Organizing for a Just World, Act 1
This July 2019 podcast is a conversation with Gordon Whitman, senior advisor of the interfaith group Faith in Action: Building a People-Powered Movement (formerly PICO National Network; https://faithinaction.org). He has a B.A. in history and urban studies and a law degree from Harvard Law School. Gordon did his initial work in community organizing in Santiago, Chile with a grassroots health collective during the Pinochet dictatorship to work for change, and then with parents in the Philadelphia public school system. His book, Stand Up!: How to Get Involved, Speak Out, and Win in a Word on Fire Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018; https://standupbook.org/ is a handbook for grassroots organizing. Gordon provides guidance into how to share stories, map and analyze power, strategize, and work for system change.
In Part One Gordon shares his background in community organizing and strategies to motivate groups to build relationships to act together. And he shows how anti-racism work is central to movement building and social change. One example he gives is the La Red Campaign, Faith in Action’s Network of Protection for Immigrant Families: https://faithinaction.org/issue-campaign/la-red/
Speaking Truth to Power, Act 2
Justice work requires reflection and resiliency. In Part Two Gordon asks the question: where does religion stand?—on the side of the status quo or the people most effected by injustice? He sees social change as a spiritual activity, and one that makes religion a force of unity in justice work. This activity means showing up and building solidarity with others over racial and economic justice. There are so many overwhelming issues to deal with–from climate change to the rise of white supremacist nationalism—that we are in a race against time. Winning the race is an intergenerational, interreligious action. Gordon leaves us not with despair at the enormity of the power imbalances and struggles, but with hope:
“The true value of the conversations and practices in Stand Up! may be that they help us stay human amid darkness and uncertainty. They give us courage not only to keep fighting but to care for one another” (Stand Up!, p. 62).