Roadside’s work is rooted in populism: a political tradition neither left nor right, where the people in a place co-create their community and keep the value of what they make. (This genuine, democratic form of populism is not to be confused with pseudo- or “shadow”-populism: the long line of authoritarians who have mimicked populist rhetoric to push an agenda of exclusion and fear—not rule by the people, but rule by the mob.)
Through telling their own stories rooted in shared traditions and values, neighbors representing a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives find themselves working together, often toward profound and even radical change. This kind of work—and this kind of theater—has animated generations of American movements toward democracy; “populist” was the only political label Martin Luther King, Jr. would accept.
This chart contrasts the populist approach to making change with two other, better-known approaches: moderate liberalism and progressive activism.