Pages tagged "member reflection"
By Assata Harris
A Reflection on Working with ONE DC.
This summer, I experienced some type of divine intervention, I found ONE DC. I am originally a Bay Area native, and have longed and often romanticized for an organization that I often didn’t believe could exist. I was highly interested in Urban Planning, and for my research paper, I decided to write about gentrification in Oakland. I searched the web for days looking for writers, political thinkers, anyone who could speak about the real root causes of gentrification. Naturally, I couldn’t find anything, until I found a paper written by Dominic about White Supremacy and Gentrification. After I read the paper, I found it a perfect opportunity to contact ONE DC for an internship opportunity for the summer.
I didn’t quite know what to expect because there wasn’t so much information available about ONE DC. It was when I first stepped in the office and felt the warmth and love, I knew this was going to be an amazing summer. I met Rosemary, a dedicated organizer that showed me that ground organizing was not only still possible, but is beyond necessary. I also met Marybeth, a passionate organizer that created a space where intellectualism and love were welcomed. I also met Jennifer, whose eloquence in speech was beyond inspiring. And Claire, the tech behind the scenes that helps keep the organization up and running. And Dominic, who was relentless in perpetuating the shared leadership model. I also got to meet all the wonderful people from the Shared Leadership Team, who brought unique and creative solutions to create the best possible organizing strategies; and people who attended the People's Platform meetings that shared the same beliefs. All of these people a part of the ONE DC movement were all so radical, because they showed me what real organizing looks like.
This summer, I learned how to use Nation Builder, a vital tool for modern day organizing and attended numerous conferences, meetings, planning sessions, and staff meetings. I was able to understand the techniques behind organizing and how much time and effort it takes to do effective outreach. From doing outreach in the rain on Saturday mornings, to attending a Freedom School about resisting state violence, to seeing what a shared leadership staff meeting looks like, to hundreds of phone calls and email blasts, I got to experience every angle of what organizing looks like. Most importantly, I learned that organizing is not about momentum, it is about persistence and base building.
While the organization itself created a wonderful environment for me to further develop my analysis on gentrification, capitalism, and antiblackness, it wasn’t always easy to stomach the amount of systematic violence that has been endured by the Black residents in Washington, DC. When you participate in authentic grassroots organizing, you firsthand feel the atrocities in any community. It was through those moments of sadness that I was able to realize that ONE DC was doing exactly what it set out to do.
While every part of ONE DC was an amazing experience, it was working in Brookland Manor that really left an impression on me. Through ONE DC, I did phone banking trying to help organize a new tenant association board for the property which is planned to be demolished, in turn displacing hundreds of low-income Black families. ONE DC created the environment where I was able to listen and use organizing strategies that were revolved around leadership, equity, and resident-led projects. This was refreshing beyond belief because I have only been used to seeing hierarchal and patriarchal forms of organizing. I felt for the first time I was able to be doing the right work for the right reasons with the right people. This organization created an environment for self-reflection, positive feedback, and a way to expand my worldview in ways that I could not have imagined.
While I was only expecting to make phone calls, do technical jobs, ONE DC was all about everyone participating in organizing. To be able to firsthand see an organization that was devoted to Black organizing and a unique leadership design, was an eye-opening experience. In essence, I experienced growing pains. I was pushed beyond natural paradigms to imagine a world that everyone also calls cliche or impossible. ONE DC pushed me to envision a world without state violence, capitalism, anti-blackness, and patriarchy. I absolutely loved interning at ONE DC this summer. I don’t consider it an organization; I consider it a family. I hope to find my way back to ONE DC, and continue to work with the forgotten people of DC.
By Mia Campbell, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor & the Working Poor at Georgetown
This summer was one of the most rewarding and eye opening times of my life. The Kalmanovitz Initiative Summer Organizing Internship program gave me the opportunity to learn more about my capabilities and myself as well as learn more about others. When I was in high school, I would always try to stay involved in social justice work, keep myself educated about current events, and help communities through volunteer projects and raising awareness about problems. To some degree, this summer was a continuation of the work that I did in high school, but more so, it was an expansion of those skills and an immersion within the community that I was working to help find it’s own strength and power.
Each day in the office, my responsibilities included administrative work such as updating the database with member information, drafting and sending email blasts about our events, creating flyers, participating in meetings, helping plan upcoming events, and most importantly, learn how to use my skills to advance the agenda of the organization. ONE DC and its members work together to strengthen communities through community development or organizing. It helps those who have been silenced by the oppressive structures at play in our society find their own voices and in that, their power. ONE DC addresses the structural causes of poverty and injustice and works to educate people about the realities behind the problems people face in their everyday lives. The leadership structure is most unique and I personally believe it could be a great model for organizing power in the future. Horizontal leadership is the way the organization operates where the leadership is shared along with the responsibilities. Being part of this structure was daunting at first because I am used to working in a top down power structure. It was a breath of fresh air and helped me open my mind to different methods of operation.
There was never a boring day at work. Some days we would be in the office, making calls or writing emails and then one of our members would pop into the office for a visit and brighten up our day. Other days, my fellow interns, my co-workers and I would just start talking about life and the state of affairs. Our conversations would range from friendship to structural problems within our communities and the ways we could change it. I distinctly remember one of our first days in the office. We had a brief meeting to address some of the tasks we had for the week and we were getting ready to tour the Shaw-Howard area with Claire and Jennifer. As we were walking around, Claire would stop and show us a picture of what used to be where we were standing. Seeing those changes in such a powerful way, with the past and present right next to one another, really moved me to want to work hard to help however I could.
One of the most memorable parts of that day was at a later point in our tour when we were standing in front of what is now a luxury apartment building. On that plot of land there used to be a quaint apartment complex. As we were looking at the picture being held up against the current buildings, a man who lives in the area walked by and was shocked. He asked if the picture was what he thought it was; which was the old apartment complex that some of his family used to live in. He had a light in his eyes as he spoke fondly of memories and family and then the light faded as he turned and looked at the new apartment building. He talked about the way his family was pushed out of their homes and how he is working hard to support his family and one day hopes to move out of his apartment and have a house to call his own. That interaction, which lasted no more than four minutes, was the purest way for me to see the impact that gentrification has on DC residents. There is so much lost when a building is torn down. There is history, life stories, memories, and so much more attached to the places that are being destroyed and replaced. My summer with ONE DC really helped me learn to look at things beyond their face value. Now, when I look at new things, I always think about what came before, who was there, and what their lives were like.
Not only did I grow as a professional, but I was also given the opportunity to mature this summer. I had to figure out my own living situation, take care of myself, and really grow into adulthood. Each day my commute included a nice walk from my apartment to the metro and a quick metro ride to the office. I looked forward to that morning walk because I really felt like part of the community. There is a church on the corner where the metro stop is and each morning I would pass by and have a nice exchange with the older men and women who always sat outside of the church. I already miss my small studio apartment in Petworth where I would spend so much time reflecting on the work I am doing and how it connects to the work I want to do in the future. In the future, I hope to be a doctor. I want to be a doctor who really gets to know her patients and connect with them on a personal level. Understanding the way new developments and gentrification impacts the health of people is my next step. I want to understand more about sociomedial studies, the connection between health, medicine, and society. This was just the first step and community organizing has made its way into my heart.
It was a summer of growth, self-discovery and realizations of the best kind; learning how to finding my voice and using it to help however I can. It was a summer of growth in consciousness; an awakening. My eyes have been opened and now there is no turning back. Thank you to all of the people at the Kalmanovitz Initiative who made this summer possible. From my conversations with the other summer interns, I believe that they did a wonderful job pairing interns with organizations. Nick, especially, was extremely helpful with prepartations for the summer and I am so grateful. Thank you to Dominic, Jennifer, Claire, Marybeth, Rosemary, Kevin, Assata and everyone from ONE DC for being part of this journey with me.
By Kevin Ruano, Kalmanovitz Intiative for Labor & the Working Poor at Georgetown
I don’t know whether I want to work as a community organizer. Whether that be because I possibly discovered, in me, the fool who has determined that if he works at an office, he might as well be making bank, or because of the type of organizing that I experienced and performed at ONE DC, I don’t know either. What I do know is that my work at ONE DC gave me a new perspective on organizing, myself organizing, and myself.
From the first day on the internship, it was clear to me that the work ONE DC does—organizing to establish a more economically and racially equitable city—was absolutely needed. What affirmed my conviction was not only the sight of new luxury developments in the Shaw neighborhood of the historically black university, Howard, and the thought that these buildings had taken the place of homes to black communities and peoples, but the encounter with a young man during our tour of Shaw.
We were standing on the other side of the street on which the Jefferson Marketplace Apartments are located. Claire, an administrative organizer, pointing to the building and showing us a picture of another building was telling us that the building across the street was built where the building on the picture was destroyed. A man walked by, surely seeing the picture in Claire’s hands for he walked back to where we were standing. He stood there silent, just looking at the picture. Claire asked the man whether he recognized the picture. He responded yes and said that the picture was of the residence Kelsey Gardens—home of several families—that used to be across the street and was destroyed and replaced by the new luxury complex.
Not only did the young man confirm that communities had been ousted, he also commended ONE DC and encouraged us to continue organizing as we walked back toward the office.
Mia, a fellow KI Intern, and I were tasked with running outreach. We made flyers, Facebook event pages, drafted emails, and phone banking scripts, and phone banked all in an effort to promote ONE DC events namely the upcoming Juneteenth Press Conference, Resisting State Violence Freedom School, and First Source Jobs Action.
Having many days be from 11am-6pm in the ONE DC office mainly concentrated with making calls was never easy. Dialing numbers, and calling those in ONE DC’s database went from an initial fear that I was going to say the wrong thing, to a feeling that I knew the script, to the final thought that I was merely repeating words, not knowing the issues fully and never truly engaging with community members. For me making calls—no matter how necessary the staff of ONE DC said it was and how much they thanked us for the help—became a reminder to me that I felt more of a community at home rather than at the ONE DC office helping out with outreach. Nevertheless, I remember one phone call with one woman who gave me courage.
I was calling to invite people to the Juneteenth Press Conference where ONE DC was going to release a report on the flawed Marriott Marquis training program and First Source Law—how after 200 million dollars to build the hotel and create a jobs training program to connect DC residents to jobs, only 178 of the more than 700 program graduates were hired. I asked the person on the other side of the line how they felt about the program and low hiring rate. She responded that the program was outrageous; how the program run by Goodwill, the Marriott Marquis partner for the training, enforced a zero tolerance policy that required anyone who missed one class to leave the program; how the program made attendees choose between taking care of their children, their own health and wellbeing and looking for other employment all in the hope that they would end up hired. She told me how she, a previous labor organizer at another hotel, came to the defense of classmate who has to attend a family funeral and hence missed a class, and was dismissed from the class, escorted out by a security guard. She said she never ended hired.
The woman asserted that we had to keep those in power, those corporations receiving subsidies paid by taxpayer money and the government giving out the subsidies, accountable to the community. She was talking about what ONE DC was and is: empowering a community. This community—the community to which I was only merely coming into contact with through phone calls; the one I heard through this woman; the community that I got to see and meet through going with members to meetings with the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, attending People’s Platform meetings, learning with them about how the state inflicts violence, and demanding with them that First Source be enforced. It was these, the disenfranchised, and robbed by a system of economic and racial oppression that ONE DC worked with.
While I mainly made calls, ONE DC had done and continues to be doing groundbreaking work—work that is aware of injustice, the pain of and value of those who have experienced the destruction of their home, and shortcomings of the law. At ONE DC, I only got a glimpse of those truly resilient in Washington DC. They are not politicians, businessmen or those who are in buildings that appear on the post cards but those in buildings that are threatened everyday by development that is unsympathetic to the feelings and needs of the community whose roots are in DC, who is DC and soon will become who was DC.
I tell you, I don’t know whether I want to organize because stories are best gotten to know and told when I can see your face aka I might never want to see a phone banking script in my life. But that doesn’t change how undoubtedly grateful I am to ONE DC for giving me the opportunity to meet those who are fighting so that they don’t get uprooted; those whose stories need to be told; those that ONE DC is making sure are heard.
When I first learned about the Movement for Black Lives Convening, I was immediately excited. As a mental health clinician, I had been having an internal conversation about the need for Black spaces, a safe space meant for us to heal and just be. This was perfect. Being at the Convening, I got everything I could ask for. I had the opportunity to attend the Emotional Emancipation Circle, a session held by Erika Totten on how to implement and facilitate weekly support groups for Black people for the purposes of processing stress, violence, and aggression related to racism and White supremacy. I also attended a session hosted by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration called Welcome to America: the Black Immigrant Experience of Anti-Black and Anti-Immigrant State Violence in the U.S., which provided a lens on intersectionality and the universality of Black Lives Matter.
It was amazing, being among Black excellence and brilliance, seeing beautiful Black people in all their essence and diversity, and feeling right at home. I came home reinvigorated, with a heightened sense of pride, motivation, inspiration, and a full heart and soul. I went to the M4BL Convening for its healing qualities, but I got so much more out of it. I did not realize how much I would learn and glean from a short weekend.
First, I was reminded to be confident in my strengths and how they contribute to the movement. Each person has their own strengths, resources, and expertise. The movement is not only about what is seen out on the forefront, but about the genius in the background too. Even if you are not on the front lines regularly, you are needed. Secondly, I was encouraged to be confident in the capacity of my own voice. In my advocacy, I have a tendency to be observant and strategic. But, there are times things just need to be said as soon as it comes to mind, and done so unapologetically. Next, I was reminded to be confident in our capacity and adaptability. Our people are strong and resilient, and should never forget that. Though many try to say we are apathetic or "can't get our stuff together," our movement is historical and has been ongoing; we just have to often adjust due to deliberately placed roadblocks. We must never forget that this movement never died, and is just revitalized continuously.
Lastly, we must be confident that we are indeed one family and we have so much love. This weekend only reinforced that. From a passing smile and "how are you doing?" and the short elevator conversations to the deeper discussions about social ills and next steps, I connected with many, because despite being different in many ways, we are all part of the Black experience and understand that all Black lives do matter.
I left the M4BL Convening, with the mission of being intentional, proud, and unapologetic. I look forward to the next year's assembly of Black lives. I want to express extreme gratitude to ONE DC for making my attendance at this convening possible.
Gabrielle Z. Jackson
ONE DC member
Howard University School of Social Work
By Art Brown
For the past three months, members and staff of ONE DC organized three Cooperative Learning Journey trips visiting Baltimore, Maryland (Red Emma’s, a coop book store), New York City (Build with Prospect Construction Coop; The Working World, The Participatory Budgeting Project; COLORS) and Philadelphia (Childspace West-worker owned child care coop; Mariposa Food Coop). The purpose of these journeys was to prepare a cadre of people/workers who will invest time and commit effort to building a cooperative movement in DC. Also, a DC Worker Coop Coalition has been established and has been meeting since March of this year to initiate and coordinate a cooperative building effort.
As an added bonus to the Philadelphia Cooperative Learning Journey, participants got the opportunity to attend the US Social Forum (USSF). We took part in the Advancing the Solidarity Economy Peoples’ Movement Assembly and met with Peter Frank, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA). The PMA addressed such topics as: Participatory Budgeting, The Mapping Process of Current Local and National Networks, Urban Agriculture, Cooperative Infrastructure, Land Banking and Land Use Distribution, Divestment and Reinvestment Ethics, Loan Funds to the Grassroots and Climate Justice Projects.
The discussion with Peter Frank of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance was to gain insight into its operation and to receive guidance for the recent start-up of the DC Worker’s Cooperative Alliance. Prior to our return to DC, members and staff organizers from ONE DC held a debriefing session as a prelude to the creation of a cooperative economy in DC. The group agreed to meet on July 8th, 6:30pm at Impact Hub DC to map out next steps.Read more