Written by: Marcella Pansini, NC FIELD intern + UNC student
15 June 2020
Support for the Black Lives Matter movement has finally resonated with – almost – the entire country. In past protests, noted individuals quickly emerged from the masses to galvanize the people. However today, no single leader has been identified.
Instead, we see a revolution spanning in major cities, led by multiple generations, with primarily young black women on the frontlines.
Single-person protests are being held in conservative towns and groups of 18-year-olds are organizing marches for 40,000+ people.
Gen Z is the generation leading the Black Lives Matter movement, on and off social media.
The revolution is finally being televised.
2020’s civil rights movements do not require centralized leadership structures. The fight to end racism and police brutality is structured around a community-centered leadership model. Organizers are encrypting messages and using Instagram, Twitter, and Tik Tok to coordinate protests and dispel misinformation. People from all walks of life are uniting to dismantle and defund structural forms of oppression, without a singular leader.
Is this structure completely unprecedented? In a sense, no.
History is made up of many anonymous individuals whose life mission was to make the “American Dream” accessible to disenfranchised populations (Thank you education system). As history likes to repeat itself, today’s anonymous figures are the masked protestors we see broadcasted on CNN. These people have risked their lives to quickly demand change and advance social causes.
Protesters gather at Foley Square as part of a demonstration.
In the 1960s The National Farmworker Movement was no exception. During the National Farmworker Movement, Cesar Chavez became the leader, face, and founder of the United Farm Workers Union– and that’s okay. However, there were many other brave individuals who made significant contributions to the success of la causa who has been rarely acknowledged or recognized because this is a collective effort. If we learn anything from the patterns of history, it is that there is power in numbers, regardless if there is a leader or not. Social justice is no small feat and cannot be achieved alone.
Want to learn more about named and unnamed historic protest leaders? NC FIELD has curated Social Justice 101 to help those seek to organize and protest by providing information on historic protests and what made them successful.