How Change Happens

Some think that “concrete” wins in policy and advocacy arenas are the only true ways to achieve lasting social change. Others believe that changing minds, hearts, and culture is all that matters. In reality, culture change and policy change go hand in hand.

Black Lives Matter_SSL

I was so impressed with this post by Caitlin Breedlove, campaign director for Standing on the Side of Love, that I thought it worth repeating on the Connector. As we gather Sunday to rededicate our congregational commitment to the Movement for Black Lives, this is an important message about how the way we make change in society is, itself, undergoing significant changes. I use you to read and discuss this as we movemforward in our work together.  —Jeff

Dear Friends,

Happy Friday! Some of you may have already seen A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice from the Movement for Black Lives. Here is a little bit about the “why” and “who” of this platform in their own words:

“In response to the sustained and increasingly visible violence against Black communities in the U.S. and globally, a collective of more than 50 organizations representing thousands of Black people from across the country have come together with renewed energy and purpose to articulate a common vision and agenda. We are a collective that centers and is rooted in Black communities, but we recognize we have a shared struggle with all oppressed people; collective liberation will be a product of all of our work.”

Many people have been asking to see a policy platform from this movement from the first moment when “Black Lives Matter” became a phrase common in households, media outlets, schools, streets, and faith communities across the United States. Some have wanted the movement to advise and instruct on what policy wins could truly make “Black Lives Matter” in the country. Many have asked why it has “taken so long” to see this platform.

At the heart of this debate is a question about how social change happens. Some think that “concrete” wins in policy and advocacy arenas are the only true ways to achieve lasting social change. This denies the fact that history shows policy wins usually occur only when culture change has shifted public opinion on issues. It obscures the fact that policy wins only matter when there are people willing to win them, defend them, and hold those in power accountable to them.

Others believe that changing minds, hearts, and culture is all that matters. This analysis forgets that concrete demands (of all kinds) give groups and movements specific goals to focus on, and benchmark wins to achieve.

In reality, culture change and policy change go hand in hand. However, when the work of movement is to build with hundreds of thousands of people you can put a ceiling on momentum, consciousness raising, and transformative hope by rushing to any one “quick fix” policy solution too soon. This policy platform reflects the reality that there is no one policy win that can instantly make Black lives matter in the US or around the world.

So, what does the platform ask of us? How can we, as Unitarian Universalists, engage it? We believe that every movement has the right to its own self-determination. The movement is led by those directly affected by injustice and it names its own needs, demands, and its own vision for transformation. The platform invites us to acknowledge that. It invites us to struggle with the fact that we might disagree with some parts of it. It invites us to be a steady support for The Movement for Black Lives nonetheless. It invites us as individuals, groups, and congregations to seek what parts of it speaks to our hearts, radiates with alignment in our own lives, and gives us ideas about what we can work on in our own communities. It gives us clarity on where the Movement for Black Lives stands on some of these policy issues. We hope that it informs and engages you in that spirit.

With appreciation,

Caitlin Breedlove
Campaign Director, Standing on the Side of Love


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