The Future of the Civil Rights Movement

Our good friend and true SuperSpade Jill Tubman from Jack and Jill Politics put up this awesome piece about the future of the Civil Rights Movement and how technology figures into the equation. I have posted the piece in its entirety and it is a must read.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Civil Rights Groups Wither – New Ones Taking Their Place

This Washington Post story Civil Rights Groups Seeing Gradual End of Their Era ends with this sentence though I’d like to start my response with it. It quotes E. Ethelbert Miller:

 

“What would happen if W.E.B. Du Bois or Marcus Garvey had a laptop?” Du Bois helped found the NAACP in 1909, and Garvey, a rival, started a back-to-Africa movement around the same time.

 

We are the answer to that question. In the vacuum of black leadership 40 years after Martin Luther King’s death, it’s his spiritual grandchildren that are carrying his mission forward now and not the civil rights groups he might have recognized. From the WaPo piece (emphasis mine):

 

In New York, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which helped shape the movement’s philosophy after adopting Mohandas K. Gandhi’s doctrine of nonviolent protest, is scarcely known outside Manhattan. CORE conceded that it now has about 10 percent of the 150,000 members it listed in the 1960s.

 

In Baltimore, the near-century-old NAACP, which tore down racial barriers with deft lawyering in the courts, recently cut a third of its administrative staff because of budget shortfalls. For decades, the NAACP asserted that it was the largest civil rights group, with about half a million dues-paying members, but one of its former presidents recently acknowledged that it has fewer than 300,000.

[…]

Charles Steele, president and chief executive of the SCLC, acknowledged that squabbling nearly doomed his organization. But, he said, the SCLC is coming back. The group says it has 150,000 members at more than 70 branches, but a 2004 analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed that only 730 members paid the $25 membership dues.

 

 

Let me break it down for y’all: Color of Change now has over 400,000 members — 25% more than the NAACP. Over 100,000 unique visitors now read this blog at Jack and Jill Politics each month (and growing fast), putting our audience soon at perhaps 10 times that of CORE. Let’s not even talk about the SCLC.

 

We — you reading this blog and me writing it — we are Civil Rights 2.0. WaPo (sort of) acknowledges, stating:

 

Today, radio deejays, Internet groups such as Color of Change.org and organizations such as the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights are orchestrating bus rides, marches and other actions once performed by civil rights groups.

[…]

When six black teenagers in Jena, La., were being prosecuted as adults last year in the beating of a white classmate, the local branch of the NAACP played a small role in defending their rights, but it was Color of Change.org that secured their release.

 

Activist Al Sharpton learned about the Jena incident on the radio long after it started. Radio talk-show host Michael Baisden ranted about Jena throughout his program and helped organize bus tours to the town.

 

Strangely, the article doesn’t mention the role of black bloggers in aiding Color of Change and in publicizing the Jena case. We kept the story alive and made sure the facts got reported right. A strange oversight indeed since the media covered our involvement pretty extensively at the time, e.g. Chicago Tribune – Blogs Help Drive Jena Protest and NPR – Bloggers A Force Behind Jena Protests.

 

But shoot, you and I know what time it is. What if Martin Luther King or Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers had had laptops and high speed internet access…? And blogs? Hmmm…

 

BTW — the WaPo also spelled Stokely’s name wrong “Stokly”. Dag — that ain’t right.

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