by Didier Ortiz
Community organizing takes a lot of planning. You have to foresee complications while walking uncharted territory. If done well, it is a transformative, learning, experience. When preparing community events, considerations such as the theme of the event and the logistics that go into it are weighed, and the planning team usually agrees through consensus on the plan of action. It seems, however, that many times we lack a scientific approach to organizing. We forgo defining terms such as the community, or what factors shape the experiences of members of said community. This is an ongoing concern that I have with community organizing.
If we fail to approach the people through a scientific lens, we risk adhering to idealism as a substitute for a real understanding of our communities’ makeup. If we define the community as a group of people living within a certain geographic location, then we must admit that this standard will encompass people from different walks of life with varying interests and experiences. The way we serve the people must take this fact into consideration. Yet still, a lot of times we fail to do just that. We see the community as a monolith, or a body, that must be addressed in unison every time. I see this as unhealthy, and frankly, as intellectual laziness.
To understand the community in a meaningful, and useful, manner requires work. It requires us to analyze the reality in which the community lives. It also requires honesty. Honesty, to point out the exploiters of the people outside, and inside, the community. Honesty, to recognize that we have to develop different ways to approach different members of the community. Honesty, to admit that we need direct participation in the planning of our events from community members themselves. Honesty, to recognize which members of the community would be more interested in said participation. Honesty, to clarify the priorities we need to make in order to grow our organization while empowering the most active members in the community. We cannot afford to be idealistic in our organizing.
Think of a clock. It has various moving parts which are calibrated in a particular way for a particular function. Only those who truly understand the full workings of the clock can take it apart and put it back together. In the same manner, we can only understand the community if we can look at the working parts of it and understand how they work together. This means taking a frank look at local patronage systems but also at the potential of our youth. The community is more than a perception or a concept. It has real world people living real lives. It has heroes who are uplifting their families every day. It has young college students earning the first degrees in their families’ history. It also has villains; abusive small business owners, snake oil salesmen, homophobic reactionaries, etc. One of our main tasks today is to have a comprehensive understanding of the workings of the community. We cannot afford to learn casually, but rather be intentional in our study.
The Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward wants to equip our membership with the tools needed to do this work. The BLMAB is currently developing multiple trainings and workshops to do just that. It’s the time to develop revolutionary science.