At the outset of the B4B working groups’ journey, we envisioned a set of trainings, analytical and strategizing tools, and shared bridging tenets that shape our practice (toolbox), politics, and culture. If we are successful, we will see, emerging from a broad-based collective effort, a new central component of our organizing. We will know what our organizations would look like, sound like, and feel like if we practiced bridging. We believe that it is time to critically interrogate what informs our organizing strategies, politics and cultures if we are to remain relevant and impactful in the twenty-first century. Bridging, we argue, should be part of a new “school of thought” that reimagines power building in ways that are aligned with what it will take to confront the forces we face and to align the values and aspirations of newer and older generations of Californians. In the end, we believe that bridging can support a shift in the culture and the balance of power.
In order to reorient our movements towards bridging, we need to say what it is and what it is not. First and foremost, it does not ask us to leave behind what makes us who we are, but rather, it asks us to consider who we want to become with others as a society? When we set off to fight for our rights, justice and values, who are we bringing with us and what will we give up if we continue to engage in an “us vs them” false binary? Finally, how do we strategize within our movements in ways that are compatible with both our visions of who we want to be and with our politics? What do we gain or lose if we don’t bridge?
Some key questions include:
- How do our models of organizing promote rigidity and incrementalism rather than adaptation and evolution?
- Do our frames of analysis and strategy development rely too heavily on an “us vs them” dichotomy? Are these tools centering the win over the transformation that’s needed?
- “Vision creates political space but organizing makes it a reality…” are we creating the trust and bridge building necessary to move us forward across our varied movement landscape?
- Do our mass mobilizations activate a bridging strategy that brings people into a deeper shared identity across differences and a shared strategic outlook? Are we defining an enduring, new collective “we”?
- As more and more community organizations are establishing and flexing their 501(c)(4) capacity to build power and influence elections, how is space created for bridging to achieve long-term systemic change?
There are already many examples of how the movement is reorienting itself (with new and old ideas) to encompass and center a broader set of strategies, wellness, and ancestral wisdom. As we face our current era of prolonged uncertainty and calamity, characterized by unprecedented technological and corporate overreach, climate crisis, a rise in white supremacy and authoritarian movements, and the debilitating effects of disinformation on our own relationships within movements and across our communities, let’s double down on the innovations and energy generated by mutual aid efforts, BLM, and Indigenous rights movements among many, many more efforts that are expanding the “We the People”. We hope to support that continual reinvention and evolution with notions and values of bridging and belonging.
Peace and power to the people!
Olivia Araiza, Othering and Belonging Institute
Gerald Lenoir, Othering and Belonging Institute
Pauline Hassan Burkey, PICO California
Apolonio Morales, CHIRLA
Tim Kornegay, LiveFree California
Ben McBride, Empower Initiative
Thumbnail art for this paper is by Tom Pritchard for Fine Acts.