Colette's June 2017 Executive Director Message: "Liberation and Strategic Vision"

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The long memories found in historic coastal communities like Africatown in Mobile, Alabama or Houma tribal lands in Dulac, Louisiana tell us that the summer heat brings summer storms. Our current political climate seems to affirm the traditional knowledge that now is the season for preparation and readiness -- which begs two critical questions: what are we preparing for? And are we ready?

When we think through past, current and future human rights struggles of this country, it is clear that we should be prepared for more challenges. But to anticipate only struggle is to deny the broader meaning of liberation.

At a recent talk to the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, I encouraged the mostly middle-class audience to have the courage to acknowledge that racism in this country does not only hit or hurt its target. 

The systemic nature of racism in the US necessarily means that each person who participates in its system will be negatively impacted by it. The only way to relieve the negative reality, that recently awakened folks are now able to feel, is to stand together and fight for a shared liberation from tentacles of broad reaching and deeply rooted oppressive systems.

As newly activated folks continue to join human rights movements across the US, we must root in wisdom that millions of individual strategies will be the quickest path to chaos. The call for more localized organizing is a mandate for privileged folks to bring information, resources and passion for change to those who have been fighting for you- even before you understood you needed saving.  The movement principles from Sister Assata Shakur reminds us that we must love, protect and support each other.

State and local organizing cannot be new pieces of work or new programming.  Building a winning strategy will require courageous leaders to connect to other warriors and facilitate a collective vision--one that encompasses a future that works for everyone in your community. Ella Baker taught us that bottom up organizing is the only way to ensure no one is left behind. My suggestion is that we start in the Global South.

Justice advocates will have to stand for the cultural rights of communities and religious leaders will have to stand for the economic rights of formerly incarcerated. Climate champions will have to stand for human rights and human rights leaders must begin to consider the impact of the climate crisis. We must figure out how work together and develop a collective vision. This will not be easy.

Our collective vision for change must be bold as well as strategic. Good strategy requires that we see the entire board, assess the big picture and then set goals to create the future that is desired. This is not easy. Summer storms will come to challenge us. I invite you join the US Human Rights Network as we protect the deep roots of human rights and human dignity to ensure that collective, bold and strategic vision is in place. 

Summer is here. Are we ready?