Spotlight on We Are Power (Todd Hasak-Lowy), Guest Post, & Excerpt, Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to spotlight We Are Power by Todd Hasak-Lowy.
Read on for more about Todd and his book, an guest post, & excerpt, plus an giveaway!
Meet Todd Hasak-Lowy!
Todd Hasak-Lowy is the author of several books for young readers, including the novels 33 Minutes and Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You. He is a professor in the department of liberal arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has a PhD from University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Evanston, Illinois, with his wife and two daughters. Visit his website at toddhasaklowy.com.
Meet We Are Power!
A stirring look at nonviolent activism, from American suffragists to Civil Rights to the Climate Change Movement
We Are Power brings to light the incredible individuals who have used nonviolent activism to change the world. The book explores questions such as what is nonviolent resistance and how does it work? In an age when armies are stronger than ever before, when guns seem to be everywhere, how can people confront their adversaries without resorting to violence themselves? Through key international movements as well as people such as Gandhi, Alice Paul, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Václav Havel, this book discusses the components of nonviolent resistance. It answers the question “Why nonviolence?” by showing how nonviolent movements have succeeded again and again in a variety of ways, in all sorts of places, and always in the face of overwhelming odds. The book includes endnotes, a bibliography, and an index.
~ Guest Post ~
4 Tips for a Teen Who Wants to Get Involved in Nonviolent Activism
By Todd Hasak-Lowy
- Figure out What You Really, Really, Really Care About
Being an activist is hard work. Making change in the world can take a long time. If you’re going to dedicate yourself to a cause, make sure it’s one that matters to you so much that you can’t believe is doesn’t matter to everyone else just as much. Don’t join a movement simply because it’s the one that’s popular at your school or in your community.
There are, unfortunately, no shortages of injustices out there, but at least that gives you some choices when it comes to getting involved. Gun control, immigrant rights, climate change, the list goes on and on. Ask yourself: which part of our broken world do I want to help fix?
Trust your answer and follow your passion.
- Know Your Truth
Being an activist means, obviously, doing something. But before you can act effectively, you must study your issue, study it seriously and deeply, so that you can tell the story of this injustice in order to convince others to support, and even join, your cause.
To commit to nonviolent activism is to commit to your truth, a truth that others will deny and dismiss. Greta Thunberg has emerged as the face of the climate change movement thanks not just to her school strikes, but to her potent speeches as well, when she appears before influential adults and speaks the truth of the climate crisis.
Combined with a readiness to act, the truth is a powerful force.
- Find Your People
Most nonviolent activists, even the ones whose movements eventually win historic victories, confront plenty of challenges, frustrations, and failures along the way. So how do they find the endurance to fight and fight and fight some more?
By not going it alone.
Chances are you’re passionate about a cause that others are already working to advance. There’s nothing wrong with starting a new club at your school to fight climate change. But it will be more effective to instead create a new hub of the Sunrise Movement, a national organization fighting for the Green New Deal that has chapters all across the country.
By teaming up with an existing organization, you’ll get resources, support, and advice, make a strong group stronger yet, and join a community whose members share the same passion as you.
- Study the History of Nonviolent Activism
Every nonviolent movement is unique, as it faces its own obstacles while struggling to undo a particular injustice. But all nonviolent activists draw from the same pool of (at last count, 198!) methods. Just as generals and soldiers study military history to prepare themselves for the next battle, all nonviolent activist should learn the history of nonviolence so they, too, can prevail in the next round of their fight.
Cesar Chavez, the leader of the farmworkers movement, chose to have his people march over 300 miles from Delano, California, to Sacramento after studying Gandhi’s Salt March in India. Greta Thunberg learned about the March For Our Lives students walking out of school and decided to start a school strike of her own.
The better you understand the remarkable history of nonviolent activism, the better you’ll be equipped to confront the next challenge awaiting your own movement. And the stories you’ll encounter as you do this—of children overturning segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, of women who couldn’t vote forcing an American President to give them the vote—will inspire you to believe that when it comes to changing the world, nothing is impossible.
If you’re looking for a place to start your reading, I happen to have something in mind. It’s a book I wrote myself.
We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World.
The Indian community in South Africa already held Mr. Gandhi in high esteem. For more than a decade he had advocated for them diligently, using any and all legal means to fight for them in the face of constant discrimination. Gandhi was already an activist combating injustice, but his weapon was colonial law, his field of battle the courts. He had fought this way because he believed his people could prove their worth as obedient, honorable subjects of the British Empire. This is why he studied law in London and why he dressed like his Western rulers.
But on September 11, 1906, Gandhi’s approach to his people’s struggle took a radical turn. He now saw that the laws themselves were the problem, because the white South Africans writing them viewed his people as unworthy of basic respect and equal rights. Cooperation suddenly seemed foolish, a surefire way to sabotage their collective future. Hence the lawyer’s advice to his community: Commit to civil disobedience. That is, intentionally break this unjust law as a form of protest against it.
To prove his conviction, he pledged to join them, even if it cost him his life.
Thousands of hands shot up in the air and the oath was taken. The crowd cheered in celebration, trans- forming Gandhi into a new kind of leader. The lawyer was casting off his old tools in order to fashion new ones: the tools of nonviolent resistance.
No two stories of nonviolent struggle are the same. Nevertheless, many of them share a few common features.
When oppressed by a stronger power—an immoral government, an invading force, a greedy boss—it might seem like the weaker party only has two choices.
The first: Submit. Give in, simply do what your oppressor wants, or more accurately, demands. Play by the unfair rules your oppressor put in place.
The second: Take up arms and fight back violently.
Neither of these are terribly appealing. If we give in, we accept our weakness and the oppression that comes with it. We play a game designed with our defeat in mind. But if we fight back violently, we’re still likely to lose, otherwise we wouldn’t call our opponent the stronger power to begin with. And this loss is almost certain to come at a terribly painful cost, because once you resort to violence you give your powerful adversary permission to do the same.
This bind, this choice between two uninviting strategies, was the source of the “impenetrable wall” that Gandhi confronted with such dismay when he first read the Black Act. But then he discovered, quite spontaneously, a third way.
The third way is nonviolent resistance.
The third way rejects violence without accepting submission. Even more important, it rejects the idea that the oppressed lack power. The third way embraces the need for conflict and the belief that the coming battle can be won. The third way looks out from the stage of the Empire Theatre, sees three thousand “weak” men united in their oath not to obey and their readiness to sacrifice their freedom instead, and realizes that together they possess enormous power.
The oath to choose jail over registering was spontaneous, and soon Gandhi was trying to decide how to refer to what they had all vowed to do. The name he first used, one he hadn’t invented, was the English phrase “passive resistance.” But Gandhi disliked this term, for at least three reasons. First, “passive” was all wrong. There was nothing passive about acting against an unjust government, even if this action wasn’t violent. After all, by mid-November of 1907, four months after the ordinance went into effect, Indians in South Africa were standing trial and going to jail. Intentionally, and actively.
Second, Gandhi preferred a term from an Indian language, since it was important to him that everyone in this struggle “respect our own language, speak it well and use in it as few foreign words as possible.” This was a showdown between Indians and white South Africans, in which the Indians sought to demonstrate that they were equals. If they needed someone else’s language to do this, what chance did they have?
Third, Gandhi believed that even a passive resister could resist out of hatred, could resist while experiencing internal violence. Gandhi, growing more religious throughout this period and seeing this new path as not just a political strategy but as an entire way of life, needed a different name for their strategy, a name expressing the positive features of this resistance. Lacking any great ideas himself, he placed a contest in Indian Opinion, the newspaper he had begun publishing in 1903. The contest was announced in the last issue of 1907, which was printed the very day that Gandhi himself was tried and convicted for failing to register. The winner would get ten copies of a pamphlet on the Black Act.
In early January a winner was chosen, though the winning entry required some modification. The final term settled on was “satyagraha.” “Satya” is Sanskrit for truth, while “agraha” means holding firmly. Sometimes the term is translated as “truth force” or “soul force.” Noting the close ties between truth and love, Gandhi once said satyagraha is the force “born of Truth and Love or nonviolence.”
The rest of Gandhi’s life would be devoted to satyagraha, to discovering how it might be used, to learning just how strong it could be. Indeed, he called his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with the Truth.
We Are Power
By: Todd Hasak Lowy
Publisher: Abrams BYR
Release Date: April 7th, 2020
One winner will receive a copy of We Are Power (Todd Hasak-Lowy) ~ (US Only)
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