Real Talk: Lessons Learned from Community Organizing in Today's Atlanta

On March 8th, 2016 the Center for Civic Innovation hosted two amazing women who are community organizers and great examples of what it means to be a leader.

  • Laura Emiko Soltis ofFreedom University, an organization following the Southern freedom school tradition and providing tuition-free education, college assistance and leadership training to undocumented students banned from Georgia universities.
  • Mary Hooks of Southerners on New Ground and Black Lives Matter. SONG focuses on LGBTQ liberation through leadership development and community organizing campaigns. BLM is a chapter based organization working to rebuild the black liberation movement.

Both women shared personal stories about the how and why of their work - why they choose organizing as a way to support the cause they believed in and how they actually got started on their respective paths. The talk was intense. It was personal. It was inspiring.

Here are a few key takeaways for those interested in organizing as a method of social change:

  • Consciousness + commitment = social change. This was the theme of the night. You have to recognize a problem and make a full commitment to help change it. Being an organizer is a conscious decision. It is something that calls to you and you have to be willing to call back to it, letting it transform you.
  • Organizing is about the community, not the individual. Understand who your people are and how you fit in with them. Everyone can have something to fight for, you just have to find what is right for you and be willing to work with and take guidance from others. You have to spend your time and resources in the service of the movement and of your community.
  • Power can come from many places. It is easy to think that money is the only type of power that matters in today's world. The power of people matters just as much.
  • Leadership can't be appointed, it has to be earned. You can't join or start a movement thinking you will be a leader. Lead by example. Lead by service to others.