Building a Movement: Part 2 of 4

Leadership for the Long Term

By Dustin Washington

Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity; Carl Jung developed the foundational understanding of the unconscious mind; and Dr. Jim Dunn and Ron Chisom developed the principles of anti-racist community organizing of the People’s Institutes for Survival and Beyond.

The People’s Institute believes that for us to do effective social change work, we must internalize the following principles:

  • Gatekeeping
  • Internalized racial oppression
  • Accountability
  • Understanding militarism
  • Networking
  • Learning from history
  • The importance of culture
  • Analyzing power
  • Understanding the manifestations of racism,
  • Leadership development

In today’s blog post, I will focus on the principle of leadership development.

Activism Overload

I have often heard Ron Chisom say that most activists tend to develop a disease called issue/crisis syndrome. When the police shoot someone, activist march and make emotional driven demands, the next day the same activist will be at a rally for fair housing in the morning, at city hall protesting budget cuts at lunch, and speaking at a forum on drone attacks in Yemen in the evening.

Now, all of the issues are worthy of our consideration, but usually the ways we as individualistic oriented activists approach these issues tend to not produce any real and lasting systemic change or relief of oppression.

Jumping from issue to issue and crisis to crisis is often an indulgent act of self-importance and being “oh so busy” serves as an excuse for not having time to develop comprehensive strategies to bring forth meaningful change.

Toward Intentionality

While issues are important to address of course, we must also be guided by a long-term vision of building and sustaining a movement. As anti-racist and humanistic organizers, we must develop new leadership, young and old, who will carry the movement into the future when we are gone. The side benefit of having a cadre of new leaders is that established veteran leaders can stay fresh, spend time with family, and live healthy balanced lives.

Through my work, I have tried to make leadership development a primary focus. The Tyree Scott Freedom School and Youth Undoing Institutional Racism exists to develop the next generation of leaders who will go out into the world having internalized the values and principles of anti-racist organizing and do their part to continue to transform our world for the better. We seek to give these young leaders an ongoing education and opportunities to apply principles of organizing in their communities, schools, churches, etc.

In my next blog post, I will delve into the principle of analyzing power. Until next week… Peace.

For more information about the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, please visit To learn more about the Tyree Scott Freedom School, see the video below.

About the Author: Dustin Washington is Director of the Community Justice Program at AFSC and Core -Trainer with the Peoples Institute NW.

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