From French Fries to Fracking — Inspiring Movement Moments of 2013

Written by Julie Quiroz

December 15, 2013

Remember this spring, when the Associated Press finally dropped the I-word, and youth of color defeated prison-to-pipeline policies in Los Angeles public schools?

Or remember back in February when 50,000 people rallied in DC against the XL Pipeline?  And then in October when the protests of 5,000 young people linked the pipeline, fracking, and the whole mess of fossil fuel development?

How about September, when legendary Black activist Chokwe Lumumba scored a grassroots electoral victory in the Jackson, Mississippi mayoral race?

McDonald's strike

Photo: Jordan Flaherty

Or just this month, when fast food workers chucked the french fries and grabbed headlines and policy attention with strikes in over 100 cities?

Each of these moments is part of movement-building — the labor of love that keeps our work alive in quiet times, ignites movement sparks in loud times, and fans movement embers when the work gets really tough.

Thanks to the passionate collective work of so many people, organizations, alliances, and networks, 2013 was full of “movement moments” that shifted how people thought and felt, changed policies and institutions, uplifted the spirits and ambitions of everyone who participated, and sometimes even hit the sweet spot of all three.

Gathering and telling the stories of these movements – to each other, our families, our children –opens our hearts, nourishes our minds, and expands our vision for what’s possible.

Below, we’ve compiled some inspiring movement movements that emerged in the US in 2013 and give us hope for 2014 and beyond.

What movement moments inspired you this year?  Let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to the list!

Inspiring Movement Moments of 2013

Keystone XL Pipeline protest

Photo: Jmcdaid, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Challenging the XL Pipeline.

In the biggest climate justice rally in US history, an estimated 50,000 protestors gathered in Washington, DC at a February rally against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Throughout the year local protests continued in communities across the country.

Defend Womens Rights

Photo: Elvert Barnes, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Violence Against Women Act Extended and Strengthened.

Native American women, immigrant women, and gay, lesbian, and transgendered people brought a years-long battle to victory in March when President Obama signed the VAWA extension with new inclusive provisions for their communities.

No More “I” Word.

After ten years, Race Forward (formerly Applied Research Center) won a major victory in its Drop the I Word campaign in April when the Associated Press eliminated the term “illegal immigrant” from its style guide.

Willful Defiance

Source: Every Student Matters Campaign

Challenging School-to-Prison Policies.

In May, years of organizing by youth of color convinced Los Angeles Unified School District to do away with “willful defiance” policies that have resulted in disproportionate expulsion of boys and men of color. In November, Florida’s Broward County public schools also shifted stance to overhaul its approach to discipline.

Prop 8

Photo: Steve Rhodes, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Upholding the Dignity and Humanity of Queer People.

Decades of organizing built a majority of public support for gay marriage, contributing to the Supreme Court’s June decision to require that federal benefits apply to gay spouses, and to deny standing to proponents of California’s Proposition 8, which had banned gay marriage.

Abortion Rights
Filibustering Against Abortion Restrictions.

Watched by millions via social media and television, thousands of abortion rights supporters descended on the Texas state capitol building in June as state legislator Wendy Davis pursued an 11-hour filibuster to prevent the passage of draconian abortion restrictions.

Prisoners Hunger Strike

Photo: Debra Sweet / World Can’t Wait, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Hunger Strike for Human Rights.

A hunger strike by California state inmates grew to over 30,000 in July, the largest prison strike in American history. This massive action intensified public outcry against the inhumane use of solitary confinement.

2013 March for Travon

Photo: Debra Sweet / World Can’t Wait, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Standing Up to “Stand Your Ground”.

A youth-led group called Dream Defenders captured national attention by holding the longest-known sit-in at the Florida governor’s office in July. The Dream Defenders protested George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the murder of Trayvon Martin, championed new policies to end the “stand your ground” laws reinforcing racist violence, and called attention to the role of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) in all of it.

Travon Martin Hoodie

Photo: thetortmaster, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cultural Expressions of Outrage.

In a unifying cultural action, millions of people – including professional basketball teams and black medical school students – shared and created images of hoodies to express outrage at the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer.

Immigrant Youth / Bring Them Home

Source: National Immigrant Youth Alliance

Direct Action on the Border.

The Immigrant Youth Network’s Dream 9 – nine undocumented immigrants ages 19 to 37 – called attention to brutal immigration policies in July when they re-entered the US from Mexico and were immediately arrested and detained.

Chokwe Lumumba

Photo: NatalieMaynor is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Black Electoral Organizing Wins Mayors Race.

Co-Founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) Chokwe Lumumba galvanized grassroots electoral organizing to win electoral victory in the July Jackson, Mississippi mayoral race.

Strong Families

Source: Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski, Strong Families

Ending Phone Price Gouging of Prisoner’s Families.

With the participation of 90,000 individuals and organizations, the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice won a Federal Communications Commission vote in August, ending price gouging of families talking by phone to incarcerated loved ones.

Trans Youth

Photo: Stuart Grout, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Groundbreaking Transgender Law.

Transgender organizing resulted in the August passage of a new California law ensuring equal treatment and protection of transgender students in public schools. Organizing and public education continue as school districts prepare to implement the law in 2014.

School Funding

Photo: shersh is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Reversing Inequity in School Funding.

Massive local and statewide organizing resulted in the September passage of the new Local Control Funding Formula in California, making it one of the nation’s largest school funding systems to target what will be millions of dollars in resources to students in need (low-income, English Learner, and foster youth).

Sallie Mae Leaves ALEC.

Thanks to pressure from campaigns from Jobs With Justice/American Rights at Work, United States Student Association, and the Student Labor Action Project, Sallie Mae announced in September that it would join 49 other corporations in defecting from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the powerhouse representing corporate interests in everything from private prisons to health insurance to tobacco.

Not One More

Photo: sierraromeo [sarah-ji] is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

No More Deportations.

As part of a nationwide effort, protestors chained themselves to the White House to demand “not one more deportation” in September in response to the Obama administration’s deportation of over 2 million immigrants. Dramatic direct action has sprung up in ICE deportation points all across the country during the year, including Tucson, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Elizabeth, New Jersey, and others. By December, more than two dozen House Democrats asked President Obama to suspend deportations and to expand a program that grants temporary legal presence.

Media Justice

Photo: NS Newsflash is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Media Justice Defeat of Koch Brothers.

After the Brothers Koch brothers announced plans to buy the Tribune Newspapers a coalition rose up to stop them. The Service Employees International Union, Courage Campaign, CREDO, Free Press and Forecast the Facts effort succeeded in August when the Koches announced they were no longer buying the papers.


Photo: Lost Albatross is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Racial Justice Infuses AFL-CIO Conference.

The AFL-CIO Convention in September took historical steps toward inclusion of all working people by inviting day laborers, taxi drivers, and other sectors of new labor engaged in the United Workers Congress, honoring domestic workers and passing groundbreaking resolutions on issues such as prisons and profits.

Domestic Worker Victories.

In September, domestic workers scored major victories at the national and local levels. On September 17, the Obama administration announced new rules extending the Fair Labor Standards Act to include home health workers under the federal government’s wage and hour protections. On September 26 California governor Jerry Brown signed the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, allowing the full spectrum of domestic workers—including live-in nannies and housekeepers—to benefit from the same gains as the home health workers.


Photo: Shadia Fayne Wood

Young People Against Fossil Fuels and Fracking.

In October 5,000 young people gathered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for Power Shift 2013 to strategize about climate and environmental justice. The week ended with over 5,000 people protesting the impacts of fossil fuels by demanding a stop to the Keystone Pipeline and fracking that is devastating communities.


Photo: brewbooks, licensed underCC BY-SA 2.0

Textbook Defeat of Creationists & Global Warming Deniers.

In a major victory against the Right’s effort to control public school content, the Texas State Board of Education voted in November to approve science textbooks based on established science, rejecting the intervention of creationists and global warming skeptics. Organizing for the win was led by the Texas Freedom Network’s Stand Up for Science Campaign.

Massive Organizing Against Wal-Mart Wages and Practices.

Denouncing poverty wages, 50 Los Angeles Wal-Mart workers were arrested in November in the largest civil disobedience ever waged against the company. Civil disobedience against Wal-Mart took place in dozens of cities across the county as part of the national Our Wal-Mart campaign. Over 1,500 protests took place on Black Friday.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio

Photo: jerekeys is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Working Families Vote NYC Mayor.

Propelled by the grassroots electoral strategy of the Working Families Party, Progressive Bill de Blasio wins the November mayoral election in a landslide, winning 95% of the black vote and 85% of the Latino vote.

ABQ Women

Source: Young Women United in collaboration with several photographers and Albuquerque families.

Women of Color Win Reproductive Respect.

Building on women’s stories of their lives and challenges, in November the grassroots campaign led by Respect ABQ Women defeated a proposed 20-week abortion ban and captured national media attention.

McDonald's strike

Photo: Jordan Flaherty

Fast Food Strikes Across the Nation.

In December fast food workers held strikes in 100 cities, generating massive media coverage and building momentum for a new national minimum wage.

Bring on 2014!

Julie Quiroz

Julie Quiroz lives in Michigan and leads New Moon Collaborations, a fiscally sponsored project of Movement Strategy Center.

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