If oppressive corporations can spend so much time, resources and energy to advertise and promote their (largely toxic) products to the public, I see no reason why the people cannot promote products which provide guidance and clarity to the public. In this spirit, I present you with an excerpt of my new book, The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook. “BSU” refers to “Black Student Union,” and this book is a manual for how to effectively organize for Black Student Unions on college campuses. At the same time, much of the information in this book (distilled from my own experiences as a BSU leader, and my studies of student activism) is equally helpful for non-collegiate community activists and organizations. To my knowledge, this is the first book of it kind which specifically shows student activists the ins and outs of organizing.
This book will be available for purchase in another week. My hope is that all Black people interested or involved in grassroots organizing in addition to BSU members will purchase this labor of love and spread the word. Some of the key chapters include, Leadership Training, Meetings, Programming, Propaganda, Alliances, Utilizing Media, Building Morale, Making Decisions, The Anatomy of a Movement, and Maintaining Archives.
The following is an excerpt from chapter 13, “The Anatomy of a Movement,” where I identify and describe 9 stages of a social/political movement. This excerpt addresses the first stage which I call “Irreconcilable Discontent.”
Irreconcilable Discontent: This refers to a mentality or psychological state which leads people to create a movement to confront an oppressive power structure. People may experience discontent with a situation for several years but never do anything to resolve their conflicts because they have “made peace” with it in one way or another. They might rationalize that this “is just the way things are,” that “we can’t win” or simply refuse to seriously address the issue out of fear or personal discomfort.
But irreconcilable discontent takes place when an incident occurs that is so egregious, so blatantly insulting or oppressive that people overcome their fears and skepticism and feel compelled to respond in organized fashion. For example, Black people have resented the ominous presence and brutal activities of police in our communities for decades. We detest police harassing Black motorists, stopping and frisking our youth, and shooting us down in the streets. We know this is unjust and criminal; we know that the officers responsible go free and resume their presence on the police force. Yet despite our discontent we reconcile with such practices, telling ourselves to “let the system do its job,” not “Rush to judgement” or “Trust in the Lord.”
As demonstrated by our lukewarm response to Trayvon Martin’s murder on February 26, 2012, and his murderer’s subsequent exoneration, we participate in marches or protests, hold some press conferences and rallies, respect others’ request that we act “responsibly,” and eventually go back to business as usual. Irreconcilable discontent means “the straw has broken the camel’s back,” we come to the realization that “Enough is enough,” and we are compelled to act in an assertive manner (even to the point of breaking oppressive rules/laws and refusing to cooperate with societal institutions and conventions)….. “
In closing, I leave you with this thought I recently posted on Facebook:
“No Justice, No Peace” is a common chant activists proclaim during rallies and protests. It implies a causal (cause-effect) relationship between the existence of justice and the existence of peace and harmony. However, we betray this logic if we respond diplomatically after repeated acts of injustice, or continue to collaborate with the systems/agents that oppress us. If we don’t change this dynamic soon, we’ll be chanting “No justice?….No Problem!”
Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak to your organization, please visit his page at the Great Black Speaker’s Bureau.