For my STEP Signature Project I was able to learn and network with diverse activist groups on and off campus here in Columbus, Ohio. During my transformational experience this past summer, I got the opportunity to learn from environmental and social justice related organizations such as Next Gen Climate , Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and Ohio Student Association (OSA), while keeping in touch and organizing with other known social justice related groups such as United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).
I learned many things this past summer. In regards to my already existing involvement with USAS, I was able to be part of trainings that not only taught me about our own members, but also about myself. In many of the trainings one of the objectives was to go back to our roots and reflect on past experiences that have made us who we are and have brought us into organizing and activism. I was able to understand that I’ve had a very privileged life and have not really experienced real life struggles as others. However, I realized the importance of intersectionality and how my own self has been oppressed due to some aspects of my social identity. All in all, I made the realization that my purpose in activism and organizing is to not only utilize my privilege in order to support those that have been silenced and oppressed, but also bring some diversity of thought into such political and social sphere.
This past summer, I was able to be part of trainings, meetings, and actions that contributed to my understanding about different issues and how I, as an individual, can push for some change in this world. My relationships with these organizations have enabled me to believe in the power of political education and mobilizing people to create a more conscious and just world.
In the beginnings of my summer, I was part of a building- a-movement training hosted by Kevin O’Donnell from OSA. This For-Liberation-and-Movement-Escalation (FLAME) Training really helped us, USAS’s members, understand the basis of building a movement. With our current campaign against OSU selling our public assets to a for-profit corporation, it was wonderful strategizing and grasping the essential elements to develop a movement. From learning on how to transform neutral people to active supporters and show they have a stake on important issues to discovering our individual meanings and purposes of being part of a movement, I learn how much power the people have in order to further agendas that support equality and justice.
In the other hand, meetings and actions with RAN helped me understand diverse environmental and social issues I was not aware before. Over the summer and this fall semester, I had the opportunity of learning about RAN and their current national campaign, #OutOfFashion. RAN is an environmental justice organization that is currently holding a national campaign against companies that are complacent of environmental and human rights violations. One those companies that has been targeted here in Ohio and across the nation is Abercrombie & Fitch. A&F has been completely irresponsible by mistreating both rainforests in Indonesia and human rights of indigenous people. Through RAN, I joined other activists and helped organize protests at A&F headquarters, shopping malls, and A&F sponsored events. We were able get media attention, talk with the general public, and use our resources to educate people about these issues that are both barely known and extremely important.
Also, I was able to learn a bit about Next Gen Climate. This organization pushes for ecological and sustainable practices through political education and activism. However, they have been focusing on the current presidential elections, encouraging people to register to vote. Even though being politically present is important, I was not able to learn about their main sustainability purpose this past summer.
Cultivating these relationships have made my experience one that’s valuable due to the people I’ve met in the process, the issues I’ve learned about, and the progress I’ve seen about myself. I was able to reflect on the goals I wish to reach with activism both in the short and long term. I was able to learn more about what it takes to organize and the power that we, the people, hold in political spheres. Finally, activism has introduced me to diverse people and organizations that have opened many doors and see myself organizing with in the near future.