The History of collaborative Activism

Expressions such as “divided we fall, united we stand”, “there is power in unity” and “power in numbers” are proof that I am not mistaken when I say that “the future of activism is collaboration”. Activists- whether their cause is Gender-Based Violence and femicide, environment preservation or animal rights- influence social change. Does it not make sense then that- when fighting towards a common cause- they would reach greater heights when they are united? Often, we think that activists have always fought in isolation, and that is the reason why they do not completely achieve their targeted result. I’m here to tell you that this is not accurate. Activists have always found ways to collaborate, publicly and on the low down. I have proof.

In 2014, Kate Driscoll Derickson of the University of Minnesota and a colleague publish a seven page article titled Resourcing Scholar-Activism: Collaboration, Transformation, and the Production of Knowledge. In this article, the scholars offer a set of resources for scholar-activists to reflect on and guide their practice. They begin by suggesting that research questions should be triangulated to consider not only their scholarly merit but the intellectual and political projects the findings will advance and the research questions of interest to community and social movement collaborators. This is collaboration in activism.

When the African National Congress was formed in 1912, it did not accept women as members. In 1918, the ANC allowed the formation of the Bantu Women’s League (BWL) as a wing of the ANC. This is not because men had suddenly decided that women would be allowed to be part of the party. This is because black women had grown tired of the government restrictions and pass laws for women. The BWL was formed because black women activists had decided to stand together and stand against the apartheid government and the discrimination from black men. Hear me when I say that even the ANC Women’s League was formed because a group of activists had decided to collaborate and fight to form a women’s wing of what would become the most powerful party of South Africa to date. This is an example of activists coming together to fight towards a common cause. This is collaboration in activism.

In a lecture at Rhodes University, Dr A. Masola speaks of how black women endorsed and publicized each others’ literary work, fighting against a system that was intent on erasing and hiding the influence of women, their work, their ideas and their potential influence. Women authors would write about the creative work of other women on the inside covers of their books; they’d encourage their audience to read or look out for these works. This is an example of collaboration in activism.

Today, movements such as Total Shut Down, The Barefoot campaign and TEARS Foundations exist because activists who stand against rape, gender based violence and femicide came together and formed these movements. This is an example of collaboration in activism.

Yes, it would be a great achievement for these movements to come together and do what they are doing in unity. I mean, the capacity on its own, would create great impact. The influence that these movements have on their own is huge. The influence they would have, if they’d collaborate, would be even greater. Yes, the future of activism is collaboration, but let us not make the mistake of thinking that there is not collaboration in activism. Activism is collaboration. What we need, is to make activists aware of the importance, thereof, so that they can understand the importance and the impact of collaboration. So that we can achieve more than the collaboration of individuals, but collaboration of movements and organizations as well.

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