The Social Movement & the Civic Moment

Photo from Faith Matters Network

Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner who left Colin Kapernick out to dry, just made a video where he apologized for his past silence and said the words, “Black Lives Matter.”

Jeff Bezos just said it too, and posted this response to an angry customer who didn’t like it: “‘Black lives matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter. Black lives matter speaks to racism and the disproportionate risk that Black people face in our law enforcement and justice system.”

Michael Jordan, who famously declared himself simply a basketball player and not an activist, just gave $100 million to racial justice organizations and wrote: “Black lives matter. This isn’t a controversial statement.”

I was thinking of all of these people during my recent conversation with the Reverend Jen Bailey, Founder of the Faith Matters Network and an alum of IFYC. None of these people were in the streets over the last ten years when Black Lives Matter was building. They weren’t even part of the conversation.

Neither, for that matter, was I.

A social movement did what a social movement does – it pointed out things most people didn’t want to see, it said things other people thought were too rude, it kept pushing, pushing, pushing for years (it’s not wrong to say decades, even centuries) until it WON!

We have very clearly entered a new phase. Black lives matter is no longer a controversial statement. Even the man who wouldn’t publicly get involved in an election against Jesse Helms, one of the most famous racists of the past fifty years because “Republicans buy shoes too”, recognizes that. So do people across the nation who generally want to do good but don’t really like controversy.

As I was expressing my contrition about my own reticence on the issue until quite recently, Jen referenced a model that’s deeply influenced her life: the ecosystem of social change model, created by lawyer/activist/author Deepa Iyer. The key insight is that there are many different roles in social change, from disrupter to healer to weaver.

Getting to a better world takes all types.

Jen’s key insight: The people in the Black Lives Matter movement who are doing the frontline responding and the disrupting did their work so well that they are changing the space entirely. Now it’s time for those of us who play other roles to honor their work by doing our work well.

Here’s another way of saying that: the vanguard of the social movement has created something of a civic moment. Social movements are very good at turning people out into the streets to say the current order is indefensible. People who lean towards the civic have a different temperament, and different skills. We share many of the goals of the disrupters and frontline responders but we are a little afraid of the divisiveness and controversy that comes with being on the vanguard of a social movement. We are leaders of schools and founders of nonprofits and directors of foundations. We are good at building programs, organizations and institutions. We know about staff management and strategic plans.

The slogans in the street – reform/defund the police, a quality education for all, access to health care for the many not just the few – we civic types can help with the institutions that make those ideas reality, this time towards a new order with racial justice at the center. 

Jen pointed out that she has personally cycled through a variety of the roles in the social change ecosystem over the past fifteen years. Back in 2011, she was much more of a disrupter.

“Remember?” she said, and I caught the twinkle in her eye over Zoom.

“How could I forget,” I responded. “You were disrupting the organization that I lead – while you were on staff and drawing a paycheck!”

That led to a good laugh.

Jen’s work as a disrupter lasted for some years, and then she cycled into the role of being a healer, helping develop a powerful new field called ‘movement chaplaincy’.

And now, at 32 and close to giving birth, she jokingly calls herself an ‘auntie’. In the lexicon of the social change ecosystem model, she’s a guide for many, especially young female activists.

She’s more a storyteller, a visionary, and a builder than a disrupter or a first responder. 

“I spend more time doing budgets for Faith Matters Network than I do going to protests,” she told a group of IFYC alum.

And later, she shared with me the wisdom behind that statement: “I recognize that it’s not my time to lead from the front. The young people in Generation Z are leading beautifully in this season. I see my evolving role as someone who can share what I know, help them get the material resources they need, and then get out of the way.”   

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, joined in lighting the menorah. Emhoff is the first Jewish spouse of an American vice president.
Bhattar created an art piece to honor all those that choose to love themselves and work to collectively dismantle our culture of shame around HIV/AIDS, especially in higher education and religious/spiritual communities. 
The authors write that they learned many wonderful things growing up in Southern Evangelical churches, "such as centering Christ and serving others." But in conversations around sexuality and HIV/AIDS, "We were also taught things we now know are tremendously grounded in hate and fear."
As we open the application for the 2022 cohort of IFYC alumni Interfaith Innovation fellows, we speak with 2021 fellow Pritpal Kaur, the former Education Director at the Sikh Coalition and an advocate for increasing religious literacy in the classroom.
Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were all convicted Wednesday (Nov. 24) of murder after jurors deliberated for about 10 hours.
A new book, “Praying to the West: How Muslims Shaped the Americas,” by Omar Mouallem, may meet the needs of a new generation of Muslims.
For Christians, Advent is a period of preparation for Christmas and beyond. The Rev. Thomas J. Reese writes that perhaps fasting during Advent can be the Christian response to the consumerism of the season.
Interfaith holiday events can be a great way to show respect for others and make everyone feel included. Need some tips? Our IFYC colleagues have you covered.
Studies show that American religious diversity will only continue to grow and that Thanksgiving dinners of the future will continue to reflect this “potluck nation.” We all bring something special to the table.
IFYC staff members share what they're listening to, watching and reading that inspires an attitude for gratitude this season.
How can you support Native Americans and understand important issues and terminology? This Baylor University sophomore is here to help.
Aided by an international team of artists, author Salma Hasan Ali turned her viral blog about Ramadan into a new handmade book.
A symposium hosted by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago focused on the intersection of Indian boarding schools and theological education as well as efforts to uncover truth and bring healing.
This week's top 10 includes stories on faith and meatpacking in the Midwest, religion in the metaverse and an interfaith call for peace in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The two lawmakers appeared at "Race, Religion and the Assault on Voting Rights," the inaugural event at Georgetown University's Center on Faith and Justice.
Religion & Politics journal interviews the author of a new book on the impact of growing religious diversity in the American Midwest.
Five interfaith leaders share readings and resources that inspire them, give them hope and offer solace in turbulent times.
“There is a huge gap between the religiosity of clinicians and the religiosity of the clients,” mental health counselor Shivam Gosai says. “This gap has always been there. Mental health professionals are not always reflective of the people we are serving.”
Part of what I found so beautiful about our conversation is that we both agree that American pluralism is not simply a pragmatic solution to the challenge of a diverse democracy, it is also a kind of sacred trust that God intends us to steward.
The author, a Hindu and a Sikh, notes that faith plays a subtle yet powerful role in the show -- and creates space for more dialogue.
Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, is the first Native American to serve as a U.S. Cabinet secretary.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.