A radical activist handbook reinforces the adage that a picture is worth 1,000 words.
This celebration of what the book calls “transformative organizing” represents a collaboration between social activist Jobin-Leeds, the co-chair of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, and the AgitArte artistic collective, with the former providing the textual narrative and the latter responsible for the visual complement: posters, photographs, and other pieces of art that are generally more galvanizing than the prose. There occasionally seems to be a disconnect, as well, as a chapter on “The Fight for the Soul of Public Education” finds the narrative focusing on Chicago, “the epicenter of this battle,” while illustrations highlight activism in Puerto Rico (where AgitArte is co-based), California, and Arizona. In addition to public education, the book highlights gay, prison, immigration, economic, and environmental activism, but one of its main lessons is that issues and answers are never confined to such neat categorical boxes. Thus, marchers for immigration reform take inspiration from the civil rights freedom marchers and talk of “coming out” as “illegals” like their LGBT counterparts. Similarly, the chapter on the Occupy movement addresses issues of racial and gender underrepresentation, as activist Joel Olson proclaims, “the key to building the 99 percent is Left colorblindness, and the key to overcoming it is to put the struggles of communities of color at the center of this movement.” As the afterword by Antonia Darder summarizes, “the underlying problem must be understood as racism in a capitalist society.” Where the art is consistently and effectively provocative, much of the prose is perfunctory, featuring lots of quotes, guides, and summaries rather than more vivid storytelling that might prove more of a match for the art.
Organizers will find much of this helpful and instructive, but for lay readers, it preaches to the choir.