“Toward Harnessing Language in Support of Intersectionality and Cross-sector Power Building Language is a key ingredient in a winning theory of change. Language can build bridges and change minds. By acknowledging the ability of language to shape and reflect reality, progressive campaigns can become more powerful vehicles for social change, inclusion, and justice. In fact, understanding and applying the authentic language of the individuals and communities with whom we work can be a revolutionary act in itself. Historically, extensive, issue-based language guidelines have remained siloed or proprietary. Some information has trickled up (with some questionable success) to be centralized in the establishment grammar and usage style guides, but this information is far from comprehensive and lacks the voice of the groups being discussed. At the same time, transparent conversations about the power of word choice and phrasing have remained disconnected and difficult to access. In 2015, SumOfUs staff, led by Hanna Thomas, began the compilation of a new kind of guide – one that sparks a conversation about language among progressives. With the help of Anna Hirsch, an independent editor, A Progressive’s Style Guide was born. We invite drivers of progressive change – community members, grassroots leaders, activists, and progressive funders–to peruse the vital movement frameworks, decolonizing usage, and up-to-date word choice and phrasing for current theory of change directions and momentum across groups and issue areas presented in this guide. A Progressive’s Style Guide is explicitly multi-voiced and is created with the following commitments. 1) We combat discriminatory language. 2) We seek advice or more information when we’re unsure. 3) When writing, speaking, or using images, we aim to use examples that reflect a broad range of identities and perspectives. We understand that there may be negative blowback to this work and that we won’t be the first to experience it. We affirm that we are aligned with free speech, and at the same time are promoting thoughtfulness and openness about how language is and isn’t used, has been used, and could be used for people and for our planet collectively. Because language is dynamic, changes with our struggles, and is shaped by criticism and the collective construction of social justice, we are compelled to keep building a collective language that liberates us all. As we continue to think about ways to organize this information that are accessible, user-friendly, clear, and aligned with progressives’ beliefs and strategies, we know that in some instances we still fall short – and so, we also invite feedback. We are committed to this work and to remaining in dialogue…”
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