Starred Kirkus review for Alicia Garza's Purpose of Power

Sep 14, 2020
“A prominent civil rights activist offers a primer for change. For much of her life, Garza, who grew up in a wealthy White community in Northern California, has been involved in grassroots organizing in groups such as San Francisco Women Against Rape, People Organized To Win Employment Rights, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the Black Lives Matter Global Network and the Black Futures Lab, both of which she co-founded. Based on experiences with a variety of constituencies and co-workers, Garza brings a clear-eyed view of what is involved in creating social change—not merely hashtags that will go viral, but viable, ongoing movements that engage people “in a consistent and deep way around issues.” As she notes, “the mission and purpose of organizing is to build power” and “to transform grief and despair and rage into the love that we need to push us forward.” Her work has taught her countless hard lessons: that Blacks, often disillusioned with politics, have not been a huge force in progressive communities and that “not all Black people want the best for Black people” but instead “will knowingly harm Black people for their own benefit, everyone else be damned.” In some organizations she has backed away from “factional power plays,” internal rivalries, and the kind of “respectable” protests advocated by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. As a queer Black woman, she is especially sensitive to the exclusion of women in leadership positions: “I am used to environments where women, usually women of color, are carrying the lion’s share of the work but are only a minuscule part of the visible leadership.” Creating effective leadership through focused training is part of the work of organizing, she notes, and she describes Black Lives Matter, with its many chapters, as “a leader-full organization. That means that there isn’t one leader but many.” A pragmatic, impassioned guide to vital current affairs.” – Kirkus Reviews (STARRED review)