Going Public: An Organizer’s Guide to Citizen Action (Gecan)

Gecan takes us through the principles and practices necessary to make change on a local level. Those of us watching or even participating in the reaction to the recent stretch of police killings (Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice – the list, unfortunately, could go on), there is much to learn.

I was interested in the way Gecan described his insights into power – who has it, how it manifests itself, and how to develop it. I was also impressed, even amazed with his patience and persistence with what he calls “the relational culture.” I was struck by the connection he made between the robber barons of yesteryear and, though he wrote too early (1992) to use this term, the 1% of today. And I wholeheartedly agree with his call that some things (public schools?) must be disorganized before they can be organized again.

As a writer, Gecan is fairly, well, straightforward. There are moments of eloquence. In the middle of the narration of one event, he describes the crowd (143):

If all God’s children aren’t here tonight, most of them are represented, heads bowed in prayer. . . Scanning the crows is like looking at an exposed side of a mountain. There, in the rock face, the layers of sediment tell the story of the earth – a geological petition with the signatures of many millennia.

Otherwise, Gecan’s wisest writing move is a structural one. He provides an introduction to a strategy, or habit, and then provides evidence of it in action.

A thought provoking book.

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