Change can feel much more possible when we choose one or two places (organizations, communities, issues) to focus our efforts.

For example, for the past few years, the body I’ve chosen to focus my organizing efforts on is my town—Greenfield, Massachusetts. As part of my local efforts, I’ve coordinated two successful campaigns in the past two years: passing the Safe City Ordinance (prohibiting police and other city officials from asking people their immigration status) and electing a slate of three progressive school committee members.

When the city councilor representing my precinct resigned and several people asked me to put my name in the ring, I said yes. Well, at first I groaned. It’s basically an unpaid ($2000 stipend) volunteer job. But I believed this was the place I had the biggest potential to make the most change, so I said yes. I await confirmation on June 15.

If you’re newer to activism or emerging from burnout or simply want to reflect on how to integrate social change into the next phase of your life, I invite you to grab your journal, get as comfortable as possible, and write down what comes up in response to each question below.

Keep in mind that, right now, we’re just gathering information. Although decisions and commitments may emerge for you, do not pressure yourself to decide your path forward as you go through these questions.

  1. What is your social location? Your social location is your proximity to power based on factors including race, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, class, ability, age, health, citizenship status, ethnicity, language, religion, and geographic location.[2] One way to find yours is through the Wheel of Privilege & Power by artist Sylvia Duckworth. Each part of the Wheel of Privilege & Power depicts a different system of privilege and oppression. The closer to the center, the more proximal to power. I invite you to now locate yourself in each spectrum of the Wheel of Privilege & Power now.

 

Wheel of Privilege & Power
When you finish, I invite you to reflect on how privilege and oppression impact your ability to live your callings and meet your needs. Almost all people have more privilege in some areas and less in others, and, as Kimberlé Crenshaw wrote, our oppressions and privileges intersect and compound each other.[4] Our proximity to power will also be different in different spaces.

  1. What organizations are you a part of? (These may include workplaces; religious centers; schools—your own, your alma mater, or your kids’ school; your town, state, or country; businesses or companies—where you shop, are a shareholder, or otherwise interact; cooperatives or associations you’re a member of; or any other organizations you interact with as a worker, owner, student, member, consumer, citizen, funder, or participant of another sort.)
  2. What communities are you a part of? (Your communities may be based around the place where you grew up or live; your racial or cultural identity; your gender or sexual orientation; your religion or spirituality; your profession; sports, arts, other activities; or other aspects of life that are important to you.)
  3. What is the history of the place where you live? (I.e., which Indigenous people does the land originally belong to? What is their history? Where do they live now? What amends must be made where you live?)
  4. What issues particularly speak to your heart?
  5. How might you show up for change related to those issues in the organizations, communities, or places you’re a part of?
  6. What changes are people on the margins of power calling for related to the organizations, communities, and places you’re a part of?
  7. Which people, groups, or movements already working toward change do you feel excited to support or join?
  8. Given all of that, what next steps might you take to show up for social change? That may or may not entail paid work. Some ideas for showing up include:
    • Collaborating with your colleagues to further equity within your organization,
    • Organizing fellow community members (parents at your school, workers at your workplace, residents in your own, shareholders at a company) to build power and take action toward changing policies,
    • Door-knocking for candidates who support social and environmental justice,
    • Creating alternative systems of care (food, transportation, energy, housing, health care, justice, mutual aid) for those with the greatest unmet need, systems,
    • Paying reparations, tithing, or redistributing your resources and money to historically marginalized communities,
    • Changing how you’re doing your work to align with your values, or
    • So many other acts of solidarity.

Before you move on, without pressuring yourself to know the path forward exactly, write down any other ideas about how you feel called to show up for social change.

[2] I first discovered the privilege wheel in an Embodied Social Justice class with Kerri Kelly. I adapted this wheel from wheels made by @sylviaduckworth, @ccrweb.ca, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (https://cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/52352.html), and Michele Cassandra Alexander and Kerri Kelly. The wheel reflects the US context. If you live in another place, consider how the privileges might be different where you live.

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