I am currently driving some of my father-in-law’s things from Houston back to Arlington as we move into our new house this weekend. I drove until I was too tired to go further last night and I stayed in Philadelphia, MS. It struck me as I my GPS got me lost late at night on some surrounding country roads with the window down that I was driving over some of the same roads that Mickey Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman drove down 50 years ago this June before they were murdered. It was eery yet so powerful to be so near their presence yet so removed.
I could not help but think about the power of these students through giving their lives 50 years ago. Giving their lives away for the sake of others - reminds us of someone, huh?
There is still so much I learn from the history of SNCC around organizing. They refused to go through the normal institutional structures and went and found the folks who had passion and who were natural networkers. Sometimes the folks they found had titles and were natural networkers (Amzie Moore), but many times they were folks with no titles whatsoever (Fannie Lou Hamer), yet they build new, more flexible structures that were transformative. Oh, how the church, particularly the institutional church needs to learn this lesson now more than ever!
SNCC leaders were very strategic in where they went – they went where they could have the greatest impact and that is what directed their work. They went to both the hard places (like McComb) where they had to build from the ground up as well as the places where there was already networks in place and they could build on what was established. In every place they were fully present among the local people, but they were purposeful about being there and about their agenda. I saw in SNCC that presence without purposefulness was a waste of time. They didn't go places just to "bring greetings." They went to change lives, to change the world!
But the end was always the same: organizing was always about making change happen among those directly impacted by injustice. Organizing is all about – is only about – achieving concrete change. Anything less just isn’t organizing.
Anyway, I was so deeply struck and so deeply inspired tonight as I drove thinking about the heroes who have risked their lives before us and then reflecting on the organizing we are engaged in now. My prayer is that the organizing we are doing at GBCS will follow the example that Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman and the rest of SNCC set, and that first and foremost that we will see our organizing work result in concrete changes for people experiencing injustice.
Just wanted to share this, I hope it is encouraging. Now back to the road!