Five years ago this month, I was tucked away in a hotel room in Atlanta awaiting the results of the 2016 presidential election. On my computer were two conditional statements I drafted for the Black Lives Matter Global Network—one that acknowledged that the Democrats who built the scaffolding for mass incarceration won, and a second that Donald Trump would be our next president.
I knew neither outcome would serve the interests of people living under deep conditions of domination, oppression, and exclusion in the United States—or in any region in which U.S. forces meddle. This was demonstrative of a dilemma radical communicators often face: Despite extraordinarily hostile political conditions, we are tasked with messaging a moment that paints a prophetic vision of a future—both near and far—that inspires the masses to shake shit up, build collective power, and challenge the status quo.
We all know the outcome of the election. Recognizing what we were up against and unsure of what would happen next, I asked some of you to join me in an election post-mortem where we determined that we wanted and needed a network for grassroots communicators. RadComms was founded as a repository for our grief, angst, desire for connection, and collective thinking—a safe place to explore dilemmas like the one I faced on election night, threats we would face over the next four years, and political opportunities to build narrative power for social justice.
Since then, we have made meaning of the world together. We’ve applied lessons from movements past; adapted contemporary strategies to counter the prevailing conditions of white supremacy, corporate greed, climate destruction, and interpersonal violence; and organized for—at a minimum—a morally just and dignified future. We’ve coalesced our thinking to provide the field with a first-of-its-kind anthology that explores narrative power strategies as well as important moments from some of the most impactful social movements of the last 20 years.
This week, RadComms is celebrating five years of network-building. In the five years since our founding, our network has rippled to more than 5,000 people across almost every U.S. state and in at least 20 countries, illustrating a hunger for belonging and connectivity. Here is why that’s important: Revolutionary social movements, like the ones to which many of us belong, require networked communities that expand beyond local bounds to transform political opportunities into long-term social protest or change.
During moments like last summer’s uprisings in defense of Black lives, movements relied on existing complex infrastructure, such as RadComms, to disseminate information, mobilize support, inspire collaboration, and discuss emergent strategies. One example is the collaboration between RadComms, M4BL, and ReFrame to train hundreds of communicators on how to talk about #DefundPolice, which provided tactical training in two languages and proliferated abolitionist values into mainstream discourse.
Along with other narrative power-focused formations, RadComms is the infrastructure that ties political opportunity to collective action among social-justice communicators.
This nimble network is growing and strengthening the ecosystem of social-change communications by bringing together a global cohort of communicators to cross-pollinate conversations across a variety of movements, organizations, levels of experience, geographies, languages, and political associations, and by radicalizing the field to focus on building narrative power, thereby putting people closest to the oppression at the center of our efforts.
The brilliant, thoughtful people in RadComms have ushered in world-altering advancements in radical narrative strategies: from narrative interventions that reframed the #MeToo movement as one that was spurred and nurtured by Black women, to message discipline tactics that reframed “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” in a conversation about apartheid, racism, and the denial of basic rights, and widening our collective understanding of gender beyond binaries. beyond binaries. Each of us has a role to play in defending democracy and building truly inclusive societies.
We came together during a watershed moment in United States history, lived through it together, survived it together, and grieved our personal and collective losses together. Five years later, we’re still here—building, organizing, growing, learning, fighting, and celebrating.
The threats we faced then remain, and some have taken a new shape. This summer, the U.S has experienced back-to-back hurricanes, deadly flooding, unrelenting drought, dozens of wildfires, and deadly heatwaves. The lives of pregnant people—and those who become pregnant in the future—hang in the balance as a dishonorable faction of Supreme Court justices pushes a shadow agenda to overturn Roe. In the midst of all this, reckless policymakers continue to reject public-health guidance to stop the spread of COVID-19 at the expense of the disabled, the immunocompromised, the aging, and other vulnerable communities.
We have our work cut out for us.
We know narrative shifts and social change do not happen overnight—nor do they occur one organization at a time. It requires all of us to be in community with one another. That is why it is imperative that we build strong relationships;; support each other’s growth;; and strive for complementary, revolutionary narrative strategies.
To celebrate our 5th anniversary:
Help us stay sustainable over the long-term.RadComms needs financial contributions to continue the work of scaling and deepening this transformative community. Our 2020 “flash fundraising drive” allowed the network to hire its first paid program staffer Gaby who has made it possible for this work to happen. We hope to double our success in our 2021 fundraising campaign
- Members: If you have benefited from being a member of RadComms, please consider donating today.
- Organizations: If your communications and narrative staff have been positively impacted by your staff being part of this cohort of communicators, please consider giving to sustain RadComms for the future.
Click here to donate (choose ReFrame:RadComms)Join us Monday, November 15th, 2021 for an Insagram Live at 1:00 PM ET to talk about building narrative power for big ideas and how to connect political opportunities to collective action for social justice communicators.