“It feels like history”

People power is what moves the world.

Someone who deeply embodies this right now, and has been launched onto the international stage, is Pastor Evan Mawarire. Mawarire is the Zimbabwean pastor who is igniting the #ThisFlag movement. The subsequent  on July 6 and spin-off online and offline demonstrations such as #BeatThePots and #Tajamuka has been the start of what Mawarire describes as “Zimbabweans taking back their power.”

Pastor Evan Mawarire speaking in Washington, DC.
Pastor Evan Mawarire speaking in Washington, DC.

I heard him speak this week in Washington, DC. His offering to the policy wonks gathered at the Atlantic Council, so often insulated by intellect and severed histories, was incredibly powerful. Following are some of my livetweets of quotes from his speech and the discussion.

Below are his remarks on the international community’s interventions in Zimbabwe to date:

Zimbabweans in the Diaspora made up half of the audience, crowding the front rows, the Zimbabwean flag draped over their shoulders – a symbol of pride and resistance. His story and the stories of so many others called deeply to the Zimbabweans in the room, who truly, were his audience. 

Zimbabweans at the Atlantic Council, draped in the flag.
Zimbabweans at the Atlantic Council, draped in the flag.

What made the time with Mawarire so inspiring is his authenticity. He’s funny. He’s a storyteller. He’s humble, e.g. referring to his religious training as preparing him for salvation, not democratization. He’s determined. He’s committed to nonviolence. He’s full of grace. And yet, he reminds:

You can watch the full recorded webcast from yesterday here, or you can click on the headings below to download some of the video clips I took that spoke deeply to me about movement building and grassroots leadership around the world. I share these lessons because I firmly believe that to be a relevant and skilled practitioner in our sector, is to be a lifelong student of people power.

On being launched into activism:

“…there’s no way that I could ever have planned what has happened.”

On pride as motivation:

“Sometimes you and I have taken a peak into our hearts to look at the Zimbabwe we long for…”

On heroes in the movement:

“…a lot of the heroism we’re looking for is locked up in you and me.”

On what solidarity means:

“It is the strength of the citizens that keep showing up…we are each other’s security.”

People power is indeed what moves the world. Leaders like Mawarire call us to be ready for the reckoning. His phrase from yesterday I will not soon forget: If we cannot get the politicians to be brave, we have to inspire the citizens to be bold.”

As a Zimbabwean friend shared yesterday, “it feels like history.”


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