The facilitator invited us to consider how we became committed to the work of social change. We were to describe a few significant, personally transformative experiences on sticky notes and post them on the drawing of the Movement River. She pointed out that they had already named some moments in our collective history, including the beating of Rodney King in 1991.
I became the first person in my family to enroll in college in 1991. I expected to learn things that would help me get a good job. I did not expect to be transformed. I was given words for experiences I understood only in fragments: sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, xenophobia, ageism.... Teachers, authors and conversations in class led me to understand that my childhood experiences of poverty and violence against women and girls were not simply private affairs. They guided me to realize that the beating of Rodney King took place in a centuries-long history of oppression of black bodies. They helped me make the link between the personal and the political and gave me a lens to view the world.
When I was young, I was embarrassed by my family's struggle. As an adult, I grew to have deep respect for my family's resilience. I've spent the last two days in conversations with people committed to a vision of a more just world. Their stories, and their family stories, have opened my heart and reminded me all over again that surviving can be a political act. In a world that privileges some identities and selected bodies over others, survival can be both resistance and resilience.
I give thanks for the will to survive
and for the grit of survivors.
I give thanks for the determination to thrive
and ask a blessing upon all the people taking risks
to find their way there.
Praise persistence and perseverance
in the name of love.
Praise the power that will not stop calling us
for the sake of us all
here on this earth.
Melissa Carvill Ziemer
Associate Executive Director
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