We hear and learn of people with things to say, and we see how many people they sway. Their words are so meaningful, powerful, moving, that we have been swayed too. Many of us want to sway others like that; we want to be inspirational too.
Even years after they are spoken, those words ring true in our hearts and those leaders inspired millions of great acts by ordinary people and although those who followed may have only done a small part, or disagreed sometimes, they had something different from today’s unhappy protesters…
they worked together.
It was not reviewing or discussing or commenting or responding,
and that work was not summarizing or highlighting inspirational words, nor quoting them,
not necessarily even sharing them (in part or in all).
When someone like MLK Jr spoke, people actively listened, and followed. They did not interject, clamor to be seen and heard too, shouting from the rooftops his self-same message in half a million variations. They didn’t pick apart his message and distribute their opinions on the minutiae of every detail believing that it was a tangible contribution to the cause. They didn’t run out to write overly critical articles about how he wasn’t revolutionary enough and then sit back feeling accomplished because of it. They did not constantly question each other’s commitment or sincerity or critique others’ level of participation.
People still thought for themselves and did not just follow blindly either – they decided when and how to provide each other the support needed to orhcestrate a united front with solutions in hand to the specific issues that were problems in their lives. They held meetings and came to agreements about what to focus on and how to approach challenges together.
Those people were inspired and with that inspiration they built systems together to replace the ones that did not not serve them:
when hiring was not fair, protests where specific
– striking picket lines had signs reading “Don’t eat where they won’t hire you”
when bus segregation kept the front for whites only, protests were collaborative
-months of rideshares and carpools coordinated despite stress and strong adversity
when schools where divided, protests were leading by example
-parents registered their children and sent them to school even with a police escort
when people were openly mistreating other people, protests were non-violent
-others stood with the victims in solidarity and took the same treatment without resorting to retribution
when business reinforced discrimination, protests were unified
-organized boycotts denied business significant income and reputation
These actions drove monumental change, up to Amendments to the Constitution.
Rallies, songs, marches, and demonstrations get a lot of attention. Awareness alone is not enough.
Each of us is the one to take action – we can’t all call each other to action and then wonder why no one is acting.
Turning our own attention into action that drives meaningful change is our challenge. Take the next step, and the one after that.