Katrina Commemoration – Part III: Push through the Barriers & Proceed to Act

This is the third and final installment of our Katrina Commemoration Series.

3. Proceed to Act

Now that we’ve critically observed our situations and surroundings and have decided on our purposes and plans for action, the final step is to ACT. Let’s use this as an opportunity to talk about the barriers to action that many people must overcome, with the idea being that if we figure out how to get past those, then we can act toward achieving our dreams and goals.

Here at The SuperSpade, we seek to provide tools for effective action. These tools include, data, information, knowledge, wisdom, opinions, connections, and perspectives. All of these things and more are part of what drives us to do anything. What is it that keeps us from doing something when we have everything we need to have and know everything we need to know? This has definitely happened to me more times than I’d like to admit. I’d be surprised if no one else has experienced this.

I argue that three major things stop us:

1. We can’t make a difference
A lack of confidence in ourselves or our cause often stifles our response to anything. For example, people may not have donations of food/water/clothes/money to Gulf Coast Hurricane survivors because you wondered, “what is my small contribution really gonna do?” Another example is people not voting because to them, their one vote will not make a difference. The problem with this thinking is that it makes the often improper assumption that you exist in a bubble, that you are the only person that does or thinks anything, that you are the single force for change in the situation. In short, it’s a selfish perspective.

It is true that lots of things, lots of movements, are dreamed up by a single person. Or are they? Looking a bit more critically, that is actually untrue pretty much all the time. Let’s look at some examples:

– Was Steve Biko the only person that felt strongly about Black consciousness? NO.
– Was the young Coleman Young the only person that felt that racial discrimination in the UAW as wrong? NO.
– Were you the only person that thought the disastrous response to the Gulf Coast Hurricanes was appalling, nearing criminal negligence? No.

In all of these cases, I’ve called out individual people that had their own personal opinion(s). What these people realized, and what we all must realize, is that yes, an individual acting as an individual will in many cases have only limited effect. But when individuals come together they can effect significant changes. How do they come together? By acknowledging that there are other people in this world, and opening themselves to the possibility that others can help them achieve their goals. To extend an idea [my new favorite movie] V for Vendetta, with enough people behind a symbol or an idea, that idea can transform into powerful action(s). Coming back home, it takes a certain level of humility and unselfishness to understand that we need to use each other as resources to achieve our common objectives. The way that our common objectives become collective objectives is through open communication. We need think critically for ourselves and to pay attention to one another.

2. If we fail then it’s all over
We tend to place more finality in perceived failure than we do in perceived success. Why is that? I don’t know, but I do know the following:

Both, in reality, are building blocks for the future.
Both, in reality, require critical re-evaluation of what was done/not done.
Both, in reality, are equally important to success in the future.

Even though I know the above, I still struggle with them. How can I/you get past these struggles? By interacting with one another and supporting and encouraging each other when we feel discouraged.

The truth is we need to reform our default pessimistic attitude that says that a) we’re going to fail inevitably, and b) when we fail then we must cease. Even if a) is true, b) never, ever is. You can always change. You can always adapt. You can always succeed. [This sounds like a Weekly Dream, but] The only reason we ultimately fail at these sorts of actions is because we make a decision to. Instead, let’s reform our attitude to say that if we experience a setback, we instead use it as an opportunity to put together our collective hearts and minds to achieve success, however we define it.

3. We’re scared
I know I’ve been beating the hell out of this lately, but that is because I feel so strongly about it. I’ll be brief here and simply stay that if we work with each other to increase our personal and collective confidence in ourselves, the collective, and the things we are committed to, we can overcome this crippling fear.

Please add to this list. Let us know what has kept you from doing things, and how you overcome these obstacles. In the near future, I’ll write on the different types of actions, but I first wanted to deal with what’s blocking us from moving forward.

Thank you for reading and supporting this series. I pray that this series does justice to the tragedies by allowing us to think about the hurricanes, think about ourselves, and think about our future.

One Love. One II.


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

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