Thanks to the Grad Engage fellowship, I have had the opportunity to over the past few months to strengthen my commitment to Durham For All. I have been able to dedicate more hours and energy to our work, diversifying my contributions to building our movement by learning new skills and moving in new ways alongside others. D4A is my political home, following adrienne maree brown’s definition of political home as “a place where we ideate, practice and build futures we believe in, finding alignment with those we are in accountable relationships with, and growing that alignment through organizing and education.” D4A has been the place where I connect with others and build relationships and an organizing practice to advance social justice.
Through the work, I have furthered my understanding of the public narrative framework and how to write, load and send targeted emails to Durham For All’s list. I have also practiced identifying, designing, and executing an issue campaign. I have grown as a facilitator and phone bank trainer. Through one-on-one and group meetings, I have deepened my commitment to our movement and had many opportunities to reflect on my motivations for doing this work. I have been able to communicate with thousands of people over email and through weekly phone banking about urgent issues our community is facing and contribute ideas and time to our 10 to Transform campaign, organized in collaboration with Durham Beyond Policing. The campaign calls for Durham’s elected officials to move money away from policing and toward community safety, care, education and healthcare. With D4A, I have the opportunity to work towards a vision of a Durham with homes, education, economic opportunities, sanctuary and democracy for all. While we are currently focused on safety, I have learned more about and worked on each of these areas during my fellowship.
Throughout my fellowship with D4A this semester, I have had the opportunity to explore organizing as a vocation. In addition to contributing to digital organizing and as a member leader at D4A, I also completed an MFA thesis titled “Gathering my people: movement-based relational organizing to dismantle white supremacy.” Working on these projects alongside one another helped solidify my interest in investigating how a focus on the body through dance and somatics can strengthen organizing practice. The following excerpt from my thesis abstract illustrates this interest:
Organizing is learned by doing as people meet, in person or virtually, to hone skills, grow in relationship, develop leadership, and engage in intentional action to shift power. The long hours and commitment that organizers dedicate to building and executing campaigns requires intense bodily engagement. The exhaustion, concern, hope, and elation involved all fall on the body. Race, class, gender, and nationality differences also mark bodies, impacting who organizes, from what standpoint, and with what stakes, as well as the issues and urgencies evoked. Paying close attention to the body can strengthen and deepen organizing work by providing insight into how to ground in presence in order to build relationships and earn trust, to expand political education through embodied proposals, to better assess the balance of power within and beyond campaigns by considering who is moving and how, and to provide resources to counter burnout and increase care.
My biggest challenge has been balancing the interrelated commitments to D4A, to other local groups and projects, and to my creative and academic work. While time spent on each of these projects strengthens the others, I longed for more hours in the days and more days in the week of this semester to work on all of them. There is so much work to do and it all feels urgent. One of the biggest lessons I’ve been learning has been how I can rely on the resources of my body to stay grounded and focused on the small steps I am taking toward realizing larger goals.
Through the fellowship, I have been able to contribute my time and efforts to our 10 to Transform campaign and to the digital organizing that keeps D4A members informed and calls them to action. I have been on the phone bank training team and encouraged others to get involved with the work. I have used my research and writing skills to amplify the aims of our movement. I’ve contributed by inviting others to become involved and to commit financial resources D4A. I encourage everyone to find a political home like D4A, a local group with whom you have shared values and vision, and where you can dedicate your time and resources. You can act right where you are with people you know, making sure to always keep learning, growing, and moving. I knew that D4A would be engaged in very exciting, critical work this year, but I did not imagine that it would be so closely as aligned with my values. I am thankful for the relationships I have built, the work I have had the opportunity to do, and the ways my vision of what is possible has expanded through this time with D4A. I hope you will check out our amazing organization and consider becoming a member, signing our letter to city council, or joining us at an upcoming phone bank!