Organizing and Messaging Tips From Communities of Color

 Sarah J. Jackson

 Guest Blogger

 Reporting from Netroots Nation, Providence, RI

One of the amazing things about Netroots Nation is that it brings together folks from a large range of causes and identities to share their secrets to successful organizing. Panelists at “Salsa, Cumbia and Merengue: Connecting to the Different Beats of the Latino Electorate” and “Promoting People of Color in the Progressive Blogosphere,” had some great ideas on not only creating inclusive messaging but messaging that is effective across various communities.

1. Meet the People Where They Are

Tomás Garduño from New Mexico New Majority (NMNM) discussed the fact that while many Latinos don’t identify with the term “environmentalist,” their relationship to agriculture as a result of their labor position in the U.S. has led immigrants in New Mexico to feel a deep connection to the land. As a result organizations like NMNM have had great success in organizing Latino voters on issues of environmental health and safety by linking them to issues of labor and food justice.

The Lesson: We shouldn’t discount the possibility of effective organizing with groups who don’t align with our definitions. Our messages and organizing must be sensitive to the specific needs and experiences of the communities we hope to reach.

2. Be Issue Intersectional

According to Mobilize the Immigrant Vote California, the state’s first statewide, multiracial coalition using community organizing to empower immigrant voters from both the Asian and Latino communities, organizers should “promote constructive dialogue on potentially divisive issues, and support solidarity among marginalized groups.” Weather mobilizing for LGBT rights, immigrant rights, or women’s rights, community messaging must acknowledge the intersections of these issues. Check out the educational tools MIV uses to address LGBT and reproductive rights issues with their target community.

The Lesson: Issues don’t exist in a vacuum, for organizing and messaging to be effective we have to take into consideration the ways multiple issues effect our communities.

3. Ask the Question: “Who Did We Invite?”

According to David Reid, founder of the Black Kos, all organizations must ask themselves the question; “Who did we invite?” both online and off in order to be as inclusive as possible. Many organizations miss out on including diverse voices, and thus reaching a diverse electorate, because they don’t make an effort to reach out to historically marginalized groups. Reid says, “If your organization doesn’t  look like the demographics of America, you’re missing something.”

The Lesson: Well? Who did your organization invite? Who do you target your messaging to?

4. Invest in Youth

According to the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, “when youth have the knowledge, inspiration, and solutions they need to address the challenges they face, they can make a difference.” Youth bring fresh perspectives, technological know how, and generally don’t carry with them the cynicism that older organizers do. No matter the cause or movement, youth should be encouraged and trained to be future leaders. Check out some of the ways the Ella Baker Center is engaging youth.

The Lesson: They’ll still be around when we’re gone, let’s make all our spaces and tools youth friendly!

Published by sarahjjackson

I'm a scholar of communication studying race, gender, media, and social movements.

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