Heather Booth talks about the new film, “Heather Booth: Changing the World.” Booth a long-time activist and social organizer has been on the forefront of many issue including the Civil Rights Movement, marriage equality, and tax reform. She is a world-renowned organizer but also simply empowers other to stand up for what they believe and know is just.
Heather Booth is attending the screening of the film this evening at SIFF Cinema Uptown for a Q&A. Don’t miss out! The screening is at 7pm this evening
About “Heather Booth: Changing the World”
The newest film by critically acclaimed filmmaker Lilly Rivlin is an inspiring look at how social change happens. Booth, a renowned organizer and activist, began her remarkable career at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Looking at Booth’s life, work and personal relationship with respected leaders such as Julian Bond and Senator Elizabeth Warren, the film explores the most pivotal moments in progressive movements that altered our history over the last fifty years.
“Heather Booth: Changing the World” blends archival and contemporary footage with interviews with close friends, clients, political colleagues, students and others to understand this one person’s legacy in progressive politics, organizing and empowering each of us to create change.
Check out our interview with Heather Booth below:
From what I understand, you are a heavy duty behind the scenes person. How does it feel to be in the spotlight right now?
That is a good question. I have two different reactions to it. One, I am much more comfortable when there is a context of promoting people who are finding their voice, standing up, fighting for what’s right, winning. My real focus is on the people in various movements and acts of resistance. I am a real organizer. To be the topic of the movie is a little uncomfortable. Two, I am really thrilled about is that the movie is becoming a vehicle for inspiring people to organize. At the end of the film, people very frequently stand up and cheer bring ready to organize. They are ready to take action. I find that very inspiring and very energizing.
What do you think is the most important thing for someone who does want to take action and organize something?
Well, organizing usually begins because you feel a passion about something. It’s usually based in values because you feel a commitment to something either being just and you want to fight for it or being unjust/unfair/unkind and you want to fight against it. I think organizing starts by connecting with those values, identifying the problem, figuring out what you need to do to correct it and then following your passion/standing up. In some ways, it is one of the terrible signs of these times that there are so many things that demand our attention. Whether is it marriage equality, the right to love and marry. Whether it is welcoming immigrants into the country as opposed to expelling them. Whether it is saying that the one percent shouldn’t get all of the tax cuts that will leave no funds for the rest of us. There are so many issues. What is inspiring about this time, as frightening as all of the challenges are, is that people are standing up. They are finding their voice and uniting together.
When you look back on all of the projects you have worked on, is there one that just stands out to you?
(Laughter) You know, I feel like that about just about everything I have ever worked on. I probably have three different answers for you here. One is, whatever I am working on at the moment is consuming, dynamic and meaningful. Right now, I am the Field Director for Americans for Tax Fairness, which is fighting against the tax cuts that will only benefit the top one percent and richest people in the country. If there are those cuts it will mean that they are paid for with cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, education and so many other services that help people live a full life in this country. We have to stop those cuts. I also think in some ways that the origin of my own work started in the civil rights movement. That is also one of the most impactful areas that I have been working. In 1960, I joined support for the Civil Rights Movement when there were demonstrations against Woolworth’s. African-Americans weren’t allowed to sit at the lunch counters in the South. There was a movement created to oppose that practice. I then became increasingly active in the movement and went to Mississippi in 1964 with the Freedom Summer Project. Many people may have heard about that project because there were three young men who were volunteers that were killed at the hands of the KKK. But because people organized, within a year there was a voting rights act. So even in times that are seemingly the most frightening, the least hopeful, the most filled with terror and despair, we can win when people organize. We won’t win if people don’t organize. That brings me to a third area. I was the coordinator of the effort around marriage equality during the Supreme Court decision in 2015, the Obergefell v. Hodges case. That was also inspiring to think we came from a time when love was only losing. There had been a set of ballot measure that were losing. Then, people looked carefully to see what was needed to organize and how do we talk to other people. How do we personalize it? How do we make it clear that this is about our neighbors, our friends, our parents and our children? This is about love. Focusing on the values again, we won. I think the broad lesson out of all of these efforts is that if you organize, you can change the world, but only if we organize.
That just made me think about Edith Windsor’s passing this week.
Yes, we should definitely raise her name and remember the path breaking role she played. It is often about key and heroic individuals who are willing to stand up. It is also about the movements that they inspire. One person can and does make a difference. It is usually when it is combined with the power of tens, hundreds, thousands and millions joining in support. Together, we can build a world with dignity and respect for all. We need to.
What would you like people to take away from this film?
If we organize, we can change the world. I would like it to encourage people to feel some of that inspiration to join with others and bring us from this very perilous time into a more inspiring moment and a more hopeful time. I hope that people see the film and decide to take action.
Learn more about the film here.