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The Purpose of Power
Cover of The Purpose of Power
The Purpose of Power
How We Come Together When We Fall Apart
An essential guide to building transformative movements to address the challenges of our time, from one of the country’s leading organizers and a co-creator of Black Lives Matter 
 
“In a year when a long overdue reckoning with racism is once again in the spotlight, Garza’s call to action . . . is urgent and critically necessary.”—Time 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY TIME AND MARIE CLAIRE
In 2013, Alicia Garza wrote what she called “a love letter to Black people” on Facebook, in the aftermath of the acquittal of the man who murdered seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin. Garza wrote: 
 
Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter. 
 
With the speed and networking capacities of social media, #BlackLivesMatter became the hashtag heard ’round the world. But Garza knew even then that hashtags don’t start movements—people do. 
 
Long before #BlackLivesMatter became a rallying cry for this generation, Garza had spent the better part of two decades learning and unlearning some hard lessons about organizing. The lessons she offers are different from the “rules for radicals” that animated earlier generations of activists, and diverge from the charismatic, patriarchal model of the American civil rights movement. She reflects instead on how making room amongst the woke for those who are still awakening can inspire and activate more people to fight for the world we all deserve. 
 
This is the story of one woman’s lessons through years of bringing people together to create change. Most of all, it is a new paradigm for change for a new generation of changemakers, from the mind and heart behind one of the most important movements of our time.
An essential guide to building transformative movements to address the challenges of our time, from one of the country’s leading organizers and a co-creator of Black Lives Matter 
 
“In a year when a long overdue reckoning with racism is once again in the spotlight, Garza’s call to action . . . is urgent and critically necessary.”—Time 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY TIME AND MARIE CLAIRE
In 2013, Alicia Garza wrote what she called “a love letter to Black people” on Facebook, in the aftermath of the acquittal of the man who murdered seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin. Garza wrote: 
 
Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter. 
 
With the speed and networking capacities of social media, #BlackLivesMatter became the hashtag heard ’round the world. But Garza knew even then that hashtags don’t start movements—people do. 
 
Long before #BlackLivesMatter became a rallying cry for this generation, Garza had spent the better part of two decades learning and unlearning some hard lessons about organizing. The lessons she offers are different from the “rules for radicals” that animated earlier generations of activists, and diverge from the charismatic, patriarchal model of the American civil rights movement. She reflects instead on how making room amongst the woke for those who are still awakening can inspire and activate more people to fight for the world we all deserve. 
 
This is the story of one woman’s lessons through years of bringing people together to create change. Most of all, it is a new paradigm for change for a new generation of changemakers, from the mind and heart behind one of the most important movements of our time.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book Chapter One

    Where I’m From

    Frantz Fanon said that “each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.” This is the story of movements: Each generation has a mission that has been handed to it by those who came before. It is up to us to determine whether we will accept that mission and work to accomplish it, or whether we will turn away and fail to achieve it.

    There are few better ways to describe our current reality. Generations of conflict at home and abroad have shaped the environment we live in now. It is up to us to decide what we will do about how our environment has been shaped and how we have been shaped along with it. How do we know what our mission is, what our role is, and what achieving the mission looks like, feels like? Where do we find the courage to take up that which has been handed to us by those who themselves determined that the status quo is not sufficient? How do we transform ourselves and one another into the fighters we need to be to win and keep winning?

    Before we can know where we’re going—which is the first question for anything that calls itself a movement—we need to know where we are, who we are, where we came from, and what we care most about in the here and now. That’s where the potential for every movement begins.

    We are all shaped by the political, social, and economic contexts of our time. For example, my parents: My mom and dad were both born in the 1950s and came of age during the 1960s and 1970s. My dad was raised in San Francisco, California, by a wealthy Jewish family who became rich through generational transfers of wealth and by owning and operating a successful business. My mother, on the other hand, was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, the daughter of a long-distance truck driver and a domestic worker. Compared to my father’s family, they were working class, but compared to other Black families, they were solidly middle class. Toledo was the home of the Libbey Glass Company and other manufacturers that employed the lion’s share of the population. My maternal grandparents’ community consisted of Polish immigrant families and other middle-class Black families, until the Polish immigrant families began to move out to the suburbs.

    My mother wanted more freedom than her family and her community would allow, so she kept moving: first to New York as a young woman, then joining the army, where she was stationed at Fort McClellan in Alabama for basic training, then Fort Dix in New Jersey for more training, before heading west for a final stint at Fort Ord.

    My mom was raised in a context where Black women could aspire to become secretaries, domestic workers, or sales and retail clerks. My father was raised in a context where his family experienced some discrimination based on their Jewish heritage and identity but mostly passed as white people of an elevated economic class, which meant they could reasonably expect every opportunity to be open to them.

    And I came of age in a very different context, at a time and in a place that were unique to me. I came to understand the world from a different set of perspectives than those of my parents and most of my peers. And yet here we all are, alive right now, making a world together, our perspectives and experiences sometimes harmonious, sometimes clashing, sometimes unrecognizable to one another. We all came into this world-making project at different times—my parents showed up in a 1966 Chevy Camaro, I arrived in a hybrid, and those who came of age in the 1990s and 2000s came through on rechargeable scooters powered by...
About the Author-
  • Alicia Garza is an organizer, political strategist, and cheeseburger enthusiast. She is the principal at the Black Futures Lab and the Black to the Future Action Fund, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter and the Black Lives Matter Global Network, director of strategy and partnerships at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and host of the podcast Lady Don't Take No.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 7, 2020
    Black Lives Matter cofounder Garcia debuts with an informative and inspirational history of the movement and her own evolution as an activist. Raised by her African-American mother and Jewish stepfather, Garza was one of only 10 Black students in her Tiburon, Calif., middle school in the 1990s, where her wealthy, white peers “emulated what they believed was the stylishly nihilistic lifestyle of impoverished Black people.” She draws on her decade spent organizing in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco to share lessons on “the messy work of bringing people together,” and describes the trajectory of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter from a 2013 Facebook post decrying the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer to the group behind the 2015 Freedom Ride to Ferguson, Mo., in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s killing by a white police officer. Garza also details her recent efforts “to make Black people more powerful in politics” following the 2016 election, and critically assesses the elevation of “charismatic male figures” to positions of Black leadership. Drawing on feminist theory, political and economic history, and the principles of organizing, Garza makes a spirited and persuasive case for rethinking community activism in the era of social media. Progressive policy makers, activists, and voters will be galvanized.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from October 1, 2020

    Garza (cocreator, Black Lives Matter) explores power dynamics in community organizing, as she believes that power enables social movements to impact conditions of people's lives. In the first half of the book, she relates her own experiences organizing social movements, while providing background on the political climate of the 1980s and 1990s in order to orient readers and to emphasize the importance of organizing work. She elaborates on the circumstances that drove her to cocreate Black Lives Matter with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin the year before. In the second half of the book, Garza interrogates social movements, using her own experiences as an example. She provides a vision of successful movements, elaborates on the challenges of organizing, and explores biases and blind spots that can befall movements. She is critical of exclusionary practices and movements which equate success with social media followers. Garza ends with an explanation of Black Futures Lab, which aims to organize the Black community for political power. VERDICT An important look into community organizing that is honest about its pitfalls and promises that will engage all interested in leading and growing social movements.--Rebekah Kati, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from October 1, 2020
    Garza, one of the three founders of Black Lives Matter, offers a moving and impassioned account of her in-the-trenches experience as a social justice warrior. From her childhood during the repressive Reagan era to her high-school years witnessing the War on Drugs and the intersectional assault on Anita Hill, Garza quickly developed a keen awareness of how the political process and traditional civil rights organizing fails Black people. Her despair and outrage over the murders of Kenneth Harding, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown provoked her rejection of respectability politics and formation of the framework for Black Lives Matter. Garza outlines the basics of movement work, emphasizing that the key to organizing is building relationships over time, and she has plenty to say about the failures of white-led efforts with inauthentic relationships with the communities they claimed to help. While most of her examples are drawn from her work with BLM, Garza's advice is broadly relevant: build true solidarity by centering others' issues, not just your own; use an intersectional analysis that doesn't sideline LGBTQ folks or those with disablities as outsiders; and build strong, decentralized leader-ful, not leaderless organizations by distributing and sharing power. A book that could not be more timely.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from October 1, 2020
    A prominent civil rights activist offers a primer for change. For much of her life, Garza, who grew up in a wealthy White community in Northern California, has been involved in grassroots organizing in groups such as San Francisco Women Against Rape, People Organized To Win Employment Rights, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the Black Lives Matter Global Network and the Black Futures Lab, both of which she co-founded. Based on experiences with a variety of constituencies and co-workers, Garza brings a cleareyed view of what is involved in creating social change--not merely hashtags that will go viral, but viable, ongoing movements that engage people "in a consistent and deep way around issues." As she notes, "the mission and purpose of organizing is to build power" and "to transform grief and despair and rage into the love that we need to push us forward." Her work has taught her countless hard lessons: that Blacks, often disillusioned with politics, have not been a huge force in progressive communities and that "not all Black people want the best for Black people" but instead "will knowingly harm Black people for their own benefit, everyone else be damned." In some organizations she has backed away from "factional power plays," internal rivalries, and the kind of "respectable" protests advocated by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. As a queer Black woman, she is especially sensitive to the exclusion of women in leadership positions: "I am used to environments where women, usually women of color, are carrying the lion's share of the work but are only a minuscule part of the visible leadership." Creating effective leadership through focused training is part of the work of organizing, she notes, and she describes Black Lives Matter, with its many chapters, as "a leader-full organization. That means that there isn't one leader but many." A pragmatic, impassioned guide to vital current affairs.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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