Suzy's Reviews > I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle

I've Got the Light of Freedom by Charles M. Payne
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Jul 13, 08

Recommended to Suzy by: Dan Berger
Read in July, 2008

This book helped me understand that my ideas about a slow, movement-building approach to organizing, and the best of what I learned from my activist mentors in my 20s, is not just a valid way of doing activism, it's really the smartest way in the long run. I had always felt uneasy about the way so many groups these days are focused on how to most quickly get to "winnable goals" while compromising their relationships with people in the communities directly affected by the issues they're working on, as if putting real time and energy into building those relationships and listening to people and sharing activist skills takes too much time.

What about finding the leadership already in those communities, and helping to build the work around what's important to them? What about being flexible about campaigns and creative ideas, trying new things to see what works, and letting the community build the movement around its own needs, not demanding people change their whole lifestyle to join your organization?

This book offers very practical lessons on how to do social justice work in a truly empowering and lasting way, which is really needed when what most of us are force-fed is the Midwest Academy/Saul Alinsky style of community organizing, which I think takes shortcuts that undermine opportunities for communities to build their power and change the relations of power.

The flaw of the book is that it brushes aside the concept of Black Power and sort of dismisses it as a turn toward ideological thinking and away from community organizing, which I don't think is true, especially given the deeply rooted Serve the People programs that the Black Panthers did, for example. But this is only at the tail end of the book. I'd highly recommend reading it. My study group got a whole lot out of it.
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