Developing the Language for Strategic Activism

Written by: Savion Harris [Senior, Aurora Central High School]

There are a lot of changes occurring in Denver, CO. Families are being displaced by CDOT, gender rights, planned parenthood funding, education funding, clean air, etc. Some of these issues impact us in a profound way, which cause us to rally around a particular issue. We fight, we raise our voices, and we plan, but what is everyone saying? Does the issue resonate with everyone that’s rallied together? There’s importance in being COHESIVE, meaning that a group is fighting, speaking, and contributing in similar fashion.

What is community organizing?


According to Heidi Swarts, “Community organizing  is the process of mobilizing people in the same geographic area to advocate for themselves in enduring organizations.” Swarts then asserts, “While affluent communities organize also, the term generally refers to organizing residents of poor and working-class communities into lasting organizations to gain power.” The keywords that I want to emphasize is “lasting organizations” “gain power” “poor” and “working class.” Lasting organizations can’t be authentic if they don't represent the poor and working class to leverage the power to other underrepresented community members. The goal is to provide the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea (GES) community the tools to community organize effectively. By effective, I envision community members receiving quality training on maximizing spaces to create change for the betterment for their community. Often, situations in our community doesn't affect us until we realize how it affects us. We must choose to understand that standing idly waiting for the hard-pressed issues to end will prolong the opportunity for the people to mobilize themselves to advocate for positive change.

Why is language important in community organizing?

Language, is the essence of which we communicate to achieve a bigger outcome in community organizing. There is strength in numbers but what are we articulating? For example, the social movement, Black Lives Matter, rallies to protest against discrimination and hate crimes that are often pinpointed to Blacks, which highlights overall minority oppression from all levels that should cease. In order to develop a lasting organization, organizers had to identify these three questions; What is the problem? How does it affect me and my community? How can we change? The point to consider is organizing would only last if there is a concrete foundation to educate and not perpetuate stigmas and societal marginalization. There’s an ever present urgency to be strategic  about communal issues and moving towards change. “The pen is mightier than the sword” is not a new concept but it is a highly effective one. Rather than using hostility as our method of relieving oppression, why not use more respectable and viable options? Furthermore, in the spirit of social change in the 21st century, organizing is mobilizing to the extent of reaching and teaching the community to create change.

How do we use language in community organizing?

We use language in community organizing after being educated about the issue oppressing the community. Everyone that wants to organize shouldn’t depend on the lead organizer to be educated. We all must inform ourselves in order to break barriers that have encased minorities and limited the great feats they have the potential to access knowledge and create profound change. My earnest expectation as a youth leader is to see our community united with the will to conquer all barriers. We must not be distracted by the surrounding calamity, but focus our energy on building authentic relationships to build a coalition of radical leaders that are inspired to change the political world and spaces.