We Don't Want To Be Stars

A 21st-Century Intersectional Feminist Organizing Curriculum for These Times

“We don’t want to be STARS, but parts of CONSTELLATIONS.”

– Gloria Anzaldúa


This is a grassroots organizing and training curriculum rooted in lessons from multi-racial, cross-class, feminist organizing. It is for emerging or established groups and organizations working to get into good trouble here and now in 2020 and beyond, as we confront a world where our economic, governance, and ecological systems are literally on the brink of collapse. The curriculum is built for groups aiming to build a feminist future that is Pro-Black, Pro-Worker, Pro-Queer, Pro-Immigrant, and Pro-Planet. 

The curriculum in this workbook is supported by illustrations and interactive graphic worksheets. It is designed for you and your organization to pick and choose from various workshop templates, activities, worksheets, readings, and other resources to suit your individual needs. 

After much deliberation, the sections of this workbook were chosen to answer the questions: 

  1. What are the kinds of organizers we need at this time? 
  2. What do we need to have inside us and between us to wage the fights that are calling our names? 
  3. How do we build adaptable, focused, and courageous teams and projects? 
  4. Are there parts of the magic of Southerners on New Ground (SONG) and other red-state organizing projects that can be offered more broadly to the movement? 
  5. How do we inoculate ourselves against the despair and infighting knocking at our door?

This curriculum was developed and tested through the Auburn Seminary’s Feminist Leaders for Reproductive Justice cohorts from 2019–2020. Auburn is equipping leaders with the organizational skills and spiritual resilience required to create lasting, positive impact in local communities, on the national stage, and around the world.

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Table of Contents


How to Use This Workbook 

Page 3

This intro provides a brief overview of the workbook’s contents, goals, and pedagogy.

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Preparing the Space 

Page 5

This simple checklist helps facilitators set the stage for engaging in productive facilitation of the workbook’s exercises through helpful tips and tricks. 

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Page 6

As communities facing and fighting oppression, we are nothing without our relationships. Glued to our phones, alienated from one another, we have sometimes forgotten to ask each other: “Who are your people?” Asking and inviting people into structured ways to share pieces of themselves that aren’t visible helps us know each other and gives us a way to build intimacy and understanding. 

These activities in this chapter help groups share and learn about each other’s stories and values. They also invite us to think collectively about building communities that ask about and listen to each other. This gives people a chance to collectively identify how their group wants to orient around leadership and the types of leadership needed in this time — a theme running through this whole curriculum.

The following are three different activities that groups can engage in to build community, introduce popular education, build communal legacies, and engage in productive discussions of common values and principles.  


Story Circles

Page 8

1 – 2 hours

Source: Southerners on New Ground (SONG). 

Using story circles, as a communal education tool, can help groups connect with, and listen to, each other more deeply while helping unearth patterns and distinct differences in our experiences. 

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I Am From Poems 

Page 12

1/2 – 1 hour 

Source: Appalachian poet George Ella Lyon. 

This exercise, which uses prompts about our origins to write personal poems, offers participants a chance to reflect, creatively engage, and share parts of themselves they might not get a chance to share otherwise.

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Feminist Leadership 

Page 13

1 – 2 hours

Source: Auburn Seminary 

The purpose of this workshop is to give your group a chance to reflect together on how you want to show up as leaders in this time. Together, you will consider: What values or practices have we learned or inherited about leadership? What does society value, and what do movements value? How do we want to think about leadership? How can we step collectively into more effective leadership, and how will we need to transform to make this possible?

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We are all inheritors of different legacies, both from our individual blood families and from our communal and cultural traditions. We are also inheritors of the broader legacies of our societies and our movements. These include resistance, and profound violent oppression, often walking hand in hand, as they do in the legacy of chattel slavery: an inescapable inheritance that touches all of us, in all corners of this country.

Inside of a movement context, we are all beneficiaries of a long tradition of social struggle, whether we have learned it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not. There is power in connecting to legacy. Legacy is in many ways the antidote to the exceptionalism, individualism, and ego that plague our movements today. 

This section begins with series of conversations about power in order to give us a common

framework to understand both past and current realities. This section is a combination of new content and content adapted from or inspired by Southerners on New Ground’s (SONG) Organizing Schools, running from 2011–2019 and laying the baseline for collective understanding around how power works. These sessions could easily be rearranged or broken down into multiple smaller units.


Defining Power 

Page 20

2 hours 

Source: Southerners on New Ground’s (SONG) and Auburn Seminary

As social justice seekers, it is critical that we establish a common understanding of power in our group so we can be clear in our relationships and our work. Through games, readings, and exercises this session will help groups establish a baseline around power, resistance, and the different forms of oppression: interpersonal, internalized, and institutional.

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Movements for Liberation: We Did Not Make Ourselves 

Page 26

1 hour 

Source: Southerners on New Ground’s (SONG) and Auburn Seminary

This is a movement timeline and discussion exercise to explore different tendencies inside movements for liberation and self determination, and to untangle our individual and collective relationship to a variety of feminisms.

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Global Political Assessment 

Page 32

1 hour 

Source: Southerners on New Ground’s (SONG) and Auburn Seminary

This section works to push us collectively, as US-based rabble rousers, to think more broadly about global realities of power and domination, and how they have morphed and changed over the last decade across the globe. This charting exercise engages participants in a conversation about how our local programs are connected to national and global forces. 

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Unpacking Patriarchy 

Page 38

2 hours

Source: Southerners on New Ground’s (SONG) and Auburn Seminary

This workshop explores patriarchy and misogyny and the different ways they manifest inside all of us in this time. The workshop begins with paired and group discussions and ends with interactive group exercises for undoing patriarchy. 

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Power Doesn’t Have to Dominate 

Page 41

1 hour 

Source: Southerners on New Ground’s (SONG) and Auburn Seminary

This movement and case study based exercise runs through a framework for understanding power: Power Over (dominance and control), Power Within (spiritual fortitude and creative force), and Power With (non-coercive social influence). The exercise helps groups understand how power operates in society and among ourselves allowing us to discuss individual and collective responses to Power Over: comply, withdraw, rebel, and manipulate.. 

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Page 48

‘Team of the willing’ is a term Paulina Helm-Hernández used often at Southerners on New Ground’s (SONG) as a way to reframe an organization’s thinking around coalitions and chapters. She called on all of us to build such teams, instead of structures or systems designed to contain the same few activists, friends, or groups.

We need more and more people organized in groups, formations, and organizations, and in motion, not just in networks or fan clubs. How to build a team of the willing is at the heart of this project and this curriculum, and it is a 21st-century feminist praxis.

As Gloria Anzaldúa wrote, ‘We don’t want to be stars, but parts of constellations.’ This section is about building your constellation, inside and out. How will you grow your team? And once you recruit people, what will they find once they join up? How can we build and repair our relations? Find our people? How do we do what it takes to try to save humanity and the world from the chokehold of white supremacy and late-stage capitalism?


Outreach in Cynical and Lonely Times 

Page 50

3 hours 

Source: Auburn Seminary 

If our organizations are not growing, we are dying. The question of growing the organization is the responsibility of all members, with different people playing different parts. This discussion and worksheet based exercise will walk groups through key questions of how to do outreach, how to make and use an outreach plan, how to troubleshoot issues and challenges of outreach, and how to organize our teams for better recruitment and retention of new people. 

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Common Needs of Democratic Groups 

Page 57

1-2 hours 

Source: Auburn Seminary 

This session contains tools for groups to use to uncover common patterns in group building. It also brings us down to the fundamentals of working together: decision-making, meetings, power, and roles. While these things are basic, they are also where we often get stuck. This session utilizes discussion prompts, handouts, and scenarios for groups to build internal democratic practices. This includes identifying and confronting assumptions of working in democratic groups; discussing and agreeing on common needs for democratic groups; and building effective meeting and decision-making processes that reflect group values. 

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Infrastructure, Part 1: Good Bones, Strong Muscles 

Page 70

2 hours 

Source: Auburn Seminary 

This section is a feminist intervention around “what organizing is.” It supports folks to be proactive about greasing the wheels of internal operations so they can do what they set out to do. It’s also intended to prevent folks from getting spun-out or stalled-out by common organizational hiccups like delegation, roles, and coordination. This exercise utilizes self assessment, story telling, and worksheets to evaluate and plan internal organization processes. Part 1 is about assessing the overall values and systems in place in your group, and Part 2 (below) tackles the question of roles and coordination.

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Infrastructure, Part 2: Roles & Coordination 

Page 78

2 hours 

Source: Auburn Seminary 

In this second session devoted to infrastructure, we’re really going to zoom in on roles. Having clear and established roles can help our organizations maintain long term structures, keep people engaged, and provide transparency around decision-making and who does what work. This session utilizes scenarios and worksheets to plot the organization’s future. 

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Page 82

Organizing work is spirit work. Spirit work isn’t the soft stuff. Nor is it necessarily about organized religion, religious institutions, or individual clergy. Spirit work is needed to draw upon, use, and renew the courage we need to push to be our higher selves. This work requires stamina and humility. It requires us to come back again and again, knowing our hearts will be broken – and healed – in this work.

The exercises below are a small offering for groups around exploring spirit and fortifying spirit, individually and collectively (though our hope is that many of the other parts of this curriculum do that as well). They support our much-needed spiritual strength training.


Embodiment and Liberation 

Page 84

2 hours 

Source: Auburn Seminary

This session is devoted to spiritual strength training. It is an invitation to cultivate communal and individual practices for spiritual grounding, to identify and revisit old wounds, and to invoke and remind ourselves that this work is spiritual work. This session, through prompts and worksheets, aims to get shared clarity on concepts around spiritual self-work, self-care, and growth; to allow time for significant contemplation and reflection; and to hold space for individuals to share with the collective.

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Being Present in an Age of Distraction 

Page 90

1 – 2 hours 

Source: Auburn Seminary 

This session gives everyone the chance to take stock of how our individual and collective struggles to be present impact us–especially in the age of social media and smartphones–and asks how we might be more mindful of our presence. This exercise aims to explore the impacts on all of us, individually and collectively, when we struggle to be present; to share practices and reflections on being present; and to make commitments for moving forward. This is accomplished through a precencing exercise, worksheets, and prompts. 

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Page 94

How we refine and practice our values inside and outside of our organizations is critical to being able to advance our collective work. Trust is built through shared work, not just through potlucks, meetings, or relationship-building exercises.

Groups can tend to extremes. Some groups tend to overly focus on their work in the streets. Other groups can become consumed with values conversations to the point of navel-gazing. Yet others become insular and cliquish as they only focus on internal dynamics and culture building. 

What we need is a balance: tending to the internal hearth and heart of our shared organizational imperative. The exercises in this chapter address all these important issues while encouraging groups to consider them in combination instead of becoming consumed by just one concern. 


Organizing Culture, Principles, and Values 

Page 96

1 – 2 hours 

Source: Auburn Seminary

Knowing that many regular, everyday folks come to movement and then promptly leave again because it is so inhospitable, how do we take an active part in creating a group culture that reflects our values? This session gives people a chance to identify their values and core collective practices they can use to live into them. This is accomplished through prompts, handouts, and role playing exercises. 

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Campaigns & Community Organizing 

Page 100

3 – 4 hours 

Source: Southerners on New Ground’s (SONG) and Auburn Seminary

This section explores more in depth what community organizing is and how it differs from other forms of social change. It breaks down some of the key components of organizing and campaigns. This session aims to orient folks to, and demystify, what campaigns and community organizing are (and what they are not); to examine some key examples, concepts, and terms; and to describe different types of social change. This is accomplished through prompts, worksheets, and a mock campaign scenario. 

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Page 106

We have chosen to do a hard thing. If organizing were easy there would be more of us doing it.

How can we collect ourselves, root in our values, and communally be a steady hand to the teams we are a part of? This section has a variety of offerings for how groups can engage the very live-wire reality of conflict and belonging.

We are nothing without our teams. Our power comes from our numbers and our people, yet so often we eat each other alive inside of movement and then watch our numbers dwindle. We need each other to survive; we know this, and we must show each other we know this by how we show up, time after time.

This section offers exercises to help your group maintain in the face of all the challenges you’ll face both external and internal. This includes how to engage in effective facilitation, how to nurture relationships, and how to navigate conflict. 


Facilitation Station 

Page 108

2 – 4 hours 

Source: Auburn Seminary

As organizers and people working in groups, facilitation is a skill all of us can and should learn. We desperately need more strong facilitators. This is not some secret set of skills reserved for consultants, experts, or extroverts. There are many tools out there to help support good facilitation but the most important part is practice. You can’t study or read your way into being a strong facilitator. This session explores facilitation through prompts, worksheets, scenarios, and a guided discussion of power relationships in groups. 

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Nurturing Relationships, Navigating Conflict 

Page 114

4 – 6 hours 

Source: Auburn Seminary 

Some of us are good at starting relationships, others are good at maintaining them, and some of us struggle with relationships and connection, period. There is a rightful emphasis on “relational organizing” these days as relationships are critical for effective political organizing. Of course, where there are relationships we know there will also be conflict. Not only is it inevitable, it’s healthy: the question is how we deal with conflict once it arises. Included in this section are a variety of reflection exercises, worksheets, and conflict navigation scenarios for groups to use to reflect on their individual relationships to conflict and what agreements and protocol approaches they have at their disposal to address conflict.

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Page 125

1 hour 

Source: Auburn Seminary

Evaluation and reflection is an important feminist practice, and one our groups struggle to hold in balance; often, we go too deeply internal and analyze everything, or we totally neglect honest, rigorous evaluation. This section offers a list exercises or practices groups can use to close your curriculum or meetings with your people.

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Page 126

This appendix includes a variety of additional common organizing exercises, worksheets, ideas, and tools not covered in depth in the chapters. 

This includes check-in questions & grounding, energizers & icebreakers, activity formats, blank notes sheets, healing circles, land/body/spirit work, and a Rose/Bud/Thorn debrief sheet.

Download Appendix: More Tools For Group Work


Working Glossary of Organizing Terms

Page 137

This glossary provides definitions of frequently used terms in feminist movement organizations.

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Kate Shapiro

Caitlin Breedlove, Emily Simons, Nora Rasman, Aesha Rasheed, Rebecca Mwase, Ambreia Fernandez-Meadows, Michael Soto and Raquel Guteirrez, Lisa Anderson, Sharon Groves

September 2020
Creative Commons: Free to the people! Not for commercial use.

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