6 Strategies to Make Powerful Social Change-Starting With "Stay Woke"
Bree Newsome’s removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse reminds us that real change comes from people power.
6 Strategies to Make Powerful Social Change-Starting With "Stay Woke"
By Mistinguette Smith / yesmagazine.org

I have not forgotten Bree Newsome. I will never forget her. She climbed up the flagpole at the South Carolina Statehouse in June and took down the Confederate flag. Following the murder of nine people in a Charleston church, I was unable to write anything that wasn’t full of bitterness and despair.

But Newsome refused to allow the body of one of the dead, State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, to lie in state under the flag his murderer used as an emblem of hate-filled values. Across the country, her actions set hearts and imaginations on fire. Months later, we can still learn a lot from that day.

Asking for freedom is not the same as taking action as a free people.

In the days after her action, Newsome was depicted as a heroine, a black Superwoman, a symbol of how we can act when Black Lives Matter. But it’s important to remember that Newsome is not a superhero. Her actions remind us that the change we want to see in the world will not come from some super power; it will come from people power. And if we can figure out how to grow our own vegetables and make our own bread, we have enough power to make ourselves some homemade freedom. We already have everything that we need.

Here are a few elements I can identify in Newsome’s recipe for homemade freedom:

1. Stay woke.

Newsome’s actions were a response to Gov. Nikki Haley’s unfulfilled promise to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House. Instead of shutting down in her grief and rage, Newsome stayed awake to Haley’s inaction, and she stayed present to her own feelings. Anger is the appropriate feeling to have when our boundaries have been violated. Newsome reminds us that the purpose of anger is to generate the energy we need for self-protective action.

2. Get up early.

The sunrise behind Newsome’s descent down the flagpole was not simply photogenic. It also reminds us to take action for change at the earliest opportunity. This prevents us from feeling powerless and shamed as we watch injustice pile upon injustice over time. It also doesn’t hurt to spread our message in time for the morning news cycle!

3. Deeds, not pleas, bring change.

It is important that we advocate for policy, sign petitions, and take part in protests that put our bodies on the line. But asking for freedom is not the same as taking action as a free people. Frederick Douglass reminds us not only that “power concedes nothing without a demand,” but also that “if we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by [our] labor.”

4. Use what you have.

Newsome did not have wealth or a communications team or a political platform. She did have a helmet, a pair of boots, and enough climbing knowledge to scale a 30-foot pole. With these three things, Newsome brought down the Confederate flag at the State House. Her action also brought that flag down from the shelves of stores and removed it from products and television shows.

5. Speak the language you know.

Sometimes we think our acts of conscience will not matter if we don’t know what to say or lack the gift of oration that moves people. Our own words are good enough. Before her arrest, Newsome made a statement that was simple and clear: “We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day.”

6. To go far, go together.

A South African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Newsome was arrested with a support partner on the ground, a white man named James Tyson. Working together across identities of privilege invites in many resources, including the strength that comes from the reminder that we are dreaming and longing and working together for all of us to be free.

The Confederate flag was up again within an hour of Newsome and Tyson’s arrest. But their action has had lasting impact. We should never forget that we can claim some homemade freedom whenever we remember that we are enough, and we already have enough. Like all homemade things, freedom requires creativity, a little skill, and a daily dose of courage. Most of all, it requires us to share our stories of homemade freedom with each other.

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
Why People Cling to Old Beliefs
1 min · 10,294 views today · Cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at McGill University, Daniel Levitin, explains why people can be so stubborn when it comes to false beliefs. This behavior is...
Stunning Summary of US Imperialism and Native Resistance... on MSNBC!
4 min · 9,191 views today · On The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history American always tries to forget.
Veterans at Standing Rock Ask Forgiveness for War Crimes Against Tribal Nations
Jen Hayden · 8,546 views today · Jon Eagle Sr., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has reported something wholly unexpected happened at the Standing Rock Reservation today. The...
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 8,155 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 7,777 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
Solar is Already Producing More Energy Than Oil, Says Major Scientific Review
Nafeez Ahmed · 4,932 views today · And is twice as powerful than previously thought
13 Crises That We All Must Face
George Monbiot · 4,912 views today · We face (at least) 13 major crises, some of which are immediate. It’s time for some hard thinking about how we confront them.
Sky Roosevelt-Morris: The Secret of Indigenous Resiliency
2 min · 2,946 views today · Activist Sky Roosevelt-Morris is of the Shawnee and White Mountain Apache Nations. She is a member of the Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. In...
The Other Way of Knowing
Lilian Na’ia Alessa · 2,209 views today · Western science and Indigenous worldviews are often seen as incompatible, with the Indigenous view usually being far less valued by society at large. But an inside look at...
Australian Government Promotes Crap with Adani Carmichael Coal Mine
2 min · 1,946 views today · The Australian Government just released this advert about the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine and it's surprisingly honest and informative. 6 WAYS YOU CAN HELP STOP CCRAP: 1...
15 Films Inspiring and Illuminating the 'New Story' Revolution
Tim Hjersted · 1,666 views today · Charles Eisenstein is one of the first people I heard talk about the "new story," synthesizing a diverse movement that has been emerging for the last several decades. When I go...
Andy Goes In - Working Undercover in a Factory Farm
10 min · 1,653 views today · He's a $10/hr farmhand, and his name isn't Andy. Andy Goes In is a compelling 10-minute documentary short about a Mercy For Animals undercover investigator. The vast majority...
DREAM: A Spoken Word Meditation For When Life Is Kicking Your Ass
4 min · 1,630 views today · If life is kicking your ass and the general un-coolness of everybody on planet erf is making you want to off yourself, TALK to someone: 800-273-8255 (national suicide...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 1,615 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Incredible Stories From 5 Inspirational Farms
12 min · 1,604 views today · In this series of 5 short films we visit five farms where incredible things sprout. From growing massive, 100-pound vegetables to giving injured animals another chance, these...
Mary Lyons Describes 'The We'
29 min · 1,561 views today · Beautiful. Listen to this. 
The Trouble With Equality: Feminism and the Forgotten Places of Power
Adebayo Akomolafe · 1,517 views today · "...Patriarchy is not the rule of men over women, it's the rule of the binary - the insistence that there really are sides, and that each is a pre-existing category unto...
Dear Activists, Maybe It's Time to Admit That We've Got It All Wrong
Mickey Z. · 1,433 views today · “The first step in the revolution is eye contact.” - Alicen Grey
All the News Is Fake!
3 min · 1,409 views today · Jonathan Pie finds nothing new in the idea of fake news.
How a White Supremacist Became a Civil Rights Activist
Araz Hachadourian · 1,085 views today · The story of a KKK leader’s transformation shows us that we need not live forever with the kind of violence we saw in Charleston this month.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
6 Strategies to Make Powerful Social Change-Starting With "Stay Woke"