The Importance of Organizing

Organize! Organize! Organize!

The state of colonized African people in the United States is a dire one. Despite class contradictions within the Black community, the overwhelming majority of colonized Africans on the US are marginalized poor working class or a rising class of the unemployable. 

Our communities are under resourced. Our communities are plagued with wage inequality, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, being under educated and mass incarceration. This is the result of intentional negligence and broken bonds by both government and private entities run mostly by white settler Americans. 

How do we combat these dire conditions? As Fredrick Douglass once noted, “if there is no struggle, there is no progress.” What Douglass was referring to is a belief that progress starts with the desire for change coupled with a willingness to endure the work, suffering, and/ or sacrifices to get it. This requires the masses to not only mobilize in times of injustice, but get organized. 

Organizing is a practice aimed at helping the masses of people create the social movements and political organizations necessary to dismantle oppressive systems and win (people led) power. Organizing isn’t a model of perfection, it is full of trial and era, experimentations and risks. It challenges the most basic contradiction of building mass movements of people who are in economic isolation. 

If organizing requires building power then we must be able to access and understand that community engagement is a necessary part of that. This is the starting point for transformative change. If there is no engagement,  there is no discussion and without discussion there is no movement. 

At the core of this revolutionary practice is the necessity of talking with strangers, not at them. This way we can see what specifics these communities need to organize around. 

According to the Midwest Academy training in community organizing, there are 5 types of organizing:

  • Direct Service
  • Education 
  • Self Help
  • Advocacy 
  • Direct Actions

These 5 types of organizing fall between accepting existing power relationships and challenging existing power relationships which is all determined by the level of involvement of the people directly impacted by problems.  

Using illiteracy in our communities as an example, we can break down each form:

  • If the organizer went out and started convincing book stores and non profit book programs to provide free books for the community, that would be a direct service approach. The organizer and the non profit businesses would be providing a direct service for people with free books.
  • If the organizer started doing studies about the causes of illiteracy and how it shapes our communities and how illiteracy was dealt with in other cities, and then distributed the information or held a teach- in (in an accessible way) in that illiterate community, that is an education approach. 
  • If the organizer began to hold reading and math workshops, with the intent to teach, for the people in the community who are undereducated and illiterate,  that would be a self-help approach. The idea is that people can solve their problems by improving themselves.
  • If the organizer went down to City Hall to lobby for better school programs, and more resources for public schools, that would be an advocacy approach. (The people who are illiterate would not necessarily be involved in this action) 
  • If the organizer started talking to those who are afflicted with illiteracy and organized a large number of them to first decide on the solutions that they wanted then pressured the city to win those solutions, that would be a form of direct action.

To “win” means the end results of our organizing are material and concrete improvements to the problems communities face. Community control of public schools, Smaller class sizes, teachers who live in the communities and aren’t outsourced, more reading programs, more representative courses to entice reading—— these are all “wins” that can be substantially gained through organizing. 

More from this Writer

Erica Caines is a poet, writer and organizer in Baltimore and the DMV. She is an organizing committee member of the anti war coalition, the Black Alliance For Peace as well as an outreach member of the Black centered Ujima People’s Progress Party. Caines founded Liberation Through Reading in 2017 as a way to provide Black children with books that represent them and created the extension, a book club entitled Liberation Through Reading BC, to strengthen political education online and in our communities.