It’s an old school tactic coined in the early 1900s by Mexican American organizer, Fred Ross, that’s commonly used to plan strategies in organizing for change. It’s actually called a house-meeting.
In my years as an organizer, one of the main issues I’ve seen—aside from marginalized communities feeling outright disempowered—is that people just don’t know where to start. And I’ll be the first to admit that this work can be a little complicated. It’s not for the meek and mild, nor for those who are unable to run the distance. But if you’re feeling frustrated with the status quo, you can do something by simply having a conversation or hosting a house-meeting.
Here’s the rundown.
First, you invite some people over to your house or a local, public space. These could be people who you’ve had conversations with before who co-signed your gripes or found what you were saying to be interesting.
Next, you think about a few other people that you may not know so well but could benefit from, resonate with or who have some kind of power or expertise to compliment what you’re talking about. Reach out and ask them to come, too.
Finally, you set a time and date, the people come, you feed them dinner and y’all talk about those gripes, issues and concerns.
Boom, you have a house-meeting!
And if it’s a good house meeting, everyone will leave fired up with action steps and ready to have these conversations with even more people. Before you know it, you’ve potentially started a movement.
Let’s Talk About Nashville
Now if you’re anything like me, you’ve zoned out by now probably thinking about tacos, bills and why you have gritty stuff in your navel and you haven’t been to the beach—and the only thing that can get you back are visuals and actual examples.
Don’t worry, I got you! Real-life case study loading now.
My friend, Vesia Hawkins, is and has been sick of it. For the longest, she’s been issuing verbal beatdowns and Sunday school lessons on her blog, "Volume and Light," around issues of literacy proficiency and ways to improve them.
Last week she stepped her game up and hosted the event, “A Family Affair: Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline Starts with Reading,” which turned out to be a big ass house-meeting at Purpose Preparatory Academy in Nashville.
She made it happen by hitting up a few of her friends—principals, activists, parents, educators and nonprofit leaders and told them she wanted them to be part of this thing she was doing.
She circulated a flyer on social media and in the community to let everyone know what was going down and how important it was for them to participate in this conversation.
And of course, she dished out some good old Nashville cooking.
Leader of the parent group Nashville P.R.O.P.E.L., Sonya Thomas, told her story about struggling to get her son support because he wasn’t being taught to read. Her words would move any parent or activist to tears—and to action.
But the most important people at the party/meeting were the students and parents.
There had to be a minimum of 60 families in the room listening intently, sharing their stories and concerns, including a high school student who said there’s been a lapse in the quality of her education since transitioning from eighth grade to high school.
The energy was high. We had food, conversations, questions and we had the all-important charge for action led by a powerful activist, Treymanye Haymer, who’s dispelling the myth that Black fathers aren’t actively involved in their children’s education.
We started something in Nashville that night. We came together because we are concerned about and fighting for literacy proficiency for our kids.
And if you’ve made it to the end of my “How-To” guide, I hope you’ll be inspired to start something soon, too. Start with a house-meeting.
Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and ...