Where Do You Fit In: Protester Or Community Builder?

I was a participant in the Women’s Movement in the 70’s and have remained involved in social, environmental and economic change efforts since then. Although, I may not be an expert on social movements, I have formed an opinion on their process based on my experience. In a nutshell, I believe there are at least two components: (1) Protest & Resist; (2) Community Building & Solutions.

I was not on the leading edge of the Women’s Movement. I did and do admire those who were out front confronting patriarchy in a variety of ways—marching in the streets, launching feminist magazines, books, and films, as well as speaking out ,often times loudly, to be heard. These folks certainly did inspire and educate women about the oppression and inequalities that existed, which still continues today. People in authority or stuck in the status quo saw these brave warriors as scary creatures.

I brought up the rear of the movement. I’m not comfortable confronting although I certainly see the strong value in it. I tend to want to solve the problem. So my role in the women’s movement in the early days was to get involved or start programs that served women. I know that I would not have had a chance to do that if others had not blazed a pretty angry path before I arrived.

In Tampa, I developed programs for women that would never have gotten off the ground if it were not for those who were out in front raising consciousness and demanding change. One program served women in jail and on probation. They were being overlooked in the criminal justice system—second class citizens there as well as in society. There were no programs offering intervention or support for them. The other program served women known as displaced homemakers, who had followed the traditions of the 40’s and 50’s and gotten married instead of pursuing careers. After being dutiful wives and mothers for years, they were being dumped by their husbands, who were seeking more adventure or a younger wife. The women had lost not only a sense of identity but their financial support as well.

Because of the spotlight shown on women’s needs by the trail blazers, funding for these programs flowed in. After the anger of the protesters, I seemed like a reasonable woman much to the relief of those in authority with the power and the money. Our work gave them an opportunity to show they were the “good guys” who did support women.

Today, we have a very active and engaged populace resisting and persisting in the face of the loss of values and rights that many of us believe are what America stands for. Again, I am not on the protest/resist edge, although I did show up to be counted in the Women’s March in Washington DC on January 21st. I do find myself feeling guilty because I am not motivated to make the calls to members of Congress or to speak up at town hall meetings although I do want that edge to persist and maintain.

Instead, I am focusing on initiatives and solutions that spring from the grassroots and offer hope for a future based on the values now at risk—one that embraces justice, sustainability, nonviolence and peace. I am involved in promoting the work of change-makers around the country that are creating substantial solutions. They include educators, economists, artists, human rights activists, and community developers. For example:
• Mexican American Ethnics Teacher Carlos Acosta closed the achievement gap in a Tucson High School by integrating the studies into the core curricula;
• Artist Nora Naranjo Morse grew up on a Santa Fe Pueblo concerned about environmental waste and wealth inequity and is known nationally for her work in these areas;
• Democracy Collaborative Co-Founder Ted Howard was a catalyst for a large scaled worker owned cooperatives in Cleveland that are being replicated in cities around the country;
• Author and New Economy advocate Marjorie Kelly documents innovative and successful business ownerships that put people and planet before profit;
• Seneca Tribe member Terry Cross has created model intervention and parent education programs that keep Native American children out of foster homes and
• Florida born Nadine Smith has put her state at the forefront of the gay rights movement with its model anti-bullying programs and human rights ordinances.

I captured their stories plus 32 more of them in video interviews as I traveled around the U.S. The videos are on our website I promise you that you will find what they are doing both uplifting and energizing. The videos were made to inspire people interested in the community building and solutions component of the social movement now coursing through our lives, communities and country. For those of you interested in the critically important protest/resist component, I refer you to the Indivisible Guide. It is a practical guide for “resisting the Trump agenda” through local actions that you can take. It also gives you information on groups in your area.

Together, we will move forward to strengthen the values that are embedded in the principles of the Earth Charter, an international declaration for a sustainable future written by thousands of people in 77 countries over the course of ten years and launched at the Hague Peace Palace in 2000. The Charter’s core value is that all living beings and the planet, itself, are interdependent so we must have economic justice, universal human rights, respect for nature and a culture of peace.

“Let ours be a time remembered for a new reverence for life; for the firm resolve to achieve sustainability; for the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace; and for the joyful celebration of life. “ From the Earth Charter’s Way Forward.

Authored by Jan Roberts, Founder & President Cultural Innovations Agency.

1 thought on “Where Do You Fit In: Protester Or Community Builder?”

  1. John Newman

    As always, well said Jan. Hopefully now this technical ignoramus can put this in the hands of friends who will be equally appreciative, moved and encouraged by your efforts and the stories you have uncovered.
    Best, John

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