An inability, or lack of desire, to coordinate

It's no surprise that Trayvon Martin's murder sparked outrage and action in Greensboro, as it has around the world. Yet from my vantage point receiving one press release after the other, it's difficult not to wonder why the groups of people organizing protests and marches on the issue seem incapable or uninterested in coordinating their efforts.

Just this morning, I read a press release from the UNCG NAACP calling for a related march on April 11 and another from RockStar Church Inc. announcing plans for prayer vigils on the issue every week this month (April 5, 12, 19 and 26). As part of the demonstration against the new Guilford County Jail on April 12, there will be a Trayvon Martin youth contingent. On top of that, there is an open mic event about the issue tomorrow.

Greensboro has already seen back-to-back protests related to the case, first with an action at the post office called by DJs from 102 JAMZ and then a rally and march at Governmental Plaza the next day. I am terrible at estimating crowd sizes, but both events drew hundreds of supporters. A week later, an event about Martin at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum reportedly turned out hundreds as well.

There's nothing wrong with having separate or multiple events that highlight the same issues, in fact it may be more effective for keeping the conversation about the case — and everything it brings up — going. It makes sense that an open mic event, which is a significantly different format, would exist as a stand alone event. But it seems like two things are happening here.

First, some of the organizations calling for protests appear to have conflicting interests and do not want to work together. I am not surprised that a prayer vigil beginning at 6:30 a.m. doesn't appeal to the people organizing a demonstration against the new jail. Even though there were brief religious references at the march at Governmental Plaza, where the two largest banners were from the International Socialist Organization, I am not surprised that an explicitly religious group wants to go it alone.

Similarly, the ICRC&M and 102 JAMZ have their own agenda and names to promote, their own style of organizing to offer. I am not questioning whether anyone is genuinely taking action around the case — my perception is that all parties involved are — but it seems that self interest is also playing a decisive role in keeping these actions separate.

Secondly, there appears to be a huge lack of communication. Why not have the UNCG NAACP march on April 12 (a day after it is planned) beginning with a separate rally and turn into a feeder march to the new jail in coordination with the Trayvon Martin contingent? Do these groups even know about each other's events? Could the post office action have been scheduled for the end of the march at Government Plaza instead of two similar events a mere 25 hours apart?

In my experience doing this type of work in Greensboro and talking to people regularly who are involved in it, social justice work (or however people want to refer to it) happens in silos here. There is amazing and important organizing happening, but even groups working on the exact same issue seem unable to coalesce and cooperate. There are certainly legitimate reasons for different groups to approach the same issue differently, but when every single group appears to be trying to fight it alone, it's hard to imagine their isn't a more effective approach.

I'd love to hear more people's thoughts on this issue. It's possible that I am totally off the mark, but I've heard this complaint from people working on immigration, homelessness, get out the vote campaigns and so many other issues. The local efforts against Amendment One seem to be a notable exception, but maybe people on the grassroots level of the issue see it differently. What do you think?

1 comment:

Eric Ginsburg said...

Turns out I missed another event, also tomorrow night which will also be a prayer-oriented event. Details are available here: