The Arc of Justice – From 1968, to 2018, and Beyond

In 1968, protest found its voice in demonstrations all across America. With sit-ins, strikes, boycotts, marches and riots, people began to say, “enough,” in ways that could not be ignored. It was the voice lifted from communities fed up with violence, racism and inequality. It was the voice of youth no longer willing to stand by as their own died in war. From the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, the Democratic National Convention riots, Black Power, the rise of the women’s and Chicano movements and what set the stage for the Stonewall uprising that jettisoned the push for Gay rights, 1968 signaled the call for change.

Responses by authorities to the protesters were often harsh and sometimes deadly. But Americans of conscience found inspiration in resistance, and heroes with unforgettable stories emerged in every movement. The trajectory of our nation was forever shifted.

We realize that in these early days of 2018, we face a unique and historic milestone. It’s been 50 years since 1968 and, while progress has been made, there is still far to go. We face a deeply hostile federal government that threatens our rights, and democracy itself. We are governed by a Congress determined to return favors to the privileged. Divisions among us are encouraged and exacerbated by cynical policy makers and the freedom of the press is threatened. All across the country we see virulent racism incited, gross injustices institutionalized, and system-wide inequality written into law.

But as in 1968, we are once again witnessing an awakening of the people’s power. A groundswell of social action and a few key electoral victories in 2017 have brought much needed hope as destructive policies came at us at what felt like a daily onslaught.

As we spend 2018 fighting for social change, Fenton plans to pause occasionally to reflect on the lessons of 1968, and our role as an agency created to carry on the work of these movements. Of course, there were no “social change agencies” back then. Fenton didn’t exist.

But 1968 is in our DNA. Some, like David Fenton and Ira Arlook, were on the front lines of these movements back then. Some of us were only beginning to be born. And much of Fenton staff is two generations on, a new wave of activists committed to storytelling that advances social justice.

In this milestone year, we plan to share and learn so that we can connect even more deeply with these movements for change, and continue to bring more people into the political system as voters, organizers and candidates dedicated to greater equity. And today we have new strengths; multiple instant communications platforms and tools, more inclusive leadership and key legal victories which have enshrined some of these rights.

We hope that you will join us, and not just in looking back. Over the next twelve months, Fenton will note important milestones in racial justice, gender equality, sexual rights, environmental activism, free speech, economic inclusion, democracy and voting rights. We’ll highlight clients who are carrying forward this legacy; hold events and discussions in our offices around the country; tell our own stories and share yours.

Join us on social media with #Inspiredby68.