Lessons From Our Past
SNCC, MORE THAN ANY other movement organization, left us with a model for grassroots mobilization that sought to empower all and to encourage everyone to reach his or her potential. Yet in today's political climate, we find an unprecedented return to a legacy that was never our own. African-American women have been at the forefront of movement activism, from the ill-fated days on the slave ships to the peak of the civil rights movement. So what has happened? Why has the Black woman's invisibility once again been required?
In this regard, we have much to team from the success of the civil rights movement and its subsequent abeyance. The civil rights movement began to decline, at least in part, because of the philosophical and ideological shift in its primary source for bridging the masses to the movement. Yet, ironically, the decline of this tier -- because of its narrower, more militant stance, its infusion of hierarchy, its negative perception of women's leadership, and the domination of the movement by young educated Black men no longer seeking equality but power by any means necessary -- reshaped the state's posture toward the demands of the primary and secondary formal organizations, the SCLC and the NAACP, respectively. 1 While Dr. King and the SCLC won the hard-fought battle to gain support of an administration, the movement had begun to deteriorate from below.
What we have seen is the necessity to build a mass base of support from the bottom up. Such a task requires the inclusion of all and a commitment to indig-