By Judithe Registre, Founder and podcast host
Social movements such as gender equality, social justice, and human rights are ongoing. For instance, consider the current resistance movement in the US; some might think this movement came as a result of the 2016 election, but it is a product of something much larger. When it comes to social justice issues, all efforts toward progress are interconnected and continue over extended periods. They transform to adapt to the changes of time. This is as true now in 2017 as it was in 1965 with the march across Selma, and it was as true then as it was for decades and centuries before. The human condition to desire progress is a constant within the process of evolution. With each problem solved, new challenges arise to address, and each period revisits an old problem in a different form with unique circumstances.
There is an intrinsic link between social movements and hope and optimism. Here at Inclusivus and on The Get InPowered Podcast, we believe effective and sustainable change and progress happen at the intersection of unlikely forces and issues which come together to create the perfect storm of progress. It’s almost impossible to find a cause that exists independently; black issues are women’s issues are LGBT issues. And all of these are human issues.
Social movements are fueled by optimism and hope
We often think about optimism as positive thinking, which to me is defined as thoughts void of action. But positivism and optimism grounded in hope are not passive thoughts void of action; they are states of action and momentum to move toward a desired goal. Social movements and social changes demand an extraordinary state of optimism to continue efforts and activities, because advancing social justice is so challenging and daunting. Social movements require not only our willingness to say that the current realities and conditions are inadequate, but also our wholehearted belief that they could be changed. This is an intrinsically hopeful belief, but also a state of being. We believe that we as human beings have what it takes to change realities, that we have the power within ourselves to transform communities. Without that trust, without that hope and optimism, social movements could never begin. Without that hope and optimism, progress would never be made. Communities do not get better, they are made better by people, individuals, leaders, and innovators. They are made better by you and me.
This means that social movements start within us. We have to believe in ourselves and the possibilities for what could be better and then work toward that belief. We have to harness this belief in ourselves and in others, the belief in our own power, and the belief that we are strong individually but even stronger together, collectively.
In this way, social movements rely entirely on human beings, the collective momentum of the power within us to envision and work toward the kind of world we want to exist in. Today, when everything is being digitized, social progress is one thing that still remains entirely reliant on human beings. Social movements are human movements through and through. They need soul. They need life. And those things come from us; we are the force for change, we are force for good, we are the force for progress. Yes, for all the hopelessness we may feel with the current state of things, the work of individuals just like you and me continues to transform realities. Throughout history, change has been nothing but the work of ordinary people.These are people you may or may not know. Somewhere, right now, there is someone working to change some aspect of the current reality.
Social movements are made possible by us and for us. We need to ensure that the elements we are adding to our movements are proper and positive and will help fuel the movement rather than hinder it. We cannot start movements out of hate or resentment. A movement built on hate and resentment will have a different outcome that is destructive and not transformative. Let us fuel our movements with positivity and trust, hope and optimism. This is the base of the hope that regenerates.
On last week’s episode of The Get InPowered Podcast, we spoke with Pastor Dexter Udell Nutall of the New Bethel Baptist Church to discuss the role of spirituality in social movements, particularly those affecting the lives of the African American communities. Because social movements rely so heavily on optimism and hope, for many people, this means that social movements rely heavily on spirituality.
Whatever source you tap into for hope and optimism, whether rooted in spiritual belief or something else, these attributes are necessary to create positive change, both on large and small scales. They are the basis on which we build not only social movements, but also institutions and businesses. The process of building anything is a process of building ourselves.
If we can foster hope and optimism within ourselves, we are continuously building sustainable movements that adapt and adjust to the current circumstances of the time. It is a continuous progress of evolution, it is not a project with an end date. Evolution is endless.