September is a busy month for those working at the intersection of democracy and peacebuilding, as several important days of commemoration are celebrated while the United Nations gathers for its annual General Assembly. With shared challenges of democratic backsliding around the world (such as in India) and painful historic reckonings to be addressed (such as in Chile), the International Day of Democracy provided an important moment to reflect on how US democratic erosion is accelerating compared to other countries. Don’t miss this framing document commissioned by Action Aid Denmark on the need for people-powered movements both in the US and globally, and the initial recommendations for funders and allies from around the world.
Later in the month, as we celebrate the International Day of Peace, we reflect that “peace” appears to resonate with the US public, even if we use different language for goals related to justice, security and safety. And, Horizons is particularly inspired by the “critical constellations” of arts and culture in peacebuilding that helps us weave together our past and chart collective futures.
Also this month, we observed the 60-year anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four girls. U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was the keynote speaker at the commemoration and spoke about the beauty of Alabama in the fight for civil rights: “If we are going to continue to move forward as a nation, we cannot allow concerns about discomfort to displace knowledge, truth or history. It is certainly the case that parts of this country’s story can be hard to think about,” Jackson said. Artists also stepped up to contribute to the commemoration. Don’t miss this monthly poster series led by veteran graphic artist, Marcus Watts.
Finally, we are excited to share the beta version of the Democracy Resource Hub. The Hub was established to compile a wide range of tools and resources for anti-authoritarian and pro-democracy organizing in an easily accessible manner for trainers, facilitators, researchers, and practitioners. This effort is the product of a collaboration between the 22nd Century Initiative, United Vision Idaho, the Shift Action Lab and The Horizons Project, and is hosted on The Commons Library for Social Change. Let us know what you think! Please submit any resources you would like to be included in the hub here. And enjoy some of the things we’ve been reading, watching, and listening to this month:
by Paul D. Miller, Christianity Today
Paul Miller, the author of the recently published The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism, writes in Christianity Today about the danger posed by “anti-anti-Christian nationalists”, who “busy themselves with warning of the dangers not of Christian nationalism itself but of warning against Christian nationalism.” He finds that in doing so, “the anti-anti-Christian nationalist position overlooks the relationship between extremists and mainstream movements and the responsibility of the latter to police the former.”
by Sulma Arias and Eboni Taggart, Our Future
People’s Action Institute explains how deep canvassing works and provides examples of groups using this approach in a variety of contexts to advance policy objectives within their communities. They do note that, “deep canvassing is not a magic bullet for social justice – nothing really is. Real social change takes rigor, discipline, and the full set of tools every organizer needs.” Consider joining their one-hour Introduction to Deep Canvassing on October 24, to discover what deep canvassing is and how it works.
We The Veterans
Horizons believes that Veterans have an important role to play in helping to protect and preserve democracy. We the Veterans provides a helpful resource for its community – and beyond – of five simple and concrete activities that parents can use to teach their children about civics and to encourage them to grow up to be active citizens. They also include a list of outside resources for parents.
The Kettering Foundation
“On September 19, 2023, in Washington, DC, the Kettering Foundation held its first Emerging Issues Conference, focused on connections and creative tensions among major themes in the pro-democracy space… Expert panelists and audience participants explored the dimensions of authoritarian moves taking place both globally and in the United States, responses and the tensions between potential solutions, and potential ways forward.” Don’t miss seeing Horizons’ Director for Applied Research Jarvis Williams ask the first question during the event!
“Scores of news organizations across the country came together on September 15th to collectively publish, broadcast, share and highlight pro-democracy journalism as part of U.S. Democracy Day 2023.” Local and national news outlets coordinated their coverage which allowed the stories to have larger impact by placing them squarely in the broader fight for our democracy. You can learn more about the collective impact here.
In this interview, Kevin Elliott, the author of Democracy for Busy People, lays out changes we can make to our system of elections and governance to make it easier for everyday citizens to participate more fully in our democracy. The disjointed system that we currently have in places puts up unnecessary barriers to participation, makes it harder for busy people to stay abreast of the issues, and can make participation seem overwhelming. The result is a democracy that works best for those with the time and resources to influence outcomes. He ends with the “very important message that everyone who does see politics as part of their calling, does see politics as an important part of their life… remember the people who weren’t there, they also matter, their voice matters, their interests matter.”
“Convergence is happy to announce the launch of our new podcast, Hegemonicon. In this first episode, host William Lawrence introduces himself with his story of working to build a youth-led climate movement as co-founder of the Sunrise Movement… Upon reminiscing the perceived successes and failures of that movement and the wilderness the past decade-plus has led [organizers] into, he lays out the foundation for the Hegemonicon’s exploration of power and how the show will go about investigating it through a series of interviews with organizers, activists, theorists, and more.”
KQED Doing Democracy Series
Ted Johnson is leading the US@250 Project which is urging us to approach the [250th] anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, starting in 2026, by reimagining the American narrative with pride, reckoning and aspiration. “What parts of our democracy should we protect, what should we change, and what do we hope to become in the next 250 years?”
The Focus Group with Sarah Longwell podcast
While on summer hiatus, The Focus Group re-upped an old episode from March 2023 that is worth a listen with Jane Coaston of The New York Times about our never-ending culture wars. Sarah Longwell is the publisher of The Bulwark and this podcast takes a deep dive into what conservative voters think about politics, policy, and current events from the hundreds of hours of focus groups conducted around the country.
The Listen First Project
Sign up to watch the Bridgebuilding Innovation Showcase in October! “In today’s polarized climate, working across our differences to solve problems can feel hopeless. The Bridge-Building Innovation Showcase will celebrate Americans who are navigating generational, political, racial, and other differences to effect meaningful change in their own communities. The showcase has two parts: an in-person gathering in Kansas City on Oct 14, 2023 and a virtual webinar on Oct 19, 2023. Come for the celebration, stay for the inspiration!”
by Jane Hirshfield
Acclaimed poet Jane Hirshfield is releasing her tenth book of poetry this fall, The Asking: New and Selected Poems where she shares sentiments of not-knowing, renewal, and awe of the natural world. Enjoy this specific poem “Today When I Could Do Nothing” included in her new collection.