The Work Is the Work

Letters to a Future Activist

The Work Is the Work

Letters to a Future Activist

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There are many ways to make a difference in our communities, many causes to organize and volunteer for. But where do we start? And how do we avoid burning out? Whether you're just beginning the work of social justice, or you've been doing it for years but need a reminder of why we're in this fight and how to keep going, this book is for you.

Drawing from his nearly twenty-five years of social justice work and LGBTQ+ advocacy, Brian Johnson offers us this set of urgent, essential, justice-seeking letters to his daughter in The Work Is the Work. Johnson explores what compels us to serve and how to respond to the many needs around us, offering insights from well-known figures in justice work such as Claudia Rankine, Greg Boyle, Gandhi, and more. What is personal is also universal--containing the essentials of justice work and advocacy, and revealing why we keep going. For all who care about environmental justice, LGBTQ+ advocacy, anti-racism efforts, and community support, The Work Is the Work celebrates the struggles and victories of advocacy work and shares the spirit of justice for our children, the next generation of changemakers.

Written for the millions who work for justice, march in the streets, volunteer in service positions for the public sector, and want to inspire the next generation of changemakers, this book reminds us of the essentials and inspires us to keep fighting the good fight.


"Brian Johnson lays out an intimate and urgent guide for LGBTQ+ activism, informed by twenty-five years of struggle in the fight for social, racial, and economic justice. As the LGBTQ+ community confronts a dire state of emergency, Brian's compelling insights function as both a clarion call to action and a strategic blueprint for structural change."

Kelley Robinson, president, Human Rights Campaign

"Brian Johnson is a compelling storyteller and a gifted writer. Through a combination of humor, wisdom, and his generously shared personal stories, Brian creates a guidebook for advocacy and life that can benefit anyone."

Imani Rupert-Gordon, executive director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

"Brian has had a tremendous impact over the years. He brings life to stories in accessible and inspiring ways. To be able to learn from Brian's decades-long work in advocacy and social justice is a treat."

Brady Walkinshaw, CEO, Earth Alliance

"As a new generation rises up and prepares to lead in our statehouses, Congress, and other areas of power, it is vital that we provide them with the necessary tools and mentorship so they may continue to advance the fight for justice against gun extremists, white supremacists, and others who threaten progress. This book is a must-have for anyone who is ready to roll up their sleeves and make a real difference."

Kathleen Sances, president and CEO, Gun Violence Prevention PAC IL (G-PAC)

"Whether you are considering activism for the very first time, are a veteran who wants to take their leadership to the next level, or simply want to be a better human, this book is for you. The lessons in The Work Is the Work are timeless and are needed now more than ever."

Meg Ansara, cofounder, Organizing Corps 2020

"The Work Is the Work is for anyone who wants to be good at what they do--be it nonprofit, for-profit, or just being a good human. Attacking systemic and structural challenges like civil rights, racism, criminal justice reform, or gender-based violence is a long, difficult, and at times lonely road when your passion and values are met with resistance to change. The easy-to-digest stories and personal anecdotes give you your own friend in the struggle, reminding you at every page that you aren't alone. While the work of social change may feel never-ending, the fight to make this world a better place begins with a deep-seated belief that all of us have the potential to change the world--right from where we are."

Toi Hutchinson, former Illinois State Senator

"Brian delivers keen insights and strategies through stories that illuminate and inspire. His lessons are rooted in years of experience and reflect his deep love for community. I've gotten to see Brian in action, and I'm thrilled that his book will make his accessible and easy-to-digest advice available to newcomers and veterans alike."

Nadine Smith, Executive Director, Equality Florida and TIME 100 Honoree (2022)

"A profoundly raw, honest, and wise journey! Brian Johnson offers invaluable wisdom and insights for all change agents. Drawing from a lifetime of experience in social justice, from education reform to human rights, Johnson provides a roadmap for navigating the complexities of embarking on social justice work, as well as the fears we need to face and the hope we must hold on to along that journey. Deftly navigating from Gita to Miley Cyrus, The Work Is the Work lays out tangible strategies and a clear call to action. A must-read for anyone looking for inspiration, committed to making a difference in their community, or creating a more equitable society, this book is a beacon of hope, reminding young activists that even in the darkest moments, there are always hands reaching out to guide us forward."

Dr. Kathleen St. Louis-Caliento, president and CEO, Cara Collective

"For anyone responding to the call to effect change, The Work Is the Work will light the way and ease the path."

Brianna Twofoot, national reproductive rights organizer


"Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, The Work Is the Work should be considered critically essential and important reading for anyone wanting to engage in political activism."

Midwest Book Review

Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506493374
  • eBook ISBN 9781506493381
  • Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
  • Pages 205
  • Publication Date May 7, 2024