I sign all my letters, my emails and blogs with these three words. So, it seems fitting to begin 2023 writing about it. What do I mean when I sign: Peace, Power, Love?
When you go to the polls in another week, thank and recognize the unsung and underappreciated heroes and heroines who are waiting there: the poll workers.
Are you afraid to take the next step to becoming a leader?
My former colleague, Lia Kaz, started as an intern for Spirit in Action’s project, We the People: Working Together. Lia wrote this blog when she moved on in 2017. It is such a great blog about learning to be an […]
A Different Way That Empowers As I and my colleagues at Piedmont Peace Project began to do workshops on classism and racism, white middle- and upper-class folks were often upset. They felt they were being accused of being “bad or […]
In 1993 I received a Public Policy Fellowship from Harvard University. The Vice President of Harvard, John Shattuck, knew me from an award I had received honoring unsung heroes from the Petra Foundation.
Talking about class and privilege is multi-layered and complicated.
I live in a nice house, drive a nice car, and have nice things – the way I always dreamed of living. It’s been a long struggle to get to this place.
I and others at the Piedmont Peace Project (PPP) began to see and talk openly about our struggles with poverty. Yet, much of our membership was so uncomfortable talking about it! This is what I called, “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” They felt ashamed to discuss our own poverty and would prefer we (or they) didn’t talk about it.
Talking about Classism. Who Are You and Where Do You Come From?
I started the Piedmont Peace Project (PPP) with the help of so many from my work in North Carolina, South Carolina and other places. The first foundation to support me was Chuck Shuford from the Youth Project who also became […]
I had always said I wanted to go back to North Carolina to fight the KKK, but I finally understood from my mentor in South Carolina, Septima Clark, that I couldn’t fight them. “That’s what they want and they will […]
I am often asked, “How did I become an organizer?” And how did I get to where I am today? As you shall see, many people were part of this journey. So I begin with the beginning, about 40 years […]
the role of women in the civil rights movement
One day last spring I looked out my window and saw a woman walking toward my house with two dogs. I assumed she thought our long driveway was a road and went outside to talk to her. I found out […]
Like most of you, I have found the last two years challenging, first dealing with ruinous and divisive party politics, then the contested presidential election and terrible insurrection of January 6th, and meanwhile the pandemic looming over everything. So I […]
When I first went to Massachusetts in the early 90s, some people asked me, “How can you live in the South with so many rednecks?” I was both shocked and horrified, not understanding what they meant by the term. More […]
Imagine if I could tell you there is an organizing model for Voter Registration and Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) that is 100 times more effective than social media, phone calls or mailings. I’m talking about Spirit in Action’s organizing model, “TAKE 10.” […]
Originally published in October 2021. When dollars are spent locally, they can be re-spent locally Did you know that locally-owned businesses circulate three times more money back into the local economy than chain stores do? A Shopping List – I […]
Originally published in September 2021 Small corner stores are often the only source of food for underserved communities. They may be the main source of groceries, yet they mainly stock processed foods that are high in calories, fat and salt. […]
Originally published in September 2021 There are approximately 150,000 farmworkers and their dependents in North Carolina each growing season, but this estimate is considered low. One of the groups Bethsaida and I visited this summer, AMEXCAN, is essential to the […]
Originally published in August 2021 How Kinston Teens Are Changing Their Community At age 14, Chris Suggs was already losing friends, schoolmates, and family to drug and gun violence. Coming from a community that is the most economically distressed in […]
Originally published in July 2021 “We are the armor bearers for Elizabeth City” The Faith & Victory Christian Church (FVCC) [https://www.fvccfamily.org] is a non-denominational church that Bethsaida Ruiz and I visited in June in Elizabeth City, NC. It truly acts […]
Originally published in July 2021 Since we left Asheville last week, my colleague, Bethsaida Ruiz, and I have made our way across North Carolina and are now in Elizabeth City at the top northeastern corner of the state. After visiting […]
Originally published in June 2021 Two weeks, 1,600 miles, 11 hotel stays, 13 organizations. This week, Bethsaida Ruiz (a Spirit in Action trainer) and I will be making a road trip to eastern North Carolina, meeting with folks who have […]
Originally published in May 2021. February a year ago, I was celebrating my 66th birthday and just got back from a great vacation in Florida with friends and family. Within a month, the pandemic hit us, but it took a […]
Originally published in May 2021. Listening to President Biden’s speech to Congress this week (4/28/2021), I was a little nervous. I was remembering when Republican Congressman Joe Wilson shockingly yelled out, “You lie!” at President Obama during his speech in […]
Activists are so busy doing. But they have to take the time to stop, rest and reflect. They have to learn how to say, “No.” This is not a luxury; it is the real work activists must do in order […]
Originally published in April 2021 Stacey Abrams and LaTosha Brown sure shook a lot of folks up. They followed Organizing 101: go to the people to get them to the polls, listen, make sure they understand the issues, be patient, […]
We Know What We Want, But How Do We Get There? Vision without action is “just pretend,” as a young activist told me. A vision works only if we create a plan for how to accomplish it – a road […]
Originally published in March 2021. The Biden/Harris administration has a lot going on. Dealing with the pandemic, the economy, climate change, infrastructure, cybersecurity, immigration, a $15 minimum wage….exactly what we call dealing with “complex change.” There are some lessons I […]
I was once asked to come speak at a university in Iowa where my book, Bridging the Class Divide, is taught. I agreed to come, but I asked the professor if they would also organize a visioning day for the […]
Originally published in 2020 Questions for Your Organization– Part 2 “No One Told Me!” Community organizations are frequently working in a reactive and defensive posture, holding back bad things from happening. The challenge is allowing enough time and space to […]
Originally published in 2020 Questions for Your Organization– Part 1 In times of economic turmoil, organizers and activists rarely have the time to think about how to take advantage of the opportunities before us and build on our organization’s strengths. […]
Originally published in 2020 It is with great hope that I write today. Hope for a better tomorrow and for a better future. Because of the work I do I get the privilege of seeing huge wins and changes happening […]
Like many people who grew up in poverty in this country, I was embarrassed and ashamed about my background. Not until after I had spent time in Nicaragua in the 1980s, where people understood poverty in a very different way, […]
Originally published in 2020 As we sit here in anticipation of an election that will change our history for generations to come, I feel both excited and afraid of what could happen. The divisiveness of our country, the fear of […]
Not all ways of working for change appeal to everyone. Some organizers disdain reform, which involves changing laws and policies. In many cases, reform means trying to protect current policies that serve the public. These are what Joanna Macy calls, […]
Whether or not we’re actively engaged with social justice work, most of us know what’s wrong with our world. Yet often we don’t know what we want instead. We just don’t want more of what we’re seeing every day on […]
This is a critical moment for the environmental movement. As we watch in horror the effects of climate change – the catastrophic droughts, floods and fires – grow in severity and frequency, our ability to galvanize a broad-based response has […]
I’ve been thinking a lot about toolboxes lately. Our local home improvement stores are busy with customers and their DIY home repairs. We are gardening more, painting more, reorganizing and unclogging. But we need more than screwdrivers and sanders. We […]
Originally posted in 2020 Food insecurity is particularly visible among immigrants, the same people who work so hard to supply food to our tables. Undocumented immigrants are barred from most government aid, so the CARES Act has done them little […]
Originally posted in 2020 As we watch the party conventions these past two weeks, we are thinking about how spirit, compassion and humanity – or the lack thereof – influence and shape us. Michelle Obama said last week: first, we […]
The November (2020) elections are about more than just who will win or lose. The anxiety and apprehension reportedly surrounding them is the latest example of the long-running dispute over voting rights, since key parts of the Voting Rights Act […]
As we look around us – a coronavirus spreading uncontrolled; hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires; federal troops provoking peaceful protesters in cities throughout the U.S.; unemployment rising and homelessness for many on the horizon – we see attacks coming from every […]
Over five years ago, Linda Stout published this blog. It is just as relevant and forward-thinking today, as is her message: We CAN and MUST sustain hope. Asheville, NC, September 2016 It’s really hard to have a positive outlook with […]
“The circle can grow, new voices will be included and alliances to advance a shared agenda may, and we hope, emerge,” said Gail Spotted Tail of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation at Spirit in Action’s network-building Education Circle of Change gathering […]
Of the many lessons we are learning from this pandemic, one is clear to me: we don’t listen to each other enough. We don’t listen to scientists or public health experts. We don’t listen to people we disagree with. We […]
Lots of folks are talking about needing national leadership that puts to rest the confusion we feel about what we should be doing during this pandemic. But all leadership is not created equal. Leadership is not about laws, rules and […]
In 2010 Linda Stout shared her personal vision with TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Fellowship Program. Run by the National Audubon Society, TogetherGreen was looking for leaders who wanted to learn across disciplines and work with others to achieve results and engage […]
In 2008, Linda Stout was planning her book, Collective Visioning. She saw a society driven by fear, disconnection and confronted with seemingly insurmountable problems: global warming, war, violence and a growing disparity between rich and poor. “The current popularity of […]
This is the third part of a three part series on storytelling and community organizing. I often tell people that while I grew up in poverty, I also grew up with wealth – a richness of many generations of my […]
This is the second part of a three-part series on storytelling and community organizing. One of the things we work on in the storytelling workshop is how to make the first line capture the attention of the audience and the […]
This is the first part of a three-part series on storytelling for community organizing. Indigenous communities have used stories for teaching and passing down information for thousands of years. Today, science is catching up and starting to understand the importance […]
Popular Education, Economic Justice and Civic Engagement “Let’s get on with technology as a way of connecting us to people and places we have never known and have never seen. But let us not give up the power of plain […]
Spring is upon us – and as we begin to enter this season of renewal and rebirth, I invite you to join Spirit in Action in celebrating beginnings every day. There are so many new openings and opportunities for uniting […]
The best part of getting older (I just celebrated my 61st birthday!) is that I get to see young leaders that have come through one of our trainings or networks, now taking the reins of both new and old national […]
On Saturday, March 29th, the students from Warren Wilson working with Spirit in Action’s We the People project went out into several trailer parks of Swannanoa, NC – to listen to the folks who lived there. It was a rainy […]
“Dozens of children at a Utah elementary school had their lunch trays snatched away from them before they could take a bite this week. Salt Lake City School District officials say the trays were taken away at Uintah Elementary School […]
For In These Times’ December 2013 cover feature, “Generation Hopeless?”, the magazine asked a number of politically savvy people, younger and older, to respond to an essay by 22-year-old Occupy activist Matthew Richards in which he grapples with what the […]