Political Activism is integral in community development, and community psychology.
Zami Tinashe Hyemingway
When looking at different approaches to community organizing, I feel that the best approach for me, is the Saul Allinsky, political activism approach, as described in the "A Way of Thinking About the History of Community Organizing" article. This approach is more aligned with my way of thinking because I don't believe in the myth of the "social worker savior," that I feel many social workers fall into. When I say the social worker savior, I mean the social worker who goes into this field because they "want to help people." I thoroughly believe that communities do not need me to come into them and help them or tell them how to better their neighborhoods or lives. I believe that people are able to make the best decisions for themselves, with the tools that they have. I feel that the political activism approach allows for me as an activist/social worker to work in a community I am already apart of, or to build a relationship with leaders in the community and ask them ways that I can support them in what they are currently doing already to address barriers within their community.
I also prefer the political activist approach because it emphasis the idea of praxis. It brings the community together to make a decision, create a plan of action, implement that action, and if it is successful find ways to replicate that to continue the victories, or re-evaluate what didn't work as a group, and come up with another plan of action. I believe that communities are already empowered and have agency, my job as an activists is to help point that out, and assist and support the community in ways in which they find helpful and appropriate. In the text "Community Psychology: Journeys in Global Context," we see how the difference between Community Psychology and traditional psychology is the approach that community psychology is ecological and believes in teaching or assisting individuals and communities in how to use their current resources to better their situations, where traditional psychology addresses the issues after they have become issues. Community Psychology is very similar to the political activism approach in my opinion. Community psychology focuses on the strengths of the community and individual and uses that to address the barriers that the system has created for that group or individual. Political activism does the same that community psychology does, identifies strengths that already exists, and uses those strengths to eliminate barriers whether they are political barriers on a more macro scale, or micro barriers that just exist within your home or community.
Political activism also looks at the history of the issue and how it currently is affecting people today. I feel when we are doing community development and organizing, we must look how things have unraveled historically, and how to stop them from continuing and prevent them from happening again. When looking at community psychology and how it really grew and flourished in the U.S. during the 60's, and how impactful it was on communities who were protesting the war. Political activism is a big part in the development of community psychology and giving power to communities that at times felt powerless.
The video "Open hands, or fists," also emphasizes the importance of political activism with community building, especially among youth. In the Civil Rights movement, the Neo-Nazi movement in the South, as well as the German Nazi Movement, during World War II, all had major political activism among youth, in order to build the community. In the Civil Rights movement, the political activism brought together several Black churches, high school students, other communities of color as well as white allies, to fight against racial discrimination. The march on Washington was one of the largest political activist events in the history of the United States, and was one of the largest community building events in the history as well.
Nelson, G., & Prilleltensky, I. (2010). Community psychology: In pursuit of liberation and well-being. Retrieved 9/14/2013 from https://myasucourses.asu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=/webapps/blackboard/execute/launcher?type=Course&id=_268806_1
Patel, E. (2009). "Open hands, or fists?" Eboo patel on people's worldview influence [Web]. Retrieved 9/13/2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyQbr3kIyIo&feature=player_embedded
Valocchi, S.(n.d.). A Way of Thinking about the History of Community Organizing. Department of Sociology, Trinity College, Hartford, Retrieved 9/14/2013 fromhttps://myasucourses.asu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=/webapps/blackboard/execute/launcher?type=Course&id=_268806_1