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What BYP100 Director Charlene Carruthers Wishes She Knew About Community Organizing

[teenvogue.com]

I wasn’t born a leader; I was agitated into choosing leadership by growing up on the South Side of Chicago. I didn’t wake up at 18 understanding what white supremacy, patriarchy, anti-blackness, and capitalism meant. Self-study, comrades, elders, and people I met in the streets taught me how to understand the world and gave me the room to imagine a radically different future…

… Understanding power is essential. We can change the people and the leadership — but if we don’t change the structure, values, purpose, and vision of the systems in our lives, then we are at best putting Band-Aids on bleeding wounds.

I am constantly learning about people, power, and the type of change I want to see in the world. I’ve learned some things the hard way, meaning I’ve learned them through painful conflict and violence. Other lessons were learned through the day-to-day work of being a community organizer and by sitting at the feet of movement elders. Liberation work is a protracted struggle in which people sacrifice time, relationships, and mental wellness and far too few of us are prepared for the long haul. A not-so-little secret key to this work is accepting that we are all human and many of us are doing this work for the first time. My deepest desire is that we can all do the work with more grace, more love, more honesty, and more compassion with each other so that we can not only change the world bit by bit — but that we can collectively transform it into the world we want it to be.

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  1. Roger

    Let’s learn from Charlene! The last paragraph directly applies to our fight for humanity as registrants. Here is my interpretation:

    (1) There is no quick way we registrants will be given human rights. It will take time and patience. And we can’t just sit back and complain at our computers and expect change without significant sacrifices of time and money.

    (2) Registrants and their supporters must treat each other with respect. As Charlene says, “we are all human and many of us are doing this work for the first time. My deepest desire is that we can all do the work with more grace, more love, more honesty, and more compassion with each other so that we can not only change the world bit by bit — but that we can collectively transform it into the world we want it to be.”

    Amen. Thanks for your inspiration, Charlene.

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