Reviewed by Cait Vaughan
GRR! National Grassroots Organizer
For anyone who might have wondered how a hashtag evolved into a global movement, I recommend The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart. The book is #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza’s new memoir.
The book reads as one part memoir and two parts organizing manual, a unique composition for an autobiographical work. Garza weaves personal vignettes and an accessible review of 20th-century social movements—and their backlash. Her work invites readers to reflect on where we have been as a nation. She envisions the future we can build together beyond white supremacy.
Despite contemporary media’s inclination to assign her celebrity status, Garza cautions against creating pedestals for charismatic individuals. This pattern of selecting one leader as a symbol for a whole movement, while appealing, ultimately weakens our movements. Garza conveys herself as a true student of history and movement-building, with a keen analysis of power. She differentiates the power derived from ordinary people coming together from the wielded power in electoral politics.
While uneven in some places, this book is a worthwhile and pleasurable read. This will be especially true for those with questions about #BlackLivesMatter as a movement, as well as the mechanics of community organizing. Whether you’re new to social justice activism, or someone who’s been marching and organizing for decades, you’ll want to read this book. The Purpose of Power provides fuel and focus for the organizing battles that lie ahead.
Garza embraces this spirit of the ongoing struggle in her introduction, stating: “We inherit movements. We recommit to them over and over again even when they break our hearts because they are essential to our survival.”