5 Ways You Can Become a Movement Organizer in the Age of Trump

by Britten Cleveland

December 2, 2016

I can feel the tide of resistance already rising up against President-elect Donald Trump’s racist, climate-denying agenda. Can you?

People's Climate March in New York City

A participant in the People's Climate March shows off her message as she makes her way through the streets of New York City.

© Kate Davison / Greenpeace

Unprecedented resistance is growing. Hundreds of thousands of people, all concerned with protecting themselves and future generations from the worst effects of Trump’s presidency, are marching, chanting, and sitting in.

I see the movement against Trump as a tidal wave of potential energy waiting to be harnessed, chipping away the power structures that made a Trump presidency possible in the first place. The role of an organizer is to help harness the influx of people power to fuel the movement for the long haul. It’s the only way we will win and come out stronger on the other side.

So, what does that look like?

1. Organizing in the Trump era is about resilience and deep listening.

First and foremost, we need to love and protect one another. We must channel the influx of new activists into building local support systems for all of us, especially our friends and neighbors who are most directly targeted by Trump’s racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and bigotry.  

A good first step for anyone looking to get involved would be to talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about the cultural, economic, and political issues that affect them personally. From there, consider forming a local affinity group that can meet regularly to discuss common issues and solutions.

2. Meet in your living room or at the local coffee shop. Break bread, build relationships, have fun, and plan for action.

A neighborhood-level strategy can magnify and reinforce local knowledge and skills. Local and community groups are a critical part of the ecology that will sustain our movement for the long haul and carry us through uncertain times. We need a creative, broad-based network of participation. This network will create a resonant show of resistance against Trump’s agenda.

You can use Greenwire — Greenpeace’s online community of activists, volunteers, and organizers — to find other local groups or start your own.

3. Trust that those closest to the problem are also closest to the solution.

We know that marginalized communities, especially communities of color, bear the brunt of the consequences of our addiction to fossil fuels and suffer disproportionately from the impacts of climate change. If left unchecked, a Trump presidency could mean more pipelines, more fracking and drilling, more polluted land and water, and more climate change-fueled catastrophes.

Acknowledging groups and supporting actions led by communities on the frontline is the only way to ensure that we’re getting behind solutions that don’t further marginalize and threaten those most vulnerable.

There are fights happening across the country right now that you can get behind. Whether it’s the Movement for Black Lives, protecting Indigenous rights at Standing Rock, or challenging power plant and pipeline infrastructure in your own backyard, standing behind frontline communities is something you can do right now that will strengthen the movement against Trump for years.

4. Agitate. Educate. Organize. Escalate!

Trump has built his political rise on toxic, fringe ideas. Oil executives and fossil fuel lobbyists are set to shape Trump’s climate and energy policy. After promising to “drain the swamp,” his cabinet is now full of more billionaire lobbyists and corporate executives than any administration in history.

In the spirit of resistance, we must stand in the way of Trump and his corporate allies when they threaten our climate and communities by putting the profit of the fossil fuel industry above the needs of the American people. Our success depends on the strength of the networks we build, their willingness to take decisive action, and how we escalate from there.

Time and time again, we’ve seen the power of people to disrupt business as usual. Our collective strategy must convey a unified wall of resistance. Our climate and the health of our people depend on us standing in the way.

5. Always remember, the most powerful force on Earth is people power.

We urgently need to work together to strengthen the movement and build motivation to block the worst of Trump’s dangerous agenda. The more we build local knowledge and skills, follow the lead of those living on the front lines, and disrupt business as usual, the more effective and resilient we will be.

“Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals … and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must help time and realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Britten Cleveland

By Britten Cleveland

Britten is a Regional Organizer at Greenpeace USA. She works with activists across the country to end fossil fuel development on public lands and support a just transition to renewable energy.

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