This summer I’ve continued my work with Students For Education Reform as an action network fellow.SFER is a non-profit organization dedicated to organizing college and high school students and supporting grassroots efforts to advocate for K-12 public educational justice. During the school year we mostly focus on organizing events on our various campuses, and heading a state wide campaign on an issue we’ve chosen to focus on for the year.
My time this summer has been spent traveling across North Carolina visiting campuses, going to community events, and endless hours of tabling and canvassing. All in the effort to learn more about our communities and develop a deeper understanding of the issues we face in education as it intersects with social justice.
Unlike, the glamour of what many may think is social activism or political work; most community organizing work is extremely unglamorous. It entails many hot hours walking around in the sun knocking on doors and chasing down people who don’t want to talk to you with a clipboard. I have spent more time this summer awkwardly approaching people with Pokémon Go icebreakers to initiate a conversation about education than I would like to admit. In many cases the work we do involves me sitting on my laptop sending endless amount of emails to various community organizations, teachers, students, and community leaders, with the hope that at least one out of every ten emails I send will be responded to.
But that’s the work we do to make a difference. Every conversation we have that recruits a new member or expands our base, or every new partnership we develop that makes us stronger and better organizers matters. Despite the flashy media highlights of big protests and radical “revolutions” (all of which are equally as important), the work of the quiet ground worker is at the foundation of all social change. In some ways the sparkly illusion of social activism has created a false narrative of what it takes to create change and how long real change really will take. It does not happen over night, and probably not even in our lifetime. It takes an army of people willing to put in the tireless hours and the very unsexy work that creates an effective grass roots movement.
I’m proud of the efforts that SFER and the rest of the North Carolina fellow action network have been able to develop. We have learned and developed as leaders and have created implementable plans for the future to continue growing and learning.
I’m so grateful that I got to spend this summer learning about my community in ways I had never done before. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with my representatives, go to local county council meetings, board of elections meetings, meet with activist groups, social justice organizers, go to black lives matter rallies and vigils and so much more. Despite having to sweat it out in the sun and being rejected numerous times all of this work is important for the collaborative effort of seeking justice in our communities.
And the hours spent working tables at the these events or speaking with college students on campuses across the state has taught me the importance of patience, hard work ,and to always being willing to not be the expert in the room. There are things to be learned from every person in every space that you didn’t know before. And I can’t wait to continue this work for the rest of my life.