An Object in Motion…

By Brett Vetterlein, Community Investment Campaign Organizer

Getting started is always the hardest thing to do. Whether it’s that 10 page paper due on Friday, starting a workout routine, or quitting a bad habit, the first step is always the hardest. That hold even more true for starting a campaign. While making fliers and talking about ideas seems very easy, when we actually try to begin to formulate ideas into actions is where we get caught up. This is what I’m going through trying to start a Community Investment campaign at my Fordham University campus here in the Bronx. The pieces are in place, there are people willing to put in the work, and all the research is basically complete. Our proposal is in its final stages and now we need to act. But that action step is always going to be the hardest one.

However, an object in motion stays in motion (or so says Sir Isaac Newton). That first step more easily makes way for the second, which allows for the third and pretty soon you are sprinting full speed. The object doesn’t stay in motion by itself, mind you. There are very complicated natural processes going on that keeps a ball rolling. We, the organizers, activists, and concerned citizens, are the gravity of social justice movements and campaigns. If we want the object to stay in motion we have to make it stay in motion. And just as Sir Isaac Newton wrote down the laws of gravity, I will write down the laws of (social) movement. And yes, my ego is that big. Just kidding.

1. GET HELP! You can’t do this on your own. Surround yourself with a group of supportive and like-minded (and even sometimes not-so-like-minded) people who are willing to put in the work is the first thing you need to do to start your campaign. Even finding one singular person who will help is better than nothing. There are always levels of people’s commitment, but having a handful of close comrades to help in your campaign is the first law of (social) movement.

2. GAMES ARE WON ON MONDAYS! Well I used to play a lot of sports growing up, and the one thing I always learned was that you didn’t win a football game on gameday, but rather you won it during practice on Monday. To break it down even further, the big flashy rally you have isn’t what’s going to win the campaign for you. You’re going to win your campaign sitting in a coffee shop researching credit unions with two other people Monday afternoon.

3. BE FLEXIBLE! Having a plan is essential to your campaign. It seemed so obvious that I didn’t even think to list it as one of my laws. However, just as essential is that ability to be comfortable altering and even sometimes abandoning all or some of your plan. Situations change. You might ask your board of trustees to approve of a proposal to move money into your community, and they very well might say no. Does your campaign have to end? No. The ability to improvise, and to do it in an organizationally democratic way, is vital to any campaign for social justice. You aren’t going to meet all of your deadlines for everything all of the time. That doesn’t mean you should plan to, but when you don’t be prepared to adjust and react.

4. JUST DO IT! A lot of times what gets us hung up is just ourselves. We are nervous of rejection, of putting ourselves out there. We are nervous that we will lose or that people will look at our flier and laugh. But as progressives, radical, activists, and organizers we have no choice but to act because we see the problems of the world like other people don’t. And we see solutions. We see all the good our universities could do if they would put just a little bit of their vast wealth back into the community. So don’t be afraid. Like that horrible, sweatshop-powering corporation Nike says, “Just Do It.”

These are my four laws of (social) movement. In no way are these concrete or exhaustive. I’m sure every single one of you could come up with 20 more from your own experiences. But remember, the best way to start is just to make the commitment to yourself that you want something better. There are people out there who will help you and support you. If all else fails, REC is here to help you. Let’s move that money. To paraphrase Karl Marx (yea, I went there), we have nothing to lose but our chains; we have a world to win.

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