Since it’s break and I’m finally done with all the stress of the season, I’ve found time to do a little reading, a little crafting, and a little writing.
Right now I’m reading The Revolution Will Not be Funded, a book put together by INCITE!. The book is about movements moving beyond the nonprofit industry complex [a system of foundations, grants, and non-profit organizations]. Although I’m probably still only in the first 30 pages or so, words keep popping out at me.
“…Allen documents how the Ford Foundation’s support of certain Black civil rights and Black Power organizations such as CORE actually helped shift the movement’s emphasis—through the recruitment of key movement leaders—from liberation to Black capitalism. Similarly, Madonna Thunder Hawk describes how the offer of well-paying jobs in the non-profit sector seduced many Native activists into diverting their energy from organizing to social service delivery and program development. As Joan Roefels notes in Foundations and Public Policy (2003), large private foundations tend to fund racial justice organizations that focus on policy and legal reform, a strategy that effectively redirected activist efforts from radical change to social reform. It also helped to professionalize these movements, since only those with advanced degrees could do this kind of work, thus minimizing the importance of mass-based grassroots organizing.” (page 7).
This is the truth delivered to us in print.
Another line on the next page jumped out at me as well, particularly since Leadership Development is the sole answer for including—dare I say, allowing— young people to be a part of the Disability Rights Movement:
“Another strategy developed to sublimate [transform] revolutionary movements into reformist ones was “leadership training” both domestically and internationally, whereby potential organizers were recruited to develop skills to become policy makers and bureaucrats [government officials] instead of organizers.”
After reading that, I had to put the book down because thoughts about my own community were distracting me from the text. INCITE! describes this topic as the “elephant in the room” [something that is really obvious but no one wants to talk about.] For our community, this is the elephant in our bed. Between the sheets. Sleeping next to us. We’re THAT connected to the non-profit industry and no one really wants to talk or think about it.
It seems like we as the disability community as a whole, have not even begun to think about a movement outside of the non-profit complex. Of course, it’s true, we are a new movement— if you consider the movement to have started in the 60s, then it is no more than 50 years old or so. I recently heard someone refer our current state of the movement as the “first wave”, an analogy to the early part of the feminist movement (I thought that was brillant and if so, consider myself a second-waver).
Still, we can not let our young age as a movement be an excuse. If we do so, we are preventing ourselves from our true revolutionary potential. We HAVE to envision a world for us that is not dependent on the non-profit industry complex; afterall, our relationship with the non-profit industry will determine the heart, the temper, and the beat of our movement. This will determine our future and our direction.
What does power mean to us as a community?
Can you envision a large community meeting that isn’t sponsored by WAL-MART? (yes, WAL-freaking-MART)
How can we create systemic change instead of focusing on individual advocacy and social service delivery?
How can we make it even broader than systemic program change and envision a world where disability is interpreted by our own people and by society differently than it does now? What are some strategies to incorporate a model of pride and identity into this definition?
Can we actively and militantly include young people and as Naomi has said before, create an expectation of community instead of individual gain?
What can a movement that is not dependent on the non-profit industry/social service delivery/individual-based philosophy even look like?
Have we even allowed ourselves to imagine this yet?