A new type of activism
Q: Dorothy Height, the longtime leader of the National Council of Negro Women, died recently at age 98, prompting President Obama to honor her as "the only woman at the highest level of the civil rights movement." Do leaders of equal standing and notoriety exist today in any social movements? If so, who are the most successful? Has there been a change in the ways in which people seek social change?
The late Dorothy Height embodied an age that has now passed into history. She was a unique personality and through the force of her personality, she changed the culture of her time. She was the epitome of a "people" person who commanded respect as she exuded dignity. However, in our present internet age, "people" skills and personalities have been replaced with organizational skills and networking savvy.
How good are you at mobilizing your Facebook "friends" to get out the vote or register new voters online? Can you "You Tube" your protest rally to make your case while discrediting your opposition with embarrassing questions and ludicrous responses?
Today, the camcorder is mightier than the sword and Facebook has completely supplanted the rolodex. Networking with a handshake is far less effective than texting and twittering. Dorothy would not have understood any of that.
The leadership Dorothy provided was both inspirational and heartfelt, but that kind of leadership has been sacrificed to the sound bite and paparazzi photo that is quickly posted on TMZ or Huffington Post. We are no longer inspired or moved to action when outrage and hyperbole are the lingua franca of the internet.
Would the dignified nonviolence of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dorothy Height have been effective today? We certainly haven't seen much of it lately from the Tea Partiers or their opponents.
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