Bridging the Class Divide and Other Lessons for Grassroots Organizing: A Quick Look

  • Linda’s experiences as a child and a young adult with sexism, classism, racism and homophobia set the groundwork for Linda’s desire to fight for justice as she grew older.
  • Linda’s initial experiences of grassroots organizing in Charleston, South Carolina were characterized by Linda feeling inferior to others, particularly men, in which she felt she should not assume more responsibility and stick to planning/scheduling meetings.
  • Linda began to lay the foundation for the Piedmont Peace Project when she returned to North Carolina in 1983. After being recognized by peace activists in the Boston area, Linda made PPP official by applying for foundation funding. During its first two years, PPP focused on building a linkage between low-income white and African American communities.
  • Over the years, PPP formed its model of grassroots organizing that is based on the following principles: combining local and national issues, lobbying and educating people on local issues first before reaching the national level, adding a peace agenda as a factor of local organizing, making a commitment to organize against all forms of oppression, and setting their own agenda.
  • Linda believes that the most serious problem that progressive movements face is dealing with oppression.
  • Through many trials and tribulations during the early years of PPP, Linda outlines seven principles that are characteristics of a successful/inclusive grassroots movement: focus on social change, work across race and class lines, include indigenous organizers and leaders, encourage diversity with ongoing outreach and training, focus on the connections between local and national issues, develop and maintain personal empowerment while working for organizational power, and be flexible and ready to create new models to adapt to needs and leadership styles of participants.
  • Linda gives her opinion on the following question, ““why haven’t we yet learned to build more effective multiracial, multiclass organizations in the United States?”. Linda gives an explanation of the various barriers that can prevent social movements from achieving their goals. They are: the wall of language, the wall of assumptions and knowledge, the wall of simple logistics, and the wall of meeting format and organizational structure.
  • Linda was told from the get go of her social activist career that she was not the appropriate spokesperson for peace and community issues. Being a low-income woman who spoke about her feelings and experiences, she was not viewed as a traditional leader by middle-class people. Nonetheless, the way Linda related to people in the community allowed others to see her as a leader. When she began PPP, she made a commitment to the organization that PPP would work to make everyone feel like a leader. Through this commitment, PPP has created an inclusive model of shared leadership.
  • Linda states that it is common for progressive social movements to avoid using standard business practices when it comes to organizing as they fear it will compromise their values. If an organization is unable to adapt or holds prejudices against these standards, it can prevent them from achieving their goals. The prejudices are as follows: the media, strategic planning, needs of the staff, fundraising, budgets and marketing, and communicating with foundations.
  • When progressive movements begin to achieve their goals, that is when they will begin to experience opposition from groups of people or individuals who believe in maintaining the status quo. Linda recommends the following steps for dealing with opposition: assume it will happen, know how the backlash will manifest itself, every action or campaign must have a response to opposition prepared ahead of time, create a community of support, and most importantly, always remember that if an organization is not getting opposition, then they must not be doing enough!
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