Three words that have been on everyone’s lips this year: Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter may be an (alarmingly) new concept for some people to grasp but it’s a movement that has been building, growing and making change at a grass roots level since 2012. So what better time to hear from one of the three formidable Black women that founded the movement in her book ‘The Purpose of Power: How To Build A Movement for the 21st Century.’
I’m sure you’ll agree that is quite the title. But don’t count yourself out of sinking your teeth in to this part memoir, part how-to guide. Alicia Garza has filled its pages with equal measures of wisdom, comfort and irrefutable facts that intertwine to create a book that belongs in the hands of anyone that feels like a tiny cog in the colossal machine that is racial injustice and white supremacy. If that sounds even the slightest bit like you, then yes this is the book you should be reading next.
As someone who has always been interested in recent history the first two chapters, titled ‘Where I’m From’ and ‘My Generation’ were just the appetiser I needed to line my stomach before getting stuck in to some of the meatier chapters that followed (‘The Meaning of Movement’, ‘Political Education and Common Sense’ etc). They are the perfect introduction to our amazing author. We learn about the people that inspire her (for example her beloved Mami and the poet Ntozake Shange) and what it meant to be a little Black girl growing up in 80’s California in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement whilst ‘The War on
Black People Drugs and Crime’ raged on.
The best thing about her story? There’s nothing particularly remarkable about Garza’s upbringing, no devastating tragedy, no awe inspiring story of overcoming, no hand outs or leg ups from well connected family members. Like many of us her beginnings are humble and her expectations are managed. Her manifesto is simple, she believes ‘Each generation has a mission that has been handed to it by those who came before.‘ And with the vigour and tenacity of James Bond, Jason Bourne or the guy Tom Cruise plays in all his movies she accepts her mission and boy does she smash it.
I wouldn’t say that The Purpose of Power is necessarily a light read, put it this way, I haven’t scribbled this many notes in the margins of a book since university. But quite frankly it shouldn’t have to be a walk in the park. This woman has grafted her entire adult life so far and is one of the Founding Mothers of one of the most influential forces for change of a generation. I wonder if a man had written this book, would I have warned you that it may not be a ‘light read’?
Perhaps that’s my own stuff to unpack on a different day, but it is just so refreshing to see a black woman owning her power in the political sphere without having to tone it down, reign it in and package it up in a neat, unassuming bow. She doesn’t hold back, and there’s no reason she should.
As the semi daunting prospect of a new year lingers in the near future it feels like there is just enough hope in this book to make you think “yup, I can do this, I owe it to future generations to keep pushing on.'” And enough hard hitting facts and statistics to make sure you’re armed the next time you are hit with a missile from the ‘All Lives Matter’ Army *shudders*.
I award The Purpose of Power four worms out of five!