Lesson Plan—Organizing Resilience: Reviving Militancy

The most militant thing we can do is to garner the things our communities need, within our communities, with no one's permission but our own.

The most threatening thing we can do is garner the things our communities need, within our communities, with no one’s permission but our own.

In recognizing the dire need for militant movements in the communities I belong to, and the countless ones taking place around the globe in this historic moment, I’ve been thinking about how to start action-oriented conversations around militancy. The following lesson plan could be applied or reworked for any number of settings or organizing needs, but regardless of how it is administered, it’s goal is to lay the foundation for militant action–not merely discussion–and help generate a network of thoughtful support as the steps for its preparation approach:


1. Free Write: Upon entering the space, a quotation is written on the board:

“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who are oppressing them.”

– Assata Shakur

Have a volunteer read the quote on the board out loud. Ask students to take five minutes to write their responses to this quotation: “What does this statement mean to you? How would you put it in your own words? What parts of it stand out to you?” Give students as much time as they need to respond to the quote through writing down their own thoughts and ideas.

2. Share Out: “Assata Shakur is a Black revolutionary who was involved in several Black Power organizations throughout the 60s and 70s. She has been fleeing the U.S. government since that time, and currently lives in hiding outside of the country. This last year she became the first woman ever to be added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list. What does this quote from her mean to us?” Ask students to share some of their responses. Give those who are willing a chance to read their responses aloud, talk about what they wrote, or share questions they have. Continue on until a range of ideas have been presented, and the conversation reaches a reasonable stopping point.

3. Introduction to Resilience Based Organizing (RBO) Model: “The organizing model we will be discussing today comes from Movement Generation, a radical economic and environmental justice organization from the West Coast. While they partially coined the term Resilience Based Organizing for their model, they cite its inspiration as springing from Black and Brown Power movements of the 60s and 70s, as well as ongoing struggles in Indigenous communities around land and environmental rights. The idea, as the name suggests, is organizing which is resilient as well as resistant. Communities focus first on the things they  need, and what it will take to get them, rather than on relying on the systems in place to provide them. In Movement Generation’s words:

Resilience-Based Organizing organizes people into a collective effort to meet the need at hand through direct democratic decision-making and physical implementation by those who are being impacted by the problem. It often does this with the knowledge or the intention, of butting up against legal or political barriers that force the questions of whether we have the right to self-govern and take right action in our own interests.

RBO is not about avoiding confrontation, but rather focusing on the needs of the community first and foremost, preparing for the potential for confrontation second. This is the framework we would like to work under today, both to structure our discussion and plan our potential action.” [Here, other segments–such as a teach-in, testimony from community members, panel discussion, or further sharing and interrogating of the model–may follow before the final brainstorm and closing.]

4. Brainstorm: “Keeping in mind the goals of our model, what are some of the things we feel are missing from our community? What are the struggles we face, the barriers to living/teaching/existing in the ways we need?” Generate a list that represents a wide swath of the current struggles and concerns of the community, but which does not become overwhelmingly lengthy:


Violence in the community

Too much testing!

Not enough healthy food

Not enough affordable mental health services


“Here we have a concrete list of some of the daily struggles and ongoing barriers to justice and balance in our community. What are steps we can take amongst ourselves and each other to start addressing these issues? Thinking big, throwing ideas out for the sake of starting our thought process, what are some concrete actions we can take now to start combating these issues, and working towards the justice we need?” Across from or below the originally brainstormed list of issues, begin to add other suggestions, questions, and ideas for action as they arise:


Violence in the community

–       violence and poverty go together, we need to address them together

–       discuss violence as an issue of community/mental/emotional health, not bad choices by bad people

–       talk to/organize first with those who have experienced/instigated violence in determining where it comes from and how to stop it


Too much testing!

–       boycott tests/don’t administer them

–       skip any test that takes away from student support, mental/community health

–       talk to other teachers in our school and in others about joining in the boycott

–       talk to administrators about which test are “optional” by state standards

–       develop assessments we see as nurturing of learning and connected to curricula


Not enough healthy food

–       start a cooking program

–       teach academic subjects—math, science, social studies—through cooking

–       what land is unused that could serve immediately as a garden space?

–       culture as a weapon—use the cooking traditions of our community to build connections, teach our history and traditions, and pass on health wisdom

–       create a co-op to make growing our own food sustainable, a source of income for those who do the organizing


Not enough affordable mental health services

–       compile list of as many free clinics/programs as possible

–       is there a way to organize carpools to the clinics that have not been closed?

–       support groups/meetings organized in the community by those who have struggled with related issues

–       is this a process we need more help in orchestrating? who is connected to the fields of social work/mental health that we trust and can talk to?


5. Closing: “What we have done here today is a very small step, and a very big step at the same time. We have named some of the major factors impeding justice in our community, and have worked together to begin planning immediate ways to address those factors, united with the resources we control and can share. We have much work left to do, and many more conversations as we decide which strategies we will move forward with, how we will continue to shape and adjust them, and who will be our allies. As we do, however, we are committed to honoring our own voices in this process. We have many more battles to engage, rivers to cross and difficult decisions to make. Let’s continue to support each other as we proceed, to act with love for ourselves and our community, and to focus on our needs and wellbeing first and foremost!”

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