Since I've now relocated to NYC, I was able to attend a panel of contributors to a remarkable new book, Letters from Young Activists : Today's Rebels Speak Out on Thursday, hosted by Demos. They sold out of copies at the event, so I still haven't had a chance to even flip through it myself, but each of the panelists read an excerpt from the letter they had contributed. I was very impressed. As the editorial reviews listed on Amazon note, many of the contributors are not seasoned, polished writers, and so from a conventional literary point of view the book is perhaps unexceptional. I, however, would prefer to characterize the excerpts that I heard (particularly, of course, as read by the authors themselves) as uncompromisingly honest, direct, and unpretentious. They are also written by activists "on the ground" themselves, not by analysts, pundits, reporters or commentators who are at least one level removed from the practice and experience of activism, as both a struggle and a collaboration. As such, I found them all quite revealing, engaging, and moving.
The book is divided into three sections, Past: Letters to the Previous Generations, Present: Letters to the Movements, and Future: Letters to the Next Generations. But the fact that they are all penned by young activists means that in truth they are all at least implicitly focused on the future, on the goals and ambitions of young people still just beginning their careers, still self-consciously in the process of becoming the people they want to be, and attempting to forge the world they want to be in.
I was also struck by just how familiar the issues and challenges they were confronting should be to almost all Future Saloners. While the context was clearly different, and they may have used different terms to name them, they were largely the same challenges discussed anywhere people are attempting to either facilitate or cope with change in communities and organizations of any kind today: grappling with very complex (multi-dimensional and tangled) problems, growing new teams and institutions and the resources to support them, suppressing turf wars and battles of egos, building trust internally and with a base of clients, transcending ideologies and narrow identities, bridging cultural divides, etc. Let's hope this book can help can help establish more dialogue and cooperation between sectors of society which we usually think of as being so distinct and incompatible, because there appears to be much common ground and common experience to be found, and lessons to be shared, if people are willing to take the time and effort to communicate them, freely and plainly, to a broad audience.
Those of you in the Bay Area will have your own opportunity to meet Kenyon Farrow (editor) and some of the local contributors tomorrow, December 11, at the Modern Times Bookstore:
888 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
I hope some of you will attend, and help establish that broad dialogue which could benefit us all.