There’s a little something for just about everybody in Si Kahn‘s delightful little memoir, Creative Community Organizing. In the space of a couple of hours of reading, you can gain a front-row seat on history from the vantage-point of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, one of the most militant elements in the civil rights struggle) to the UMWA (the Mineworkers Union) to the recent nationwide campaign to end immigrant family detention. You’ll learn about music and art and their central role in what Kahn calls “creative community organizing,” with folksong lyrics prefacing every chapter. About Si’s remarkable rabbi father and radical mother. And even about the meaning of the puzzling word “hod,” as in “hod carrier.” And you’ll understand why Si has come to be recognized nationwide as a premier community organizing expert. He is also, by the way, one of the country’s leading singer-songwriters.
Creative Community Organizing: A Guide for Rabble-Rousers, Activists, & Quiet Lovers of Justice by Si Kahn ★★★★★
Si is a 45-year veteran of organizing in the civil rights movement, the labor movement, and through the scrappy little nonprofit organization he founded 30 years ago to work for social and economic justice in the South and Southwest, Grassroots Leadership. He is also a writer and singer of folksongs, most of them on radical themes tied to his organizing work. Oh, and by the way: he’s a really nice guy.
This book, subtitled A Guide for Activists, Rabble-Rousers, and Quiet Lovers of Justice, can also be read as a primer on creative community organizing. The material is organized into chapters that correspond to the guiding principles of Si’s craft. And I can testify to the wisdom of those principles, having worked as a community organizer myself for several years in the 1970s — operating more from the seat of my pants rather than the solid experience Si has gained through a lifetime of organizing.
Note well: Si hasn’t just organized and run campaigns. He has helped win a number of notable victories over the years. He knows whereof he writes. And our country is much the stronger for Si’s tireless efforts on behalf of justice, equality, and freedom.
For related reading
If community organizing interests you, chances are you’ll also want to take a look at Top 10 nonfiction books about politics.
You might also be interested in America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century by Gabriel Thompson, reviewed at The man who trained Cesar Chavez in community organizing.
And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, on the Home Page.