- COMMUNITY ORGANIZING IS THE HEART AND SOUL OF DEMOCRACY.
Learning about your neighbors, your immediate surroundings is how to make a change. Knocking on Doors in February and October to drag people to the polls is incomplete organizing. Build your community. Learn the tools available to you to organize your neighborhood. Bring politics home. Learn what people want to see in their community. Listen to them. Knock doors. Make calls. Write letters. Or do something else to organize. This is the symbol that contends with abuse of power. It happens to improve electoral outcomes, but it is not about those first and foremost. It is a good unto itself.
- MOVEMENTS ARE KEY.
Elections matter, but movements always overwhelm everything. Movements are culture. They are where battles of ideas play out. They comprise organizations, and individuals, and everyone who works on them. Movements involve candidates, but they are not based on them. They make up various groups that work on different issues and may not always get along, but they try to find pivotal points of solidarity. Once you elect candidates, you have to hold them accountable. To know what constitutes accountability, you have to have people who track outcomes. To track outcomes, you have to have data people. There have to be people to plant trees and care for others and read books to kids. There have to be legal observers. There have to be people who accompany others to court and feed homeless people. There have to be communicators and organizers and canvassers and voter registrars and people talking to other people in order to curb power. There have to be artists and attorneys.
- MOVEMENTS ARE COMPLEX AND COME IN MANY FORMATS.
Sometimes, in the movement for democracy, you will disagree with people. Understand movements branch beyond political parties. There may be some lines of separation between parties, and that may matter. But not everyone you meet in the Resistance will even be part of a party or vote for everyone you vote for 100% of the time. Get used to it. I encourage solidarity as it is needed to uphold democracy. But I also uphold accountability and a commitment to always learning about others and unlearning the ugly habits that led to the dangerous rhetoric we hear in the United States.
- FIRMLY AND UNAPOLOGETICALLY DENOUNCE RACISM AND BIGOTRY.
The violent libel coming from some of our elected officials have drawn a line in the sand as have many other lines in the sand before this. It is worth mentioning: anti-oppression, pro-democracy movements in the United States have been led by others before Indivisible and will be led by others after us, and are often led by others now. We stand on the shoulders of giants. We fly in the drafts of history. If you respect those movements, you will commit to fighting racism. And if you’re not… If you are anti-black, anti-brown, anti-Muslim if you are anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-intersex, anti-Jew in the United States… if you are want to shackle women… if you want to rip apart families… you’re not part of the movement. You’re pushing for bigotry against equity, for ugliness against humanity. We fight for humanity.
- STAY INFORMED.
Pay attention. Know the nuances of precincts, of issues, of whispers. See how government entities and boards and churches and associations interact. Read from different sources. Smell the truth.
- KEEP UP MORALE.
Spiritualize your goals. Make them part of principle, then be principled. I am not saying to never fear. Fear happens. Fear is nothing to be ashamed of. Fear is human. Human is good. But be still before spreading fear, or scorn, or rage. Encourage others. Tell them to move their feet. Get them going. Get them organizing. Give them gifts. Invite them for tea. Build a community with them.
- BE CAUTIOUS.
Some people like to do bad things. Know your rights. Know your spaces. Listen to others and analyze your surroundings. Be careful at protests and voter registration/ Stay in the streets. Speak your mind. Write your mind. Film your mind. Protect yourself. Use encryption. Get used to taking care.
- STAY THOUGHTFUL.
Others are stressed. As are you. You may yell in a movement now and then. Try not to. I fail at this sometimes, but I really try not to.
- CONSIDER AND EMPATHIZE WITH OTHERS.
How on Earth else will you feel humanity otherwise? Others are trying to take care of themselves just like you. Be thoughtful before slandering. Call people if something they said upset you. Talk it out. Correction is a gift; be open to it. Correction stops bigotry and white supremacy.
- ART FIGHTS ABUSE.
Art speaks as nothing else can. It is an independent media. It is music. It is sculptures, poems, and speeches. It is giant balloons caricaturing others. It is sit-ins. It is about signs. Be artful. Support art. Support independent news. Support people who put in work.
- CARE FOR SELF.
Care for self as much as others. It is both pragmatic and moral. You matter, but you also are less effective all broken down. Rest. Refuel. Take nothing for granted, but remember that includes sleep and leadership development.
- KEEP LEARNING.
This will keep you fresh and wise. It combines the best part of youth with the best part of aging, which is also important to, remembering our humanity and the humanity in others. Learn from others; they think differently than you do by virtue of being someone else.
Change. Adapt. Grow. Do not fight the last war. Others will piggyback on you. The Indivisible movement, which I am so very proud to be a part of, was based on past experience.
Pardon if any kids are here, but we have kicked ass. Our actions made healthcare a key part of the election. We are proud to have worked with other organizations who have led the way on immigration, on criminal justice reform, on hurricane justice, right here in Harris County. They are leaders. They are heroes. They are the movement.
Opposition from our movements will learn from what we’ve done. They will make changes in their strategy. They will adjust. And so will we. We must consider data and communications and give our writers, mathematicians, and videographers time and space to work. We must take on emotional labor and love one another. And we must be fluid in our strategies.
- SHOW UP.
Beto people, especially the kids, listen to me on this one: what you did was incredible. It was incredible. Take on something, like you would in your diet or sleep schedule. Take on a challenge. Organize your neighborhoods so autocrats never rise again in our city, our state, our country. Make change wherever possible. Do not depend on power. Senatorial candidates may excite you. Well-known influencers may make you want to move your feet. Celebrities may bring you to the table. And you may knock a million doors because of your favorite musician. But it was never about them. It was never about those people. It may have been a symbol that helped, but it wasn’t about them. It was about us. It was about us taking interest in our communities. We need to all be activists, and organizers and heroes. We cannot afford for someone else to do it. It is time for us to make it happen.
Be power. Show up. We’re all counting on you.
Daniel J. Cohen
President, Indivisible Houston