My View

Growing a movement in our own backyards

By BEVERLY STERNER
Posted 6/26/20

This time it’s different.

This time it’s different, I thought while looking out over the crowd of mainly white faces (gathered in Central Park, Honesdale) holding up signs, clearly …

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My View

Growing a movement in our own backyards

Posted

This time it’s different.

This time it’s different, I thought while looking out over the crowd of mainly white faces (gathered in Central Park, Honesdale) holding up signs, clearly homemade, some on backs of brown cardboard packing calling for justice—an end to racism.

Love is Power. And the name, George Floyd.

This time, the festering systemic racism has erupted and triggered the world over.

This time, demonstrations and rallies are popping up all over our counties in NY and PA and on the bridges that connect them; some of them stop for eight minutes and 46 seconds with one knee to the ground; speakers at rallies have included impassioned young speakers of Color describing their experiences; white people of all ages coming out with their signs, marching together, shouting out together, “No justice, no peace.” This, while committed to a peaceful protest. Yes, this time it’s different. You can feel it.

This, now, is the beginning of a movement.

So, now, how do we sustain it and how do we grow it? How do we make real change, right here where we live?

How do we use this incredible opportunity that often accompanies crises to not only change the system but also to transform our relationships?

Very briefly, I would begin by advocating for the following:

  1. Sustain the protests: Connect and collaborate with other towns. Meet and talk. Share ideas, contacts, resources. Begin to form coalitions. Strategize to piggyback one event or promotion onto another to help keep the movement’s momentum.
  2. Gather the storytellers—those of our friends and neighbors who have been the victims of racism and social injustice who have a personal story to tell about living and growing up right here.
  3. Listen to them deeply. Connect.
  4. Find and create places and platforms for their stories to be told: social media, of course, but also TV, radio, newspapers, churches, organizations and schools.

    The power of the story, it goes straight to the heart. It is the truth, the real live experience in detail, so we can feel and find empathy for another human being. There is no argument. There is just the story. All the facts in the world, all the numbers, cannot do what hearing one individual’s story can. When that story is told by one of our neighbors, we’ve got a movement growing, right here, right now.
  5. Return to the places, organizations, or institutions where injustices occurred. Together, create and implement the change that can rectify the injustice.

(This could be our very own Truth and Reconciliation Commission.)

That’s the short story (ho ho ho).

But, all this is contained in the way this movement expresses itself, the words we consciously choose to use, thoughtfully, so that it both reflects who we are and our intent moving forward. Guided by our own morals and principles and our heroes, we will be practicing and learning more about nonviolence, an essential part of our movement forward.

And onward!

Beverly is a veteran organizer and activist of the nonviolent peace and justice movements. She was a “monitor” at the 1963 March on Washington, returning to D.C. with Dr. King for the 1968 Poor Peoples Campaign before he was assassinated. She worked in building the anti-war coalitions of the 1960s and ‘70s. She is the founder of the Upper Delaware Community Network, an online group of 800+ subscribers that, like a bulletin board, connects neighbors to neighbors in fulfilling their individual needs and that of the Upper Delaware Community (udcommunitynetwork@groups.io).

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