter, Human Rights Movement, Animal Rights Movement,  Victory Gardens, etc. Again these are just a few examples, for the purposes of invoking thoughts on what it takes to “build a movement”.   Not one person for sure.

An example in my own life is an annual event that I help organize, inspired by a similar event in another part of the county – our Annual Community Coat Exchange – the day after Thanksgiving, which (strategically) is also Buy Nothing Day (another movement that inspired the Coat Exchange nationwide). We have been doing this each year for 13 years.  If we all do our part – our small part – in the larger scheme of things, we are inspiring ever increasing social justice movements globally. It takes many people to build and idea into a movement.

What are you doing these days in your part of movement-building?

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