StoryTelling for a New Tomorrow

Published with Opal Tometi at

Organizing is the process of retelling our lives with ourselves scripted as the protagonists instead of objects in an unjust world who’s future is up for grabs. If our inactivity is a result of being told that we don’t deserve better and that there are no possible alternatives to the world we’ve inherited, organizing tells us our personal problems are not ours alone. They are social. There are solutions. And we can be the ones to solve them.

Simply put, organizers are storytellers. The stories we decide to tell and how we decide to tell them shape our consciousness and shape how we engage in our world. Thus strategic communications is not about the magic bullet phrase we utter nor is it about having the most communication technologies at our disposal. Strategic communications is about asking ourselves: what narratives are powerful enough to pull the wool from people’s eyes and expose that the emperor has no clothes.

For the migrant rights movements, we find ourselves suffering because of the confines of the stories we’ve been telling and that are being told about us. Our recent organizing approach has woven a web that sought to exchange enforcement for legalization via “comprehensive immigration reform.” And now, without legalization, all immigrants are seen as criminals. To undo that fiction and rebuild a powerful proactive path to legalization, we have to reframe the debate. We’ll have to find ways to tell the story of the global economy that links unemployed workers in the US with displaced workers from the global south, the story of the threat to democracy that criminalization plays, and remind ourselves of the story of history’s long arc toward justice. Just as it takes a long look forward to remain optimistic in these troubled times, it takes a long look at history to understand and communicate this moment in its proper context.

In Arizona we know too well what compromised messaging and inaccurate storytelling can do, however it has caused us to be more resolute in not only our storytelling, but also our  truth telling in the face of a reality that becomes less real every day. The road ahead is long and arduous, but rather than be embittered, we know that we can be organizers and storytellers, strategic communicators that reveal the truth about the inherent dignity in each of us, the interdependence we share, and laugh along the way to winning.


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