Thoughts on the Jena 6 Mobilization and New Movements

I was thrilled by the tremendous mobilization surrounding the now infamous Jena 6 case in Louisiana.  Credit must go to radio personalities such as Michael Baisden and Tom Joyner, as well as Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, in addition to the work of the NAACP, for their successful efforts to call attention to the travesty of justice that has been unfolding before us.

In the aftermath of the mobilization, many people, in near ecstasy, proclaimed the birth of a new, energized and in-the- streets Black Freedom Movement.  My response:  maybe.


Every great mass upsurge is the product of critical incidents, fury, hope (for success) and years of determined organizing.  In that sense, a movement upsurge is not just a mobilization.  It is a chain of eruptions of varying sizes that ultimately join together and shift the thinking and actions of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.

This organizing takes – no surprise here – organizations, that is, institutions of different shapes and sizes committed to a long-term project of change.  These organizations may be religious, secular, revolutionary, single-issue, former gangs, and/or women’s clubs, but whatever they are (or whatever combination), they become a center for new thought and new action.


The history of the Black Freedom Movement has seen countless pro-justice organizations and these organizations have been critical to the continuation of our struggle and the building of links between generations.  For this reason, progressive Black organizations have, since the days of slavery, been targeted by the established order as potentially incendiary, and always troubling and disruptive.


Movement upsurges, therefore, cannot be reduced to a mobilization, a specific rebellion (or riot), or to collective anger.  The anger we feel, for example, in the case of the Jena 6, must be channeled into a long-term fight for justice.  This means that we not only desperately need progressive Black grassroots organizations composed of people who are willing to devote time to the struggle; indeed, there is no short-cut to victory without them.


In that light, while we should be inspired by the Jena 6 mobilization and the thousands of people who sacrificed their time to travel and demonstrate against injustice, we cannot let that inspiration delude us into hoping for miracles.  If we want miracles, we need to make them happen and that means the reconstruction of organizations of grassroots volunteers, committed to social change and freedom.  Organizing cannot be restricted to a j-o-b that someone secures; it must be a mission for one’s life.  This is the true legacy of our freedom struggle and one we must neither abandon nor ignore.



[BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a labor and international writer and activist, a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.]


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