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What It Means To Be A Grassroots Organizer

Somebody asked me what it means to be a “grassroots organizer”?

I certainly can’t speak for everyone in that role, because every experience is different and although most struggles are similar, the path is very different depending on participants, history and place … but I will do my best.

– Being a grassroots organizer means having your heart broken and repaired a thousand times over – sometimes several times in one day.

– It means that you hardly, if ever, get to turn off the lights and walk out the door free from it all. There is no 9 to 5 schedule, and weekends are just a social construct.

– It means looking out your window and seeing your failures, and looking into the eyes of the elders, the young, the lost, and knowing that you have to keep trying.

– It means feeling small sometimes.

– It means finding your power and using it to help others to feel big, so we can all grow stronger together.

– It means getting spit on by scared people, and uplifted by the brave.

– Sometimes it means spending all day fighting for folks to be able to keep a family’s lights on, while coming home to find out your internet has been disconnected for lack of payment.

– It means spending days writing a proposal for funders, only to be told politely that you have wasted your days.

– It means dealing with colonizers, racists, classists and patriarchal people and systems, who knowingly or unknowingly continue their colonizing, racist, classist, patriarchal ways. And you often either have to clean up or step around their vomit.

– It means being on the ground, exhausted, up to your armpits in the most recent disaster, while folks sitting in an air conditioned office thousands of miles away collect funds from caring people to “do something” about the same disaster.

– It means begging for a small portion of those funds later, which you may or may not get, based on what fits into those office chair allies’ multi-million dollar annual budgets and their decisions concerning your effectiveness.

– It means educating those who do not know they are uneducated. And soaking up the condescension of those who only know the worth of non-traditional “traditional education.”

– It means speaking truth to power, and accepting the full consequences of that.

– It means sleeping in your car, in a laundromat parking lot, on a lonely night in the middle of nowhere, because nowhere is where the struggle happens to be at the moment.

– It means going to too many funerals, holding the hands of too many mourners, and discussing it all with too few who care.

– It means losing family and friends because they just “don’t get you anymore.”

– It means finding your family in people who “get” you completely.

– It means being optimistic and pessimistic at the exact same time.

– It means, finally falling into bed knowing that you did the best you could, with what you had, and realizing it is often still not enough.

– It means waking up, and starting in again anyway.

– I guess, for me, it means being grateful for the opportunity to meet the obligations to the life I have received, being able to die someday knowing I did my part, and hoping that the generations coming after me might be a little better off for it.

That’s all I got for now, but grassroots-identifying folks, help me out. Reply in the comments – what does being a grassroots organizer mean to you? I’d love to know your thoughts … In the meantime, and if you haven’t heard it lately, from the bottom of my heart – thank you, thank you, thank you. Much love to you, and sweet victory to us all.



(photo credit: Karen Savage)