We Need New Maps!

It’s no secret, the craft of organizing is a bit all over the place right now. It makes sense. We’re in a period of massive transition. In this season of the Fundamentals of Organizing podcast, I’m talking with organizers and strategists about the craft. Who and what experiences most formed their organizing, and what do they see as the fundamentals we need to hone in the years to come. The first episode, with Erica Smiley of Jobs with Justice, just launched.

Smiley is the Executive Director of Jobs with Justice, where she is challenging us to ask hard questions, and bring a big vision to the table. Her new book The Future We Need: Organizing for a Better Democracy in the 21st Century, co-authored with Sarita Gupta, is out now.

Some top lines from our conversation:

Focusing solely on an electoral map means we miss big organizing opportunities

“When you look at the electoral map, what you see is such a brief snapshot of the political viewpoint of a place. It doesn’t really tell you what it would take to organize in those places. So instead of saying, we have to just write that off, or cut off the rest of the country, actually, it’s an opportunity, because a lot of the people in these regions (like the South) have an appetite for something different for something better, they aren’t just trying to get included.”

Looking forward, not just backward, to the potential of a multi-racial democracy

“Spark my imagination! There’s still a hope and an aspiration to fulfill that promise of a multiracial democracy economically and politically. And it doesn’t involve us looking backwards to what’s worked since the New Deal. It in fact, involves us looking forward to imagine something new, to imagine a democracy that’s actually worth fighting for.”

“What’s our science fiction vision for the future?”

The labor movement as part of the Movement for Black Lives

“You’ve got a situation where workers at Amazon saw their contribution to the movement for Black lives being on the shop floor. And fighting for dignity — fighting for a union wasn’t just about better wages, and health and safety. It was definitely about that, too. But it was also the forum through which they could fight for dignity, and respect and equality, it was the place where they could act on their values in a way that perhaps they hadn’t seen before.”

Centering equity is not optional if we intend to win

“Centering the fights against white supremacy and patriarchy aren’t just the right things to do — not doing so will guarantee your failure. They’re needed to win, it’s a part of your strategy to win.”

Listen to the whole episode here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

You can follow Smiley and Jobs with Justice at @SmileyJWJ and @jwjnational

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George Goehl

George Goehl

George is an organizer and hosts the podcasts The Next Move & To See Each Other.