If nothing else, when I grow too enraged or saddened by the present, at times, it helps to look back on the history of our country –––– not its dark history (as there's plenty); but instead, how we've managed to form coalitions at the grassroots level to bring about change, not just in our leadership, but in the ways that our day-to-day lives look and feel.
One neighborhood that has proven the value of grassroots community organization and neighborhood restoration, time and again, is Bed-stuy. Within the pages of Issue No. 1 - Summer 2017, Andrew Jimenez , reviewed Michael Woodsworth's The Battle for Bed-stuy: The Long War on Poverty in New York City (2016).
An excerpt from Jimenez's essay, "Bed-stuy as a Model for Social-Democratic Reform in the United States," is linked within our profile, as well as an interview with the author, from 2018. Photography by Emily Fishman.
All of our best,
It’s easy to be cynical about the effectiveness of grassroots organizing and the power of local politics when participatory democracy is measured in small donations facilitated by multi-national banks (who are happy to charge service fees on each transaction) and the recent liberal successes of marriage equality and healthcare were fought on the federal level (and won only after receiving moral blessings from corporate America). But social democracy relies on local energies to envision real-world policies, which monolithic structures by their very nature can support but not enact. To see what social-democratic policies look like locally, we need only to look at the work of politicians, community groups, and activists in Bedford-Stuyvesant, beginning in the mid-twentieth century.
Michael Woodsworth’s comprehensive The Battle for Bed-Stuy: The Long War on Poverty in New York City, details the effects of capital flight (joblessness, price-gouging, redlining, urban renewal and decay) that threatened the neighborhood in the early twentieth century; and Bed-Stuy’s strug- gles against these effects — for better primary schools and basic city services, for a community college and hospital, for jobs, and for representation in local government — exemplify local-level social-democratic ideology in action.