One of our new organizers, Yonah, had the opportunity to go to RootsCamp over the weekend. RootsCamp is an annual conference for organizers put on by the New Organizing Initiative, an organization that trains organizers in best practices in order to “win real change, make measurable improvements in people’s lives, and restore faith in our government and our democracy.”
I have been to many conferences and organizing trainings before. But nothing prepared me for the utter “grassroots-ness” of RootsCamp 2013. Somewhere between having Elizabeth Warren open the conference without any introduction or announcement that she was even speaking and trying to keep up with the constantly evolving schedule since anyone could run a workshop if they felt so inclined, I realized: these truly were my people.
I learned a lot in 36 hours. I learned about how to follow the money and take power from the wealthiest in this country. I learned about how to best use new media to target low-income tenants. I gained an knowledge of history and a framework to understand the recent rise of political progressivism in New York. I was trained on simple graphic design tools that can make it look like I studied art rather than history in college. I heard from organizers who had figured out how to go from petition clicks to handcuffs and escalate their actions. And I talked with other organizers about the importance of identity politics and fighting back against micro-aggressions.
And all that just from the official sessions. In the time between sessions — and usually during the sessions themselves — there were conversations being had in the hallways that felt like they could change the world.
One of the things that struck me was the use of the term “The Movement” over and over. At first I thought it was just the way that individual causes referred to their people, like the environmentalists or the immigration activists. It was not until the second day of RootsCamp, listening to renowned activist Heather Booth in a panel called “A life in the movement: Organizing for the long haul” I fully understood what “The Movement” was. It means the broader fight for justice and equality for all. It is the ultimate statement of solidarity.
As organizers working to create and maintain permanent and safe affordable housing for all New Yorkers, we often come into contact with (and blog about!) other issues facing our society: our hugely problematic immigration system and a minimum wage that barely allows hard workers to survive as two quick examples. One of the biggest downfalls of the progressive movement for too long has been to act solely to move each organization’s issue forward without working towards a broader shift in our society.
But in consistently using the term “The Movement” to describe what we were building at RootsCamp, activists from different movements made it clear that we were there to help each other and to change the world for the better. It was a profound lens through which to view our organizing here at UHAB. And it gave me a very hopeful outlook on the state of progressivism today.
So. Onward to a future full of opportunity for all. Onward to the continued education and growth of “The Movement”.