The Community Organizer’s Toolbox: “Rules for Radicals”

Contrary to the stereotypes cultivated by the corporate media and government agencies, authentic and effective community organizers are invaluable to the modern civilization (if you choose to call it that) we occupy.

Among other things, organizers develop indigenous leadership in our communities, raise collective consciousness , inspire hope, and teach people to work together to effect change individually and collectively.

This generation is fraught with contradictions and misunderstandings which often leaves even our community organizers conflicted and compromised. We can fight back and become more effective in our efforts by understanding and embodying key princples from the outset. Organizers must be clear-minded and refuse to hold any illusions or to promote them in the community.

To do this, I introduce you to an invaluable part of my organizing toolbox, Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” (this link provides you with the entire book). Take note that some community organizing entails internal work; The information below concerns challenging external sites of power:

  1. “Power is not only what you have, but what your enemy thinks you have.”
  2. Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
  3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
  8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
  10. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”

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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei 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. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School.

Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.