Early Activist Enablement: A Reading Group and Beginning to Involvement

Posted by

As more and more people become enraged, eager, enlightened, and empowered to care about issues of social justice, racial politics and anti-racism, class consciousness, and other matters of political unrest, resources become made abundantly available. The difficult part with an excess of resources are the lack of locally involved community to digest these resources, and the lack of network to discuss, challenge, and ask the important questions one might have after reading something particularly engaging.

The purpose of this reading group is and will be to make these readings more palatable, provide that necessary direction and impetus to actually commit to reading them, as well as provide a discussion-oriented, seminar environment where we can learn, question, and develop together.

But beyond the personal engagement and development, I’d like for this reading group to be easily accessible for all. Which is to say: my intention is to make clear documentation of our discussions, questions, and readings so that anyone else going through this journey will be able to learn together with us.

Group Required Reading & Special Interest Assignments

The main component and unifying portion of this group will be through education and reading. Education evolves, though, with comfort and needs, and as such so will the group’s discussion bases.

We will begin reading through some chosen books for more instrumental and fundamental understandings of postcolonialism, prison-industrial complexes, systemic racism, and the psychological effects therein. These books can be found in many of the available lists out there, a few of my favorites found below:

After which, we will shift to having more specific reading and research assignments based on the topics which group members are most invested in. If you care about immigration, we’ll find books and articles on that for you to read. If you care about voter suppression, we’ll find books and articles on that. So on and so forth. The intention here is that: no one individual is going to a master of every possible form of political engagement. Instead, I’d like for you to feel like a specialist in a field and to have exact, nuanced understandings of how to involve oneself in its ongoing struggle.

Outreach: Research, Research, and Research

What is, possibly, most important and most vital to this education is to constantly and consistently revolve any educational activity with the goal of involvement, activism, and reform. One cannot simply be well-read. One must put action behind the causes they care about.

As a result, after the first few group readings (3-5), we will shift to researching special interests.

An exemplary timeline for this period might look like:

  1. Research Movements and General Histories: What communities need the most support for the cause you care about? How can you support these communities the most? What has historically been done in these communities? And how is this cause discussed nationally/internationally?
  2. Research Personal & Communal Histories: Who’s been involved? Who’s been victimized? Who’s organized? What’s been attempted? What’s been fought? Who’s fighting?
  3. Research the Politicians Most Actively Involved: Local leaders like police chiefs, senators, city councilmen, district attorneys, judges, etc. Have there been any leaders nationally that have spoken toward or against this issue? Are there any politicians campaigning for the cause you care about?

Throughout this research, it is encouraged and anticipated that you try to keep an address book of sorts: names, numbers, emails of the politicians involved throughout that you will assuredly become well acquainted with.

Involvement, Reports, and Saving Space for Listening

Finally, we will evolve group discussions into reportage, primarily. Discuss with your peers what you’ve been researching, walls you might be coming across, and challenges you are having difficulty parsing. A vital component of our group is the opportunity to bounce ideas of challenges off other people who passionately care about bettering societies.

First, give reports to your peers that are about 5-10 minutes of conversation. Create a shareable form of links to readings, materials, and follow-up documentation. Inform the others of who the historical or contemporary figures in your field are that you are in conversation with. Discuss surprises, difficulties, and next steps. And then leave the door open for others to ask questions, respond, or move forward with.

Second, begin your process of involvement. Show up to meetings (if safe from COVID). Write letters. Call representatives. Talk with organizers. Join groups. Write letters. Call representatives. Urge your community to vote. But during this process, especially, be wary that you do not feel overqualified from your education. This group is not and never will be a replacement to real, lived Black experience specifically, and more generally BIPOC experience. Veteran activists really don’t need additional people coming in with loud voices, unwilling ears, and a new, exhausting energy. Instead, be sure to continue and consistently listen. This article is a great synopsis of activist burnout.