Training Everyday Activists for a Decolonized Resistance
On Saturday, January 20th, Fritz and I dutifully met our immigration rights lawyer and teacher friends and headed down to 72nd and Central Park West. We recalled the marches we had attended since President Trump's inauguration one year ago, and the energy we felt to stand up, fight back, scream from the rooftops that his "not our president!" This year, we looked at each other exhausted, literally, from the work we have had to do in the past year to manage the effects of this presidency.
And it has been real work for those of us in the helping professions or those of us in the healing profession, or those of us who do the emotional work of processing daily threats of injustice and hatred. Immigration trials through the roof; emotional labor of worrying and caring for our immigrant family members; being told that our family origins are not welcome; teaching our children in our classrooms and community centers that they are worthy, that their stories matter, that all stories matter and all people matter, that white people have to stand up for people of color, that racism is alive and well; teaching ourselves and our friends bystander intervention training; Training our colleagues on why sexual assault in the workplace matters and why we need trainings at the office...the list goes on and on.
So we took a collective deep breath, came up with signage that expressed our discontent, and went to the March.
Here is what I learned: we need to be training folks in resistance activism. We need to give folks tools to effectively (and safely) disrupt the status quo. There was little difference between waiting online at Starbucks and waiting online to March, save the colorful signage. Few people felt empowered to raise their voices in dissent, few felt empowered--and even fewer knew how--to lead a crowd in chant. I believe that the number of white people surrounding me in that March wanted very much to feel that they had accomplished and performed something sacred and powerful yesterday--that they had stood for something. Whether they were there for women's rights--which are so often limited to only white women--or in protest of a political system that supports and constructs systems of inequality and structural racism regularly and openly--people were ineffective and uneducated about how to successfully resist systemic injustice. It's no one's fault. But it needs to change.
We need to be training the people who show up to marches (even if only once a year!) how to fight for systems of oppression both in the streets and in their daily lives--at work and at home. We need to be inviting people who are not in the helping professions or in the teaching professions or in the healing professions how to be effective leaders and empowered teachers in their own communities. This is the not the work of an elite, enlightened few--this is the responsibility of the collective.
I have a hunch that if offered the opportunity, many of the people who stood silent around me in the March yesterday would want to be trained, and would want to be given the tools to teach about how to effectively challenge and ultimately dismantle systems of oppression. I hope that is the case. And if it's not, I need to hold on to my hopefulness because that's what's required to weather the storms we are currently enduring.
Zanmitay Collective exists for that purpose. We want to educate, elevate, and transform communities to effect social change. It starts with heartwork, shifting and recentering our learned frameworks, and being willing to stare into our rugged and sometimes bleak past. We want to do that heart work with you. Come and learn with us, so that you can teach and do. It starts here.