The Anatomy of a Movement

by A. Grace Steig, Video Coordinator for the Western MA team

When I heard that our training at beautiful Camp Wilmot in New Hampshire and the Pawtucket Congregational Church in Lowell, Massachusetts would last two weeks, I thought that time frame sounded lengthy. Perhaps, I believed, it would even be leisurely, filled with many free hours spent playing banjo and ukulele, swimming the camp’s lake, or bicycling to the library. Although I join as Abbie, Ben, Iona, Jana, Zalo, Kay, and other friends begin songs, we have done so mostly in the spaces between crucial workshops. For me, this time has been a crash course in organizing, complete with lessons on movement history, leadership styles, and conflict self-mediation. In an action planning lesson, Shea and Jamie taught the four categories of direct action: protest, non-cooperation, intervention, and creative solution.

agrace_vidtrain         I had never heard this material broken down this way before. Having in the past learned movement tactics mostly through trial and error, I am getting a lot out of this comprehensive instruction. Each session is so packed with material that the days slip by, and at the end of the two weeks there is no way I will be able to say, “OK, now I know everything.” Thankfully, I have inspiring facilitators and peers to learn from.                                                                       That’s me and others at a training in Lowell.

(photo credit: Iona Feldman)

      I marvel at stories of clever protests co-organized by people sitting in the circle with me—grateful to hear Evan explain the strategy behind XL Dissent, the youth rally and civil disobedience this past March in Washington, D.C., which first motivated me to do Climate Summer. If activism is really about relationships—as we learned in an early workshop—then these folks form a community that I am so grateful and excited to be a part of. For the first time I not only have an idea about how to proceed with climate change opposition—but also have hope.

agrace_dissent

This is me (on the right) building relationships in the movement. (Photo Credit: Overpass Light Brigade’s Flickr).

         In our course on direct action styles, we learned that what we are doing this summer falls into the category of creative solution, defined as resistance to a system we oppose by living a positive life of our own creation. In our case the system we object to is a fossil-fuel economy. And our solution? We will be bicycling together, cooking inexpensive, nourishing food, learning from each other—and in the spaces between that fun “work,” we will even have time for songs and swimming.

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