Joan Newman Kuyek. Montreal: Black Rose Press, 1991. 209 Pp. Isbn: 0-921689-86-1.
We live in interesting times. Civil disobedience initiatives and demonstrations of 100,000 make demonstrations of 500 seem trivial. Calls for a general strike make efforts to encourage the members of a co-op to sign a petition less important. Yet, as Kuyek's Fighting for Hope reminds us, community and social activism requires the creative use of small- scale tactics on an ongoing basis if change is to be maintained. Fighting for Hope is a manual for social change activists. From how to conduct a press conference to the requirements of running a successful community meeting to exercises for doing economic and social analysis as a group, Kuyek has provided a very effective and pragmatic guide for those working for social change even when they may feel overwhelmed by the problems around them. There are step by step suggestions for activists. The practical aspects of the book are interspersed with theoretical pieces and more personal reflections on the life of an activist, reminding us that ongoing community action is occurring around our neighborhoods. Community centres that have a policy of hiring locally, such as Dixon Hall in Toronto, are able to devise new responses to changing needs before larger and more institutional organizations are even aware of problems. Groups such as The Toronto Rape Crisis Centre have been acting as radical collectives for decades. Finding out who is active in your neighborhood is a first step to successful community action. You are not alone; there are labor union locals, church groups, community kitchens, and a wide range of successful community actions. Kuyek brings to her writing a long history as a professional organizer and policy advocate in such institutions as the United Church. From organizing tenants to supporting strikes, her experiences indicate the possibilities of activities as diverse as community meetings, blockades, and potluck suppers. The successes and failures she has experienced (more the latter than the former) strengthen her arguments in favor of fighting for hope.
Provincial and national organizations are pressuring the governments not to act in ways that harm our society. These umbrella organizations depend on local, grassroots activists for their efforts to be successful. There are very local concerns, such as a neighbor's lack of food or a problem with rent, that can be best met by those who know them. Kuyek's Fighting for Hope is valuable to those working for change for their friends or for their world.
Reviewed by Brian Burch, a community activist working in Toronto.