12 Books (And A Poem) That Inspire the Activism We Need In 2018

By Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

2017 was a challenging year on many fronts. The current administration has forsaken diplomacy, rolled back environmental protection, and mounted an attack on many of the most vulnerable communities across the country.  Yet these same communities have shown resilience, spiritual fortitude and deft grassroots organizing that have inspired a year of resistance.  Current and past thinkers and leaders of these movements have written books that offer a sacred canon of texts that inspire us for the powerful year of activism that must come.

The following books were recommended by colleagues at Auburn Seminary, which in 2018 is celebrating its 200th Anniversary of troubling the waters and healing the world.

Recommended by Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, President

Brown is the New White by Steve Philips – A very important book about the tectonic demographic shift in the United States that is creating a new American majority.  The book is heavy on data and clarifying about the changes we can sense and hopeful about a path forward for a new future of America that is inclusive and embracing of difference.

Recommended by Caitlin Breedlove, VP Movement Leadership

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit – A very personal writing on hope for activists and campaigners, especially inviting us to see hope in unlikely places.

Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown – Blending the work of the author herself and the ideas of Octavia Butler and Grace Lee Boggs, Brown mixes personal story, organizing exercises, and ecological narrative to help us chart new and old methods of social change centered in spirit and collectivity.

Courage, by Jan Zwicky (poem) – For the road weary activist, on the eve of a new year.

Recommended by Zulma Miranda, Esq., VP, Strategic Philanthropy

Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition by Charles Einstein –  Our world will not change until we understand how interconnected we really are.  The book traces the history of money and how we need to move from a mentality of scarcity to abundance.

Recommended by Lisa Anderson, VP Embodied Justice Leadership 

Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision by Barbara Ransby – Not new. written in 2003. But just as Octavia Butler is inspiring so many felt like high time I delved into this powerful biography. She is so much more than “the leader-ful movements” phrase she is so often associated with.

Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley – Black queer women of size shares her practice journey and the insights into self-love, justice and acceptance the practice can yield.

No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality by Jordan Flaherty – This book pressed me theologically. How does savior thinking within Christian tradition yield that which actually undercuts the liberation we seek? And what are the particular lessons those most impacted have to tell through the movement/campaign work that are instructive for new theo-ethical understandings?

Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines, ed by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens and Mai’a Williams — Queer non-essentialized understanding of mothering. Elegant and powerful.

Recommended by Macky Alston, Senior VP Prophetic and Creative Leadership:

Fear+Less Dialogues: A New Movement for Justice by Gregory C. Ellison II – Puts forward an approach to engaging self and other in the face of difference, disagreement and divide, rooted in the conviction that when we are not seen as fully human and cannot see the humanity of the other, we do violence, and when we truly see self and other, we can manifest beloved community.

The Imagination Gap by Brian Reich – Canvases innovators in the range of fields, bemoaning the degree to which our engagement in relationship, community building and work lacks imagination and providing strategies to unleash optimal capacity for imagination to all we do.

Carnal Knowledge of God: Embodied Love and the Movement for Justice by Rebecca M. M. Voelkel – Delves into the embodied nature of God revealed in our bodies, relationships, communities, and striving for justice, the ways in which the same locations can be sites of abuse and violence, and the opportunities to reclaim pleasure and longing from colonial clutches through queer, feminist and womanist theologies.

Recommended by Rev. Dr. Christian Sharen, VP of Applied Research and The Center for the Study of Theological Education. 

Nobody Cries When We Die: God, Community, and Surviving to Adulthood by Patrick B. Reyes, forward by Jimmy Santiago Baca –  In this beautiful hybrid memoir and reflection on living a life that matters, Reyes combines theological reflection and biting commentary on the struggles of people of color in the US today. He takes us to the places in American society that make those in power flinch, and challenges all of us to ask: what are we called to do with our lives, to save lives and lead in our communities and beyond?

Auburn Seminary wishes you a powerful, and joyful 2018.  A year of transforming our world and writing the future story of America – one of justice, abundance and welcome to all.

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is Senior Vice President at Auburn and Editor of Voices.

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