Social Justice 101 Protesting + community organizing is as American as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. NC FIELD has curated Social Justice 101 to educate those seeking to organize + protest by providing information on historic protests and what made them successful.

In order to know where we're going, we have to know where we come from. Demonstrations both peaceful and violent are as American as apple pie. Americans are expressing public outrage for the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery, Iyanna Dior, and the countless other black bodies that have been sacrificed at the hands of American police. As millions of people all over the world pour into the streets of their cities and towns to protest the grotesque behaviors of racist law enforcement, we must remember how this movement started.

There is something to learn from our righteous predecessors in the civil rights movement, black power movement, united farmworkers movement, and women's suffrage movement. In Social Justice 101, we're recapping some of America's most impactful demonstrations of civil disobedience. The key takeaways for our current righteous brothers and sisters that are protesting now, are that civil disobedience requires strategy. Protesting is more than picketing in the streets, it is vital to have measurable outcomes for your cause. Take a look at how our predecessors creatively advocated for social change.

Keep scrolling because we've also included some health + safety information for combatting COVID-19 while protesting!

Women's Suffrage

Purpose: During dawn of the new century, beginning in the 1910's women were becoming more industrious. The purpose of this movement was the struggle for the right of women to vote and run for office.

Strategy: "The National Womens Party (NWP) effectively commanded the attention of politicians and the public through its aggressive agitation, relentless lobbying, clever publicity stunts, and creative examples of civil disobedience and nonviolent confrontation. Its tactics were versatile and imaginative, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources–including the British suffrage campaign, the American labor movement, and the temperance, antislavery, and early women's rights campaigns in the United States.

Traditional lobbying and petitioning were a mainstay of NWP members, but these activities were supplemented by other more public actions–including parades, pageants, street speaking, and demonstrations. The party eventually realized that it needed to escalate its pressure and adopt even more aggressive tactics. Most important among these was picketing the White House over many months, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of many suffragists.

The willingness of NWP pickets to be arrested, their campaign for recognition as political prisoners rather than as criminals, and their acts of civil disobedience in jail shocked the nation and brought attention and support to their cause. (Library of Congress). The Library of Congress has a full essay of detailed tactics used by the NWP that helped garner their success. Read the full essay here!

Outcomes: Ratification of the 19th amendment. Through constant agitation, the NWP effectively compelled President Wilson to support a federal woman suffrage amendment. Similar pressure on national and state legislators led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Taken into effect in 1920, women were now allowed to run for office and vote. However, this movement was an issue important for white women and it planted the seed for social justice for marginalized groups to grow in the next 40 years. Black and Brown people of color were not granted the right to vote until the 1960s, which isn't that long ago.

Sources: Women’s Suffrage: The Movement, Tactics and Techniques of the National Womans Party Suffrage Campaign

Black Power Movement x the Black Panther Party for Self Defense

Purpose:  Founded in October of 1966 in Oakland, California by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP) became the most famous black power organization of the late 1960s. Newton and Seale developed an intellectual orientation that viewed the black community as a colony exploited by white businessmen, the government, and the police. The liberation of oppressed peoples depended upon their gaining control of their own communities.

Strategy: Newton and Seale met in 1965 at Merritt College where they were exposed to a burgeoning wave of Black Nationalism, inspired in part by the Afro-American Association, established by Don Warden at the University of California, Berkeley in 1962. Within this group and on their own, they read and discussed an eclectic group of authors including political strategist Frantz Fanon, Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, the leader of Communist China, the sociologist E. Franklin Frazier, and the author James Baldwin. Inspired by these thinkers, Newton and Seale developed an intellectual orientation that viewed the black community as a colony exploited by white businessmen, the government, and the police.

The Panthers adopted two main programs. First, they organized armed patrols that followed the police around the black community. On these patrols they wore leather jackets and berets as uniforms to signify the military discipline of the Panthers as well as a new black power identity. The Panthers also engaged in community service work. They set up free breakfast programs, medical clinics, and after-school programs. These activities won the support of much of the black community.

The founding document of the Black Panther Party, the Ten-Point program, addressed the major issues facing urban black communities with demands for full employment and adequate housing. The final demand summarized the goals of the Party: “We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace.” The rules of the Black Panther Party were required to be known verbatim by heart and were to be applied in every aspect of a party member's life.

Outcome: Black empowerment. Within a short time groups such as SNCC and BPP gained momentum, and by the late 1960s the Black Power movement had made a definite mark on American culture and society.

The Black Power movement instilled a sense of racial pride and self-esteem in blacks. Blacks were told that it was up to them to improve their lives. An early step, in fact, was the replacement of the word "Negro" (a word associated with the years of SLAVERY) with "black."

The movement generated a number of positive developments. Probably the most noteworthy of these was its influence on black culture. For the first time, blacks in the United States were encouraged to acknowledge their African heritage. Colleges and universities established black studies programs and black studies departments. Blacks who had grown up believing that they were descended from a backwards people now found out that African culture was as rich and diverse as any other, and they were encouraged to take pride in that heritage. The Black Arts movement, seen by some as connected to the Black Power movement flourished in the 1960s and 1970s. Young black poets, authors, and visual artists found their voices and shared those voices with others. Unlike earlier black arts movements such as the Harlem Renaissance, the new movement primarily sought out a black audience.

The Black Power movement did not succeed in getting blacks to break away from white society and create a separate society. Nor did it help end discrimination or racism. It did, however, help provide some of the elements that were ultimately necessary for blacks and whites to gain a fuller understanding of each other.

Sources: Black Power Movement, Marxist.org - Ten Point Program, Rules of the BPP.

The United Farmworkers Movement

Purpose: Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta led the movement that advocated for a farmworkers union. They also created the latino civil rights movement that engaged latinos to join the famous civil rights and poor peoples movement.

Strategy: Led by Cesar Chavez, the union contributed a number of innovations to the art of social protest, including the most successful consumer boycott in the history of the United States. Chavez welcomed contributions from numerous ethnic and racial groups, men and women, young and old. For a time, the UFW was the realization of Martin Luther King Jr.’s beloved community—people from different backgrounds coming together to create a socially just world.

Chavez recruited a number of skilled organizers into CSO, none more persuasive than Gilbert Padilla, a former onion picker from Hanford, California. Padilla embraced Chavez’s vision for a more organized and politically active Mexican American community. Chavez also discovered a fiery, young single mother from Stockton, California, Dolores Huerta. Huerta channeled her father’s United Mine Workers background and her experience working among Filipino field workers in her mother’s restaurant and hotel business to build an effective strategy for organizing agricultural communities across racial lines. Together, this team moved CSO towards greater advocacy for agricultural workers in rural California. In 1959, Chavez accepted a grant from the Packinghouse Workers of America to study the effects of the bracero program—the bilateral U.S.-Mexican guest worker program begun in 1942—in Oxnard, California. When Chavez became national director of CSO, he assigned Padilla to the CSO service center in Stockton. To Chavez’s delight, Padilla succeeded in securing a grant, in 1961, from the Bishops’ Committee on Migratory Labor in Chicago to study housing conditions for local farm workers.

The UFW began with the usual strategies of strikes and marches, but had difficulty winning in the fields. In the early days of the strike, Chavez merged picket signs announcing “la huelga” (the strike) with Christian iconography, such as the Virgin de Guadalupe, that resonated with Mexican workers and inspired them to join the movement. Although controversial for many traditional union leaders, the strategy played well to a public who understood racial discrimination during the Civil Rights Movement underway in the South. This message was most strongly communicated in Chavez’s pilgrimage or peregrinación from Delano to Sacramento, in the spring of 1966. During the march, farm workers and their advocates carried religious symbols and sang Mexican protest songs in Spanish, while Chavez walked barefoot on highways that wound through farm worker communities. The pilgrimage gathered converts as it progressed and drew media attention to the farm worker struggle.

By mid-July, Huerta and the efficient New York City boycott house shifted to consumer action, or the “secondary boycott,” picketing stores throughout the city. Huerta organized against the larger supermarkets in the hopes that an agreement with them would lead to their competitors following suit. In the New York area, the A&P chain dominated the market, which made it the first target for the boycott. Huerta described her strategy in a letter to Delano headquarters: “In each of the five boroughs, we organized neighborhood coalitions of church, labor, liberal, and student groups. Then we began picketing A&P, the biggest chain in the city. For several months, we had picket lines on about 25 to 30 stores and turned thousands of shoppers away. A lot of the managers had come up through the unions and were very sympathetic to us.

Outcome: Increased awareness and support for immigrant laborers in the US. Problems in the organization notwithstanding, Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers delivered a degree of justice to farm workers and their families never before seen in California or the United States. Prior to the farm worker movement, unions used the boycott to create class solidarity by asking fellow laborers not to purchase a particular product linked to the unfair treatment of workers. Chavez and the UFW expanded the use of the boycott by appealing to an international public to participate on the grounds of achieving social justice rather than just labor solidarity. He attracted attention to the injustices of a farm labor system that employed mostly Mexican and Filipino laborers in hopes of capitalizing on a heightened civil rights consciousness in the nation. Indeed, at the height of the movement, Chavez counted Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and numerous civil rights leaders as allies and advocates for his cause. His long marches in the San Joaquin Valley, fasts for calm in California and Arizona, and his speeches in urban California built a connection between the conditions of farm laborers in the fields and the buying habits of consumers in the city. To the surprise of his critics, his tactics mostly succeeded in winning over the public. The success of the boycott paved the way for contracts and legislation that, prior to the 1960s, no one thought possible. The boycott continues to shape the labor actions of current farm worker groups such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, who have appealed to consumers to call for an additional “penny-per-pound” of tomatoes sold in supermarkets and used in restaurants, so that workers can monitor labor conditions on Florida farms.

Source: Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Movement

Coronavirus Safety

Do not underestimate how dangerous the virus is. At the time of this writing, it has killed more than 100,000 people in the United States. Although outdoor gatherings are lower risk than indoor gatherings, the larger the gatherings and the longer you are there, the higher the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19. Furthermore, situations where people are shouting or singing can spread more of the virus into the air. At a protest it is sometimes impossible to remain 6ft apart from other protestors.

To limit your exposure wear a face mask, gloves, and even cover your hair. For further protection, cover as much visible skin as possible without hindering your vision. Avoid touching your face. Avoid touching objects and surfaces that others have touched. Carry hand sanitizer and use it often, especially before or after touching anyone. Consider bringing enough to share with fellow protestors.

The good people at Black Lives Matter in Seattle, Washington, curated a master protest safety guide with information on how to protect yourself from COVID-19 during protests.

Social Justice 101 Kit curated by NC FIELD