This question has come up a lot lately. I think it’s important to always ask these kinds of questions, otherwise it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re doing and eventually fall off from it.
Normally, I hate these labels. Organizer/ activist/ leftist/ militant/ political/ etc. Not really the words themselves, but their value and meaning can be muddled. The way people think or relate to these words can vary significantly depending on the person. It’s all about context.
Also, it depends who defines you as these words. If the state wants to label me as a militant leftist organizer, then I can take pride in the fact that I upset them that much. When I see some people claim these terms for themselves…I just hope actions speak for the title.
So what do I think it means to be an organizer?
I think it goes beyond just going to a rally and carrying a sign or yelling chants (though doing that still contributes to the larger movement) because you know someone has to organize that rally and create those chants.
…doing the less-flashy work like going to meetings, creating agendas, and doing assessments because organizing isn’t always pretty.
…you accept the fact that what we’re fighting for may not be won tomorrow (though I would wholeheartedly welcome that), hell it may not be won in our lifetime…but yet you still do the work.
…doing the leg work, not declining tasks because you feel it is “beneath you”.
…getting your hands dirty, rolling up your sleeves, and diving in head first because the only way you know if it works is through practice.
…that while you may possess more knowledge or a sharper analysis than others, you don’t see yourself above the people who haven’t had the same privileges you’ve been afforded (Knowledge is power! and a privilege).
…willing to struggle through some of the darkest moments. You do it because you understand that if there is no struggle, there is no progress.
…you find yourself doing hella work because with good work, comes more work. There’s no shame in being reliable.
…STAYING HUMBLE! Because you’re not going to organize anyone if no one likes you.
You’re willing to acknowledge your mistakes and shortcomings AND try your best to work on fixing them, even if it takes the rest of your life.
Simply, you know the world is fucked up and you’ve made the conscious choice, in the face of the sweet allure of a comfortable, middle/ upper-middle class life, to fight for a better future for EVERYBODY and not just yourself. You’re even willing to sacrifice to make sure the oppressed, misunderstood, and suffering have a glimmer of hope that things don’t have to be this way.
An organizer is a regular person. No one “special” in the sense that they’re superhuman. They’re much like the people they’re trying to organize. They go through personal issues. They have pet peeves. They have guilty pleasures. They enjoy sunrises and sunsets. They watch serious documentaries and Tool Academy on VH1. But for some reason, they spend a good portion of their time challenging the status quo, fighting to break the chains that bind all of us, and resisting the suppression of their consciousness.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether we consider ourselves organizers or not. Only the people who see and are affected by our work do. Our actions will speaker louder and affect way more people than any label we want to claim.
Being an organizer is what I strive to be everyday. I know I am not perfect and full of constant contradictions. The organizers around me are a reminder to solve those internal problems not only for myself, but for those around me who affected by them. It’s what gets me up in the morning and allows me to sleep calmly at night. It’s what I hope will be our lasting contribution to our future generations.