[kuh-myoo-ni-tee] Show IPA
noun, plural -ties.
1.a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
2.a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived orperceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the).
[awr-guh-nahyz] , -ized, -iz·ing.
verb (used with object)
1. To form as or into a whole consisting of interdependent or coordinated parts, especially for united action.
2. To enlist or attempt to enlist into a labor union.
Community organizing is about recognizing the power that we have as a people. It is about recognizing the immense spiritual and emotional power that we have. It is also about taking different forms of power back into the hands of the people. Whether that be institutional power or the power that comes from being visible, from being recognized as a people. Community organizing is the act of getting people mobilized to make systemic change in their communities and in communities beyond.
I am a community organizer. Nothing gives me greater joy than to see a group of oppressed folks get together and talk about how we can make our space not only safe but also transformative. Nothing is so healing for me than seeing my people gather together for a common cause. To see relationships and coalitions build around me to create change. This kind of work heals me because it demonstrates to me that I am not alone. It shows me that there are people like me, who think in was similar to mine and who are invested in making the world a better place.
This world constantly oppresses us in many subtle and corrosive ways, and one of the most damaging messages that we receive is that we are alone. That we are are abnormal, freakish and strange and that we are the only ones in the world that have this sort of existence, this sort of body. And for many oppressed folks, myself included, this message is so ingrained in our personal and collective psyches that we often think that we are, in fact, the only ones.
The reason why community organizing is so healing for me is because it dispels that myth. It rewrites the programing of my psyche so that I can fully reject that message of isolation and know it to be false. It shows me, quite viscerally, that I am not alone and that these people share my story in ways that may not be specific, but are similar in tenor and tone. The other reason why it is healing is because it allows me to take off the armor that I have to wear in my everyday life. It allows me to take off an armor that I have been wearing for so long, I have forgotten that I am even wearing it. Because of our shared experience, I am able to be vulnerable in ways that I cannot allow myself to be when interacting with people that have privileged bodies. And that vulnerability allows me to grow and expand in ways that would not be possible because of all the armor that I must wear to survive.
Community organizing is more than just healing work, it is transformative work. When oppressed communities organize by themselves for themselves, movements are created. Change is enacted when oppressed people work together in concert. Spaces are reclaimed and power is taken back.
When communities organize, change occurs.
Those in power are terrified of this change, of the power that we hold if only we claim it. And with good reason. For once power is reclaimed and shared, they lose their ill-gained and oppressive power. I was fired last week for this work. I was one of the louder and more visible member of a community of people who wanted to revolutionize the way my organization was run, which was from a top-down management system to a bottom-up member vested management system, where the power resided with the constituents and they were in charge of the direction of the organization.
I was fired because I threatened the status quo and challenged those in power.
But they cannot fire all of us. And least of all the young people. I might have been fired but the movement continues and I would encourage all those involved to double their efforts to keep those in power accountable and to create the change that they want to see. They fired me because we were getting to them, we were being effective. They wanted to derail our movement. Do not let them do that.
The biggest merit of community organizing is that if one falls, many take hir place. Community organizing is about communities and what communities wants. All it takes is momentum. All it takes is for people to step up and recognize that we are never alone.