We Are Mighty – A Community Book and Empowerment Programme

“The pen is mightier than the sword… “Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” –Pearl Strachan

So We Stand are setting up a book system whereby communities and organisers on the frontline fighting aspects of environmental injustice have access to relevant literature for empowerment. This will grow into a strong example of how justice-orientated self-education programmes in the UK can empower people and defend their communities.

The idea is in its early stages but from various people involved in So We Stand and with our allies. We are currently in discussion with some of the leading independent bookstores and peoples archives in the UK who have a fine history of documenting and supporting peoples struggles for justice.

Listed amongst SWS’s inspirational links are just a few of these revolutionary and inspirational meccas of literature and community activism strategies – copied below for your ease:

  1. George Padmore Institute is a library and educational and research centre, home to a number of archives that document radical movements, campaigns and organizations relating to the black experience in the UK. Based in North London. http://www.georgepadmoreinstitute.org/
  2. WordPower books in Edinburgh is an utter marvel. A leading quality independent bookshop opened formally by Booker Prize-Winner James Kelman on 1 December 1994, So We Stand warn you now, its full to the brim with stories of community power, organised by warm people and is utterly addictive. Word Power Rocks.
  3. Marcus Garvey Library is a local library based in Haringey, North London. It also runs a variety of activities children and young people. http://www.haringey.gov.uk/index/community_and_leisure/libraries/findalibrary/marcusgarveylibrary.htm
  4. CLR James Library is a local library in Dalston, North London, which will soon reopen in new premises in Dalston Square. http://www.hackney.gov.uk/cl-clr-james-main.htm
  5. Black Cultural Archives is an archive of black history materials that have been collected by volunteers since the 1980’s. Soon to be re-housed in the Black Heritage Centre, Brixton, which is currently being built with the aid of the Heritage Lottery fund, London Development Agency and the London Borough of Lambeth. http://www.bcaheritage.org.uk/
  6. IRR Black History Collection is an archive based at the Institute of Race Relations in Kings Cross, central London, with an extensive collection of leaflets, posters, newspaper cuttings and campaign materials that document more than 40 years of grassroots anti-racist campaigning. http://www.irr.org.uk/bhccatalogue/
  7. Ahmed Ullal Iqbal Centre is an open access library established to support the study of race and ethnic history, with several collections of local oral history interview transcripts that includes the original Roots Oral History Project based in Moss Side in 1986. At the University of Manchester. http://www.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/ahmediqbal/
  8. New Beacon Books was established in 1966 in Finsbury Park, London, as a publishing house, and soon after as a bookstore specializing in Caribbean literature. Selling a great variety of African American, black British, Caribbean and African books, the shop is as important for black Britain as the works on its shelves. Now selling online. http://www.newbeaconbooks.co.uk/

For an incredible line-up of pioneering, powerful authors discussing issues around the principles of So We Stand soak in WordPower’s Independent Radical BookFair 2011 this Summer – full programme here –

WP Fringe Flyer 2011 – print ready

We recognise the power of language in thinking about our struggles, sharing our stories, and working together to resist the injustices we face. We place importance on learning new ways to communicate our ideas, both verbally and non-verbally.

Part of developing a language to criticise, create and connect is learning what has already been discussed and how it has been described. We believe that understanding where we’ve come from helps us understand where we want to go and how to get these – that reading the histories of our communities is key to rewriting their futures.

We want to subvert the existing channels of information, access to resources, and assumptions about who knows what. We will do this by making books accessible to our organisers and collaborators. Some of this will be through expenses-paid distribution of key texts within the network. More will be through finding new ways of sharing literature, using video and voice recording, as well as establishing groups which challenge the traditional reading group model.

To begin with, though, we need the books themselves. So We Stand organisers and projects suggest books which will be of use in their community. We are asking for supporters to sponsor a book costing between £10-£30 from the following list.

  1. Malcolm X: A life of reinvention – Manning Marable
  2. The Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire – Arundhati Roy
  3. The Black Jacobins – CLR James
  4. One No Many Yeses – Paul Kingsnorth
  5. Wee Yellow Butterfly – Cathy McCormack
  6. Moments of Excess – The Free Association

All Power to ‘So We Stand – Project Mighty Pen’- here’s why:

“The ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.” – Autobiography of Malcolm X, 1964
“Life-transforming ideas have always come to me through books.” – bell hooks
“We read to know we are not alone.” – C.S. Lewis
“A book is the most effective weapon against intolerance and ignorance.” – Lyndon Baines Johnson
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury
“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” – Victor Hugo
“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.” – A C Grayling, Financial Times (in a review of A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel)