When he points us to people like this, we can only celebrate it and pass it on:
So many thanks to all who work for change
The white-haired woman in the picture above is one of my great heroes in the world. Her name is Heather Booth, she’s 77, and a board member at Third Act, which helped organize last Tuesday’s massive day of protest against the fossil-fueled banks, coordinating 102 demonstrations in 30 states and (see above) the District of Columbia, where the Rocking Chair Rebellion shut down four banks for the day.
When she was a college student in the 1960s, Booth went south to register voters as part of Freedom Summer. Back north, she spearheaded the formation of the Jane Collective, finding abortion services for women in the years before Roe. She founded the Midwest Academy, training generations of organizers, and helped start the Citizen Labor Energy Coaliton, an early effort to bring together environmentalists and workers. And a dozen other groups. When she was helping lead street theater outside Chase Bank in DC on Tuesday, maybe she flashed back to 1965, when she was arrested for protesting banks that supported South African apartheid. She’s done it all with good humor and good heart, and I am incredibly proud to know her.
But I was just as proud of a whole other group of people who took part on Tuesday—first-time protesters in their 60s and 70s and 80s who found a voice and began to speak out. There were a hundred residents of a retirement community in suburban Boston, and a hundred retirees in Seattle, and—the list is very long, and they’ve been writing me all week to say thanks, even though they’re the ones who did the work. Thanks for letting us stand up for what matters, thanks for giving us a way to make ourselves heard. Their thanks really should go to the remarkable team at Third Act, led by Anna Goldstein, who coordinated the day with aplomb and grace, but I was happy to take the kudos.
Because protest serves many purposes.
One is to put pressure on its targets. This takes time, usually: Chase and Citi and Wells-Fargo and Bank of America won’t change overnight, though it is worth remembering that the banks that Booth fought over apartheid did change, and indeed that apartheid vanished.
One is to shift the zeitgeist, the sense of what’s normal and natural and obvious. This can be slow work too, but when it happens it works magic: suddenly big and rapid change is possible. Here’s some Third Act types spending all night outside the DC banks: everyone who came by their vigil had to think a little harder about climate change. (I didn’t spend the night; it was a real honor to get to spend a little while with them, though)…
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