When history calls, you have to respond.
When we first heard of the General Strike called by Oakland Occupy, I felt conflicted. I wasn't sure what our participation as a human rights organization should be. I went back and forth thinking: Do you stop the work of building justice in order to fight for justice? Do we strike, stopping the important work we do every day in support of the movement? Isn’t that a contradiction? I expressed these feelings to the Ella Baker Center Team when considering our potential participation in the strike.
As we got closer to day of the strike, it became obvious that this event was bigger than any of us and much bigger than any community-based organization. We were, and I was being challenged to respond to the unequivocal call of history. We couldn't stay on the sidelines. At the beginning of this week, we decided to fully support the General Strike and participate as a staff in the day's activities.
As a human right activist, I realize that fighting for justice can take many shapes and forms. It sometimes forces us to walk in solidarity to close a port or denounce the unfair practices of banks. After all, “we are the 99%" includes a majority of the people on the planet. Adding our voices to those of the strikers whose demands really are our demands was undeniably justice work. We took a stand, and were where we needed to be- adding ourselves to the thousands demonstrating peaceful in Oakland. The General Strike on November 2nd was a revolutionary moment in the life of our beautiful Oakland.
I am familiar with revolutionary moments. I grew up in El Salvador at a time where the disparity between rich and poor erupted into a civil war. My father, a freedom fighter, taught me very early in life that when you have ideals and dreams for a more just society, you simply get involved. He said to me once that he fought for a better El Salvador because in a country like ours, the dream of a poor kid to become a doctor was just that- ‘a dream’. Even as a ten year old, I was able to witness how powerful is when people get organized and come together to stand against social oppression.
During the 80's in El Salvador, it was not unusual to be caught between the crossfire of the army and members of the FMLN (Revolutionary Front for Liberation). The FMLN was the leftist movement fighting to overcome the right wing government that was repressing and disappearing those who questioned it, particularly the poor in the countryside. As other children growing up at that time, we coped with the insanity in the best way we could. We made up games and learned how to dock down not to be hit by bullets. I had a friend who was named after a "G3", machine gun, because he could imitate it very well. We were children growing up in wartimes, and were rudely awakened to social change.
I feel very fortunate that now I get to work at an organization that understands its role in history. I am inspired by my co-workers who every day put their energy and heart in everything they do. My Companeros who are ready to fight the good fight and go beyond the call of duty to “put people and planet first.” If you want to get a taste of what I am taking about come and participate in our next Reclaim the Future workshop on November 12th. We will dream together how we continue to build a healthy Oakland that welcomes all.
Apr 30, 2013
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