Letter to L.A.: This Is a Movement, Not a Moment by Luis J. Rodriguez

‘The biggest challenge we are living now—during the worst pandemic in 100 years—is to stretch the collective imaginations to the creative means needed to overcome the current economic and political crisis,’ writes former Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriquez. ‘That’s why this is a movement, not a moment.’

The biggest challenge we are living now—during the worst pandemic in 100 years—is to stretch the collective imaginations to the creative means needed to overcome the current economic and political crisis.

This is why we are in the midst of a revolutionary movement, not just a moment.

Imagination—or what others are calling “re-imagining”—is primary at this point since no practical program, steps or organization in itself will encompass what will truly take us out of the mire. We are in a time that requires deep reflection, contemplation and imagining.

Revolutions, if they are to be more than unconscious upheavals, need a cognizant leading aspect. First the dream, then the vision of how to achieve this dream, then the realization. No implementation without imagination.

While there have been many activists and resisters in recent months, especially by Black Lives Matter in the wake the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others by police, we also need the builders. Resisters can be said to be about 90 percent of the movement. Ten percent or so are the ones who can actually imagine and then shape the foundations of a new house. I’m not one who condones the violence or burnings or looting. But it’s been overrepresented. Around seven percent of the recent protests have involved such acts. The majority have been peaceful, disciplined and at times poetic.

“Law and order” is the reaction meant to push revolutionary thinking and organizing to the periphery as such thinking and organizing has taken center stage in the hearts and minds of millions. So is “red-baiting”—labeling everything as Marxist, communist or socialist.

We shouldn’t take the bait. First, Marxists, communists and socialists are part of any revolutionary aspirations or movement in this country and have been since the 19th century. Second, this current movement is not bound by any one ideology or political answer. It’s organic, fluid, with multiple possibilities. As others have said, it’s not about “left” and “right,” but what’s right and wrong. How can deepening poverty, lack of decent healthcare, growing economic devastation, climate change or divisions based on race or class be right? Those who advocate or apologize for any of these should be held to account.

What’s happening is an expanding conversation of what we’re dealing with and how to fully respond. I’ve seen this for weeks now on Zoom calls, virtual classrooms, open mics and other events, as well as social media.

There are many ways to go, the hallmark of the imagining and reimagining stages of any revolution. We are poised now to root out the social injustices and inequities—and address what is systemic. This is revolutionary.

Movements are the evolutionary leap of many, many moments. But once the direction/vision is set, then organization determines everything. But as we move through the meaningful steps and timelines, we must continue to intertwine the direction/vision into the practical applications. That’s why imagination is primary. It continues to be interwoven into any fabric/form we create.

This answers the question—which came first, the chicken or the egg? The egg has the design in it. Properly fertilized that design becomes a chicken. An acorn has the design of an oak tree in it. With the right conditions, it will become an oak tree. Same with personal and social endeavors.

Presently we are in a communal exploration of what must be done and how it will work—key to any theory and practice dynamic.

This also is a time to study, to delve, to uncover the hidden truths of our history, our governance and technology so we can in fact move forward with the best ideas, practices and outcomes for everyone.

Just being reactive—going solely to the past for answers, many of which didn’t really work in the past, or just fantasizing about what should be with no solidity—are not good enough. Learn from the past, draw from the future and bring it together in the present in the most coherent and vibrant way possible.

The answers are in the questions. The gaps are telling us exactly what needs to be fulfilled. Derailing, distracting or denying are also wrong in these times.

That’s why this is a movement, not a moment.


Luis J. Rodriquez

Former Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez has been published in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, The Nation, The Guardian, Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine and the Huffington Post, among others outlets. He’s covered wars and uprisings in Mexico and Central America. And he’s worked for CNN, Westinghouse and NBC as a news radio writer/reporter in Chicago. He has written 16 books including poetry, children’s, fiction and nonfiction titles. His latest book is From Our Land to Our Land: Essays, Journeys & Imaginings from a Native Xicanx Writer (Penguin Random House, January 2021).

Original feature artwork, “This Isn’t a Trend,” by Antonio Ometeotl