ePIloGue
more than a Drop
The Visions of Black Grassroots Activism
the service that I do today is the payment that I pay my lord
for him allowing me to occupy his space right here on earth.
—ruth williams, former herman Gardens tenant leader, 2006
thIs stuDy
One central premise has guided this book and my Effective Black Activism
Model: Contemporary black grassroots activism and protest in majority-black
cities such as Detroit can at least modestly induce black and other public offi-
cials to be accountable to black and other low-income communities when
activists imaginatively use the right tactic (utility), at the right time (timing),
in the right place (context.) My work has shown that strong allies, strategic
advantages, and adaptive tactics (my triple As) are essential ingredients of suc-
cessful grassroots activism, often as supplemented by expansive group identi-
ties, attractive goal framing, and necessary organizational resources.
Although groups that participate in interest-group systems, such as the
community-developer-led
SOS
coalition, require the use of protest less than
do insurgent groups such as the public-housing and anti-homelessness advo-
cates of
PLAN,
dissident political action still plays a vital role in grassroots
and post-Civil Rights Movement black politics. Different political-opportunity
configurations of race, class, gender, and regime politics indicate why
SOS,
a
predominantly white but often black-led advocacy coalition that sought to
represent black and other lower-income communities, enjoyed a greater level
of policy success than did predominantly black-led public-housing and anti-
homelessness groups, especially Brewster-Douglass Gets the Short End of the
Stick. On the utility and timing dimensions, holding context constant, strategic
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