Finding Power in Community

Ten people gather in a circle to discuss a mutual problem. They work together to discuss the situation (naming oppression) and create a collective consciousness in empowerment and understanding of the complexities of inequality. This scenario occurs through multiple methodologies of social change work, from the power-focused organizing of Saul Alinsky to the popular education of Myles Horton in the US and Paulo Friere in Brazil. This work goes towards the goal (keeping our eyes on the prize) of ending homelessness across the country as well; this is the community and tradition that we tap into at Peace House during our advocacy meetings.

The advocacy group at Peace House has come a long way since my last post: we now have a name (The PEACE Connection, which stands for People Empowering And Creating Equality), several new facilitators, and have already taken action within the community by hosting a “know-your-rights” training during meditation. And the group has already formed an identity that derives power from an understanding of multiple, pluralized histories of homelessness and how allies (such as myself and other volunteer coordinators) can participate in the group without co-opting its true purpose of empowerment.

This group, and other such efforts at Peace House and other organizations that work with people experiencing homelessness, have arrived at a crucial moment in the long-running fight against the constant purge of the rights of those who use public space for “private” needs. Last week, Minnesota’s Supreme Court ruled that the Voter ID referendum must remain on the ballot, and that the ballot initiative must reflect the original title (“Photo Identification Required for Voting”) instead of Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s title (“Changes to In-person & Absentee Voting & Voter Registration; Provisional Ballots”). Right now, education remains central: making sure that people know the stakes of this seemingly harmless ballot question, and continuing to empower people affected by the issue to make their voices heard. Soon, the focus shifts to organizing for the actual election itself: making sure everyone is registered, and figuring out how to get everyone to a voting booth on November 6.

For me, the end of the summer is less of a stopping point than a transition towards a more concentrated moment of activism against the voter ID amendment, one with a very specific expiration date attached. But I remain forever grateful to Macalester, the Institute for Global Citizenship, and the Live It! Fund for going out on this limb of empowerment and education with me this summer. My experience at Peace House this summer reinforced my belief in the power of reflection and critical connections between injustice here and injustice everywhere, and in global citizenship as a crucial frame for understanding these links. I’ll try to keep posting updates on my work at my blog ( Stay connected, stay informed, vote NO in November, and keep thinking and educating!

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