Blue Heart Manifesto

Blue Heart helps people meaningfully engage with pressing social issues through art and stories and funds local, grassroots organizations that make a difference.

We know that many people feel overwhelmed and disconnected from the social and environmental problems like climate change and racial inequality that crowd their media feeds. They are hungry for ways to take action and connect with the issues that shape their communities. We believe that cultural change precipitates political change and, thus, community-based actions that engage our hearts and minds are the seeds that spawn the cultural tipping points that make our communities more just and equitable.

Blue Heart reawakens the social imagination through commissioning movement-building art; funds organizations on the front lines of fighting systemic injustice; and brings the stories of grassroots change into the homes, hands, and hearts of as many people as we can.

To fuel the transition towards a just, healthy, and resilient society, we must change the relationships that comprise our culture. We seek to shift:

> Our relationship to ourselves — to claim our power and ability to affect change on the problems that exist around us;

> Our relationships with each other — to build compassion for, understanding of, and solidarity with people different from ourselves;

> Our relationship with the planet and her resources — to catalyze a path towards regeneration and a just distribution of wealth.

We see an opportunity to spur creativity, compassion, and action towards ecological and social justice. It involves linking three sometimes disparate communities: people in community-based organizations, folks working as urban professionals, and movement-building artists.

Community-based organizations: Small, grassroots organizations build the political power of marginalized communities across the United States. We’ve seen these organizations emerge on the front lines of disaster response, in the aftermath of police brutality, and for the preservation of public spaces to empower voices who are systematically marginalized in political discourse. They’re among the most critical actors in the social ecosystem of movement building, yet they often go unfunded or unseen because they lack the funding, evaluation, or public relations capacity to amplify their efforts.

Urban professionals: We live in a time of scary and overwhelming global problems. The fear and despair that accompanies news about climate change, police brutality, and the failure of immigration reform can be immobilizing even for those with the resources and desire to make a difference. Yet these challenges impact our own neighborhoods and communities, where we can take concrete action. Four in 5 Americans live in cities[1], and we’ve heard these urban dwellers express a desire to engage more meaningfully with the complex issues that are shaking and shifting the communities that surround them.

Artists: Art is an essential catalyst of cultural change. It activates the social imagination. It is how humans learn about ourselves and each other. It invites us to see, taste, touch, and dream about possible alternative futures. As we navigate the sometimes messy, often uncomfortable pathway of personal and collective action, we need to engage the heart and the senses — not just the intellectual mind and the pocketbook. In this journey, grief, anger, and joy are sources of strength. Experiencing and creating art is how we flex the emotional and psychological muscles that spur compassion and action. As Toni Cade Bambara is quoted saying: “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible”.

We believe that to tackle complex issues such as climate change and racial inequality, we must address the social divisions and injustices that form their roots. History shows us time and again that cultural change must come before political change is possible. Big, top-down policy alone does not effectively address these problems. In fact, top-down policy more often reflects existing cultural beliefs and realities than creates new ones. Household, neighborhood and city-driven actions that engage our hearts and minds often look small — until cultural tipping points change everything. As Grace Lee Boggs said: “We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. In this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of ‘critical mass.’ It’s always about critical connections.”

We believe there is a role for everyone in fueling cultural and political change: a role for community-based organizations to nurture the soil that will sustain cultural change; a role for artists to plant seeds of wild possibility; and a role for individual citizens to tend the seedlings and share the fruits of harvest.

To create better relationships with each other, ourselves, and the Earth, each of us must use our power to take creative action for our individual and collective liberation. We invite you to become part of our community of joyful doers.

Photo: Taylor Skillin, Oakland

[1] U.S. Census 2010.

Thank you to Lucia Hennelly, Mateo Nube, and Lily Lawrence for reviewing previous drafts of this text. We have been enormously influenced by the philosophies and ideas of Movement Generation, Grace Lee Boggs, and many others as we have developed Blue Heart. Thank you to the leaders and visionaries that have stood before us.

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