Civil rights activist examines strategies to enact societal change

Media Credit: Lillian Bautista | Staff Photographer

Activist Shaun King speaks at the College Democrats kick-off event in Betts Theatre Thursday.

Activist and writer Shaun King headlined the College Democrats’ kick-off event at Betts Theatre Thursday with a discussion about how to incite societal change.

King, who has written about police shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement, organized his remarks into what he described as the four preconditions necessary to enact structural change: energized people, organized people, sophisticated plans and resources. He said any of the four conditions alone is insufficient to inspire change.

“What happens is we often get the room full of people, the street full of people, the march full of people and we think we’re about to change everything,” King said. “That’s the first thing you need but if that’s all you have – it’s definitely better than nothing but barely.”

King said proper organization involves leveraging the expertise that each member of a movement brings to the table, not just recording people’s phone numbers in a contact list.

“Here’s a better way to think of organized,” King said. “What does every person in the room do well? What gifts and skills do people in the room have and how am I able to empower the people in the room to do what they do well?”

King said societal injustices are systemic and caused by institutions that resist change – and can’t be delayed by a single person.

“We are experts in the problem but we are rarely experts in the solution,” King said. “A lot of times what happens is we are facing this enormous problem and we could write our solution on the back of the napkin, on the back of your hand.”

King said that even though it’s important to understand the problem, organizers also need to understand the magnitude of the issue. He said organized and energized people need to create plans that look “more like books and not napkins.”

King said the last thing needed to enact change is money.

“In this society – as idealistic as we are – and always be idealistic, it takes money to win campaigns,” King said. “If we’re more energized, more organized, have better plans – if we have those first three things together and come with money, we win.”

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