Activism

lady-justice-1-mary-tere-perezThank you for visiting the Camden Civil Rights Project page on Activism. Our archives contain a variety of informative print, audio and video materials on grassroots organizing, internet activism and protest strategies. The section attempts to introduce the different types of activism that individuals can engage in, highlight the challenges faced by past activists and provide educational tools for building sustainable community organizations. Archived articles can be accessed by clicking on the links below. Please feel free to use the comment section to recommend materials and resources you believe will aid in creating a better understanding of grassroots organizing and  protest strategies.

Articles

Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals

by Saul Alinsky

The Lifelong Activist: Career and Life Strategies for Joyful Activism

by Hilary Rettig

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action

by Gene Sharp  (The Politics of Nonviolent Action (1973))

Revealed: How the FBI Coordinated the Crackdown on Occupy

by Naomi Wolf (The Guardian)

The Crisis Within Activism is a Crisis Within Democracy

Micah White Interview (CartaCapital)

Protest Innovation or Protest Irrelevance

Micah White Interview with Chuck Mertz (This is Hell! Radio)

Revolution: Immunity for Democracies?

by Patrick M. Regan, Daniel Just and Aida Paskeviciute

Social Media as a Tool for Protest

by Marko Papic and Sean Noonan (Stratfor Intelligence)

The Most Militarized Universities in America

by William M. Arkin and Alexa O’Brien (Vice News)

Hashtag Activism Isn’t a Cop-Out

by Noah Berlatsky (The Atlantic)

 

Videos

Meet the Press: Martin Luther King, Jr. Discusses Civil Disobedience (1963)

Cue Card preview imageSynopsis: Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks on Meet The Press one week after leading his historic five-day march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to draw attention to the humiliating conditions in Alabama which included state enforced segregation, police brutality and racially-motivated homicide. Dr. King asserts, “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”

View the video HERE

The Great Sit Down (1976)

Synopsis: At 8 p.m. on December 30, 1936, in one of the first sit-down strikes in the United States, autoworkers occupy the General Motors Fisher Body Plant Number One in Flint, Michigan. The autoworkers were striking to win recognition of the United Auto Workers (UAW) as the only bargaining agent for GM’s workers; they also wanted to make the company stop sending work to non-union plants and to establish a fair minimum wage scale, a grievance system and a set of procedures that would help protect assembly-line workers from injury. In all, the strike lasted 44 days. GM argued that the strikers were trespassing and got a court order demanding their evacuation; still, the union men stayed put. GM turned off the heat in the buildings, tried to cut off the strikers’ food supply; and sent in violent strike-breakers resulting in a riot, known as the “Battle of the Running Bulls.” GM’s output went from a robust 50,000 cars in December 1935 to just 125 in during the strike in February 1936. By mid-February, the autoworkers succeeded. GM became the first automaker to recognize a union contract and the workers were given a 5 percent increase and permission to speak in the lunchroom.

View the video HERE

Freedom Riders (2010)

Synopsis: An award winning PBS documentary which tells the story of a courageous band of civil rights activists calling themselves Freedom Riders, who challenged racial segregation in the American South. The film recounts the harrowing and inspirational story of a tight knit band of civil rights activists that changed America forever. From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives— many enduring savage beatings and imprisonment—for touring the South on buses and trains to challenge Jim Crow laws which prevented blacks from utilizing “white only” facilities. The activists were met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way, severely testing their faith in the possibility of non-violent change.

 View the video HERE

Angela Davis: How Does Change Happen? (2006)

Synopsis: Angela Davis is a seasoned political activist who has dedicated her life to social reformation. She emerged as a prominent counterculture activist during the Civil Rights Movement and was once on the F.B.I.’s Ten Most Wanted list for her associations with the Communist Party USA and the Black Panther Party. Davis founded, Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex. She is a retired professor with the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a former director of the university’s Feminist Studies Department. In this talk, Angela Davis reflects on her successes and shares her insights on the strategies for change that have made — and will make — history.

View the video HERE

The Camden 28 (2007)

Synopsis: By 1971, the “Catholic Left” movement had conducted over 30 draft board raids, destroying close to a million Selective Service documents.  But they were hardly a centralized or structured movement. Actions were carried out by independent groups of activists, angered by the war’s mounting toll and its collateral effects on impoverished cities like Camden, New Jersey. On the evening of August 21, 1971, Father Michael Doyle and a group of twenty Catholic antiwar activists were arrested attempting to break into the Camden draft board office to destroy records after the group was betrayed by a member of their own group acting as an agent provocateur for the F.B.I. This PBS documentary recounts their act of civil disobedience and the ensuing legal battle, which Supreme Court Justice William Brennan labeled “one of the great trials of the 20th century.” Political scientists like Howard Zinn provided expert testimony on the time honored American tradition of civil disobedience, resulting in the eventual acquittal of the activists on the grounds of jury nullification.

View the video HERE

The Fight in the Fields: César Chávez and the Farmworker’s Movement (1996)

The Fight in the Fields traces the history of the United Farmworkers Union and the life of its founder, César Chávez, from his birth in Arizona, his education into organizing and non-violence, his formation of the union, to his death in 1993. It includes newsreel footage of the Delano grape boycott, Senate hearings conducted by Robert F. Kennedy, Chávez’s fasts, encounters with growers and rival Teamsters. Recent interviews with Chávez family members, Ethyl Kennedy, Roger Cardinal Mahony, Governor Jerry Brown, and current and past UFW leaders round out the history and assessment of Chávez and the Union.

View the video HERE

 Philip Zimbardo: The Psychology of Heroic Imagination (2008)
Philip Zimbardo explains what conditions lead good people to behave badly by sharing insights and photos from the Abu Ghraib trials. He also discusses the flip side: how easy it is to behave heroically, and how we can rise to the challenge.
View the video HERE
Julian Assange: Wikirebels (2010)

Synopsis: When Julian Assange first launched his whistle-blower website, Wikileaks, he was heralded as a public hero for exposing government and corporate corruption. Public opinion quickly shifted as Western governments who had been exposed launched a full scale campaign to marginalize Assange and paint him as a threat to national security. Swedish Television’s Jesper Huor and Bosse Lindquist investigate the history of WikiLeaks and its mission through the lens of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, his partner Daniel Domscheit Berg, the editorial teams at the Guardian, Der Spiegel and New York Times newspapers, and the US State Department officials who were forced to address and contain the early leaks.

View the video HERE

Aaron Swartz: The Internet’s Own Boy (2014)

Synopsis: Filmmaker Brian Knappenberger explores the life and work of programming prodigy and internet activist Aaron Swartz. The documentary presents a dynamic and tragic portrait of the life of Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, a champion of open access who grew up to lead the internet community into a new age of data sharing and free speech. The film examines how the suppression of information and lack of government transparency has been used to avoid public scrutiny and prevent informed participation in the democratic process.

View the video HERE

Matt Damon: Our Problem is Civil Obedience (2013)

Matt Damon, a lifelong friend of Howard Zinn, reads excerpts from Zinn’s 1970 speech on civil disobedience. Zinn delivered the speech at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore as his opening statement in a debate on civil disobedience with the philosopher Charles Frankel. Zinn was a social activist and political science professor at Boston University during the civil rights era who has authored over twenty books, including his seminal work,  A People’s History of the United States.

View the video HERE

Erica Chenoweth: The Success of Nonviolent Civil Resistance (2013)

Political Scientist, Erica Chenowith, speaks about her research on the impressive historical record of civil resistance in the 20th century and discusses the promise of unarmed struggle in the 21st century. According to her research, from 1900-2006, campaigns of nonviolent civil resistance were twice as likely to succeed as violent campaigns. Chenowith asserts a “3.5% rule”—the notion that no government can withstand a challenge of 3.5% of its population without either accommodating the movement or (in extreme cases) disintegrating. Chenowith is a faculty member and Ph.D. program co-director at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

View the video HERE

Amara Enyia: Effective Community Organizing (2014)

In this brief five minute video, Municipal consultant, Dr. Amara Enyia, shares some insights on effective community organizing. She educates young activists on the importance of gaining a better understanding of their own motivations, the key issues their community faces, the existing power dynamics within the community, and the people skills required to collaborate within existing community networks. Amara Enyia serves as the Chief Executive Officer of ACE Municipal Partners LLC, a full service municipal consulting firm that works with small and mid-sized cities in the Chicago/NW Indiana area, Central America, South America, and Africa. She’s also the founder and lead author of the blog “The Municipal Maven,” which features the intersection of politics, policy and the public through the lens of municipalities.

View the video HERE

Noam Chomsky: Successful Social Movements (2014)

Synopsis: Chris Hedges with RealNews.com interviews Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at MIT, about the future of majoritarian social movements. Chomsky discusses the historical attempts by those in power to suppress public dissent and the success of Twentieth Century labor movements. Chomsky asserts protest tactics, such as, Occupy Wall Street help to affect public discourse which can undermine unjust power structures and create tomorrow’s social institutions.

View the video HERE

Revealed: The Activists Who Uncovered the FBI’s Covert CoIntelPro Counter-Surveillance Program (2014)

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviews three of the original activists responsible for the 1971 break-in of an FBI office in Media, PA, to steal documents related to the Agency’s illegal domestic surveillance tactics. The group later leaked the removed documents to the press, revealing the FBI’s covert counter-intelligence program, CoIntelPro, which consisted of a mass surveillance campaign against celebrities, politicians and political dissidents, as well as the infiltration, monitoring and disruption of social and political movements. The former activists discuss how they planned and executed the break-in, and how the struggle to keep their identities hidden amidst an agency wide manhunt. Also discussed is the FBI smear campaign against the outspoken Hollywood actress Jane Seberg; the suicide letter sent to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by the FBI; and the assassination of Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton. Their story is relevant now more than ever amidst revelations about the current domestic surveillance abuses and the FBI’s entrapment tactics and informant culture which many critics believe has led to a manufactured war on terror.

View the video HERE

Lisa Ma: The Future of Activism Isn’t Loud (2014)

Synopsis: Designer/Researcher Lisa Ma speaks at TEDxEastEnd about the possibility of a passive activism which shifts away from the traditional model of confrontation against power towards creative acts of public service. Lisa Ma writes and lectures about fringe communities, ethnographic research and speculative design.

View the video HERE

Henry David Thoreau: Civil Disobedience (2015)

Synopsis: A just society has fair laws. But most societies aren’t like that. So what can you do? The opponent of slavery, Henry David Thoreau, gave one answer in his essay ‘On Civil Disobedience’: follow your conscience and break the law on moral grounds rather than be a cog in an unjust system. Ghandi, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King have all inspired generations to make changes to unjust laws through civil disobedience. Stephen Fry explains its origins.

View the video HERE

Lawrence Lessig: Our Democracy No Longer Represents the People. Here’s How We Fix It (2015)

Synopsis: Harvard Law Professor, Lawrence Lessig, makes the case that our democracy has become corrupt with money, leading to the concerns of ordinary Americans being ignored. Leesig argues that only 0.02% of the United States population actually determines who’s in power and introduces a study conducted by Princeton researchers which suggests that public opinion no longer has any quantifiable influence on public policy. Lessig contends that this fundamental breakdown of the democratic system must be fixed before we will ever be able to address major challenges like racial inequality, economic disparity and climate change.

View the video HERE

 

Suggested Reading

On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849)

by Henry David Thoureau

Letter from Birmingham Jail (1963)

by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (1971)

by Saul Alinsky

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“If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.” – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

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