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Entries in boutique activism (1)

Boutique Activism Must End 

by: Joseph "Jazz" Hayden

It is indisputable that mass incarceration in the United States constitutes a racial caste system— what attorney, activist and author Michele Alexander calls “the new Jim Crow.”  Fortunately, there are many organizations across the country actively advocating against this injustice.  Unfortunately, however, our advocacy has failed for the last 40 years.  I think I know why.

Many years ago I expressed what many perceived as an essentially negative observation. My observation was that our advocacy efforts continue to fall short precisely because we do not come together and integrate our efforts.  Despite our commitment to a common cause, for decades advocacy groups have been engaged in what my good friend and mentor Joe Kaye calls “Boutique Activism.”  Each advocacy group stakes out a piece of the problem, develops tunnel vision, and only communicates with its funders.  This flawed approach has undermined all of our efforts to change the system.

Do our advocacy groups ever come together to consider collaboration, strategy, tactics, and finding a way to complement each other’s work?  Do they even communicate with each other?  And how many advocacy groups and organizations have a strategic plan for empowering the communities most impacted by mass incarceration? 

Mass incarceration is not a prison problem. It is a community problem, and the communities most affected must be organized to demand change in the political process.  Advocacy groups are in a position to help make that happen but they must first learn to speak, share and collaborate with each other.  This is the conversation that must be had if we are to end and never revisit mass incarceration. Are you ready to JOIN THE CONVERSATION? The Campaign to End the New Jim Crow (New York) is ready to host this “Round Table” conversation on Saturday, June 20th at 10am - Riverside Church. 

It’s time for change.  As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Let’s try something different, and let’s get it going.

If you or your organization wish to join this Roundtable Discussion you can contact me at or complete this registration form.


"Unity is strength... when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved."

- Mattie Stepanek