Everybody Can Serve:
What MLK Can Teach Us About Grassroots Organization
By Sonja Morin, Communications Intern
Early this month, the Supreme Court's crucial decision in the June v. Russo case reaffirmed what has been echoed throughout the past several months: now is the paramount time in the fight against abortion and its ill consequences for women, the pre-born, and society as a whole. The fight is a worthy one, that when successful, will ensure the safety, protection, and empowerment of people everywhere. This fight can simultaneously seem imposing and insurmountable, with many not knowing where to start in their activism. How does one change hearts and culture when they are so firmly set on abortion?
In the past, we have reflected on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s activism. His example of compassion, firmness, and nonviolent demonstration led the civil rights movement by leaps and bounds during the twentieth century and beyond. Dr. King aimed to shape hearts and minds, because through it comes the change necessary to shift culture. Now, more than ever, does it seem appropriate to look back to his example, so we may move forward with daring for the sake of life and liberty. This and the following two posts will examine elements of his activism, to pinpoint strategies that are most helpful to the cause for life and women’s empowerment.
The first clear element of Dr. King’s activism was grassroots organization. This type of institution is one where its members are composed of the local community, and aim to improve the conditions of said community in regards to a particular issue. Individuals first come together out of shared concern over an issue. They decide to work together to actively spread the word about the issue, as well as promote and practice solutions for it. Individuals are united against issues that attack the humanity of a person or group, not because they are the same as the attacked persons, but because they share humanity. This shared status is reason enough to be angered by the injustice, and encourages the motivation to reverse the injustice.
Grassroots organization is incredibly effective by nature in its ability to identify and solve local issues. Dr. King worked within the communities to identify the issues applying to civil rights within each area, so that change could be demanded within those areas. In the same way, pro-life grassroots movements can find the issues within each community that need to be addressed through action or help. For example, if there is an area lacking resources for women facing unexpected pregnancies, resources could be pooled to ensure that these women feel secure and supported in their decision to choose life. If there is a law in a city that makes abortion even more unsafe than it already is, the community within that city can call for it to be repealed.
Grassroots organization also encourages the changing of hearts and minds like no other form of movement. Discrimination is the result of disordered, prejudiced thinking, which breaks relationships between people. Grassroots movements are based in communities, which are uniting forces. They rely on actions between persons, rather than large entities against each other. This interpersonal nature of their activism appeals directly to the heart. The community is able to witness the positive change the organization accomplishes, as well as witness the respect the organization gives to the dehumanized. Eventually, these actions will move the community to accept these dehumanized persons as the organization has. The impact of the grassroots movement grows, not because of large actions, but rather because of interpersonal foundation and efforts.
It is not to say that top-down organizations, such as political parties, cannot create or implement change. However, especially in situations where discrimination and dehumanization are involved, it is all too easy for such groups to generalize the situation. This generalization not only leads to incomplete solutions, but also expediencies that do not solve the root issues. Grassroots movements respond to these flaws by speaking to individual and smaller-community needs, thus allowing their solutions to work through and with people on an ever-growing scale. With each person’s contribution comes a newer and more diverse understanding of the situation, as well as a better way to help.
Dr. King’s utilization of grassroots organization caused the civil rights movement to reach countless hearts throughout the United States, and help improve conditions for African Americans in all spheres of life. If we participate in pro-life grassroots movements, like our own MCFL, we are entering into the same kind of culture-shifting, interpersonal work that he and many movements before undertook. It is through this type of organization that will create positive change for the pre-born and women we strive to defend every single day.
For those interested in taking part in grassroots efforts in Massachusetts, join MCFL today! We are a MA-based grassroots organization with chapters in all parts of the state. Get in contact with your chapter's leader here: MCFL Chapter List
For those already part of MCFL: Consider your own activism efforts. How are you currently contributing to the cause? In what ways could you improve or grow your efforts?