The Real Work Starts The Day After the Women's March On Washington
“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made." Michelle Obama
Today my family and friends participated in the Ottawa Women's March on Washington with feelings of hope, pride in our Country and curiosity for the outcome of such activism. The Women's March was a global undertaking and here in Canada, 22 sister cities participated. Many of my friends from around the world were watching and some traveled to Washington by bus to participate in this historic moment.
As a social activist and organizer, I have been trained to strategize and carefully determine the most effective tactics to influence decision-makers to make a change. Protests, like the Women's March, are a common tactic used to mobilize the public and the organizers for this rally call have done a superb job. Motivating and mobilizing is a fundamental step in organizing; a gathering of your people in a moment in time - bus loads of them - to make a provocative statement.
The Pussy Hat Project is also a great example of a supporting tactic used in organizing. I personally love it. The hats are creative, bright, noticeable from distance and require positive action from people who otherwise cannot attend yet want to contribute in a unique way - through knitting. The Pussy Hats will become the visible symbol of solidarity for the Women's March. It will be pink awesomeness.
As organizers, we analyze tactics for their "sweet spot". The criteria: Is it strategic? Does it strengthen the organization? Does it develop leadership in individuals? Both the Women's March and the Pussy Hat Project fall short on the first and second criteria. However, organizing this event the day after the inauguration is a timely kick-off to many future initiatives. It is imperative that January 21st be leveraged as the perfect storm for change ahead.
Post-Women's March will require leadership and organizing expertise to answer: What is the cause? The greater purpose of the gathering? What are the personal narratives motivating individuals to attend? How does it fit into a broader strategy for change? And what change do we want to see? So, while it seems the Women's March on Washington is not organizing for a specific change at this point, is it still worthwhile? Hell, yes. After the results of the U.S. election, the public needs an outlet.
The lead up to the Women's March is an incredible feat by the organizers with impressive numbers expected in Washington DC and other major cities around the world. Yet, I am motivated to write this post for fear the energy put into this effort will fall flat, not unlike the Occupy Movement. This movement was an impressive widespread mobilization of discontented individuals - yet nothing changed.
The author and inspiration behind the Occupy Wall Street, Micah White, deemed the movement a "constructive failure" in his new book, The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution. The upside to his experiment - tens of thousands of people were willing to publicly express their dissatisfaction with the status quo. The downside - without a clearly defined objective the global effort failed to accomplish anything worthwhile. Change, deep-rooted change, is elusive, slippery and impossible to implement without a well-articulated goal and consolidated plan. And it takes years, sometimes a generation or two.
We can predict a few things for this Saturday; Trump will be rolling his eyes in the Oval Office while reluctantly watching the Women's March unfold. I envision Trump and his cronies acting out a scene from Mad Men; sipping scotch, chewing cigars and ogling women protesters. The rest of us, women, children, our sisters and our brothers, will march in solidarity wearing glorious hot pink pussy hats.
I believe the Women's March will be a pivotal day in American history. In order for it to have a lasting impact, community leaders will need to emerge to take advantage of the momentum, organize their constituency and articulate a strategy. As for tomorrow, cherish the moment and breath in the energy of change. The real work begins the day after.