Book Club: Jan 28, 2021 at 7:30 PM EST. The Purpose of Power by Alicia GarzeHand in Hand hosted our first book club to discuss Alicia Garza’s The Purpose of Power, and how it relates to our organizing as part of the domestic worker movement. We had a rich discussion with new friends and longtime members, using these prompts as our guide.

Please feel free to use this guide to direct your virtual discussion! Big thanks to Hand in Hand members Suzanne Schmidt and Kathleen Coll for helping with this guide’s development.

Start by doing individual reflection, then pairing up and eventually discussing as a full group, using the exercise 1 → 2 → 4 → More. If you’re in a small group, you can simply do individual reflection, paired conversation, and then reconvene your full group.

1 → 2 → 4 → More

  • 1: Reflect individually and jot down some notes about your reflections of The Purpose of Power. What did you get out of reading the book? What impacted you? (3 mins)
  • 2: We’ll break you into pairs: Share what you’re bringing to book club and what will you take away from this read. (5 mins)
  • 4: In small groups, share: What do you most want to talk about during this discussion? (7 mins)
  • More: In the large group, share: What part of this book felt most related to your work with Hand in Hand? (hear from 2-4 people in the larger group) 

Next, let participants choose which small group is most appealing to them. In a small group, you might choose two or three of these concepts to dig into.

Small Group → Self-Directed: You choose which group you want to join!

1. Power (ch. 12)

  • Definition: “Power is the ability to impact and affect the conditions of your own life and the lives of others, the freedom to shape and determine the story of who we are. Power also means having the ability to reward and punish and decide how resources are distributed.” (p. 186)
  • Passage to consider together: “The world that we imagine will not come into existence if we are not courageous enough to challenge power where it operates at the largest scale, impacting the lives of millions, even billions of people.”
    • It’s daunting to imagine challenging power at this level! How will we post these challenges? What might it look like? How have we already mounted challenges to broad power—did we define it as such? On a smaller scale, what are we doing locally and individually to challenge power in our lives?


2. Organizing (ch. 3)

  • Definition: “Organizing is the process of coming together with other people who share your concerns and values to work toward a change in some kind of policy, usually of the government, but also of universities, private companies, and other institutions whose policies affect and shape our lives.” (p. 47)
  • Passage to consider together: “St. Louis was working-class Black people, some with homes and some without, showing the world what it means to be Black in cities where the rules are designed by white people.”
    • What have your organizing formations looked like? Have you changed policy? In what ways? What kind of organizing are you doing now? With whom? Toward what demand or goal?


3. Identity politics (ch. 12)

  • Definition: “Identity politics is the radical notion that your worldview is shaped by your experiences and history and that those experiences will vary in relationship to the power a group or an individual has in the economy, society, or democracy.” (p. 190)
  • Passage to consider together: “The willful forgetting of traumatic experiences allows their harmful effects to continue. Forgetting that domestic workers don’t currently have protections under many of America’s labor laws obscures the reason they don’t have those protections—racism—and thus, nearly one hundreds years after domestic workers were denied access to most basic labor protections, they continue to exist precariously in the economy.” (p. 191)
    • How does identity interact with our memory of trauma in the society where we live? How are we interrupting this forgetting in our lives, our organizing, and our work? 


4. Base-building & constituencies (ch. 14)

  • Definition: “A base is a group of people united around an issue or a goal. A base should be distinguished from a constituency, which can include those groups but also include people who are impacted by an issue or a series of issues but aren’t yet organized to fight them.” (p. 212)
  • Passage to consider together: “Anything that reaches toward the sky must have a strong foundation to hold it up. That’s how I think of movements—movements reach toward the sky to achieve what has been deemed impossible.”
    • Are you part of a base? A constituency? Both? How do we understand domestic employers as part of a broader movement? 


5. Political education (ch. 15)

  • Definition: “Political education is a tool for understanding the political contexts we live in. It helps individuals and groups analyze the social and economic trends, the policies and the ideologies influencing our lives—and use this information to develop strategies to change the rules and transform power.” (p. 220)
  • Passage to consider together: “Political education helps us see the world from different perspectives without elevating the viewpoint and perspective of white, Christian, heterosexual men over that of anyone else—including those groups whose presence, contributions, and history have suffered erasure. Political education is a part of the process of interrupting old power dynamics in our communities, the ones that privilege some experiences, perspectives, and tactics over others.” (p. 223)
    • Where do you go for political education? How does it / has it differed from traditional education you received? How are you amplifying / participating in political education? 


And finally, split people up randomly so that everyone has an opportunity to think about Garza’s final thoughts and vision for the future. 

Small Group → Random Groups of 5

  • At the end of The Purpose of Power, Garza talks about hospice and prenatal care (288) as self-care for the movement. Why do you think she chose these terms, and what do you think she means? 
  • Passage: “In hospice, care is the most important thing, the principle around which everything is organized. . .cancer has localized itself in particular communities but also spreads across all of our communities in unique ways, and we need to think seriously about how we care for those communities, how we address the ongoing assaults of racism and sexism and homophobia and poverty. That is our hospice work.” (p. 288)
    • How and where are we doing hospice work? What does hospice work feel like? How are we doing this work with dignity and care? 
  • Passage: “…the prenatal work is what a lot of this book and a lot of my life are about—the work of dreaming and acting to create the world we deserve. It’s about opening our imagination and putting ourselves on the line to create and enact solutions to our problems and the deepest needs of connection and community at the base of all human existence.” (p. 289)
    • What prenatal work are we doing? What do these metaphors evoke in your personal life? What do they evoke in our organizing with HiH as part of the larger movement for domestic worker rights? 
    •  Are we prepared to win, and to create the world we’ve envisioned? How much time do we spend doing prenatal work v. hospice work?