Happiness…a purity of happiness that is so rare, I filled the train with it, and arriving in Norwalk it was far too big to fit on a bus so I walked the 2 miles home through the darkness singing aloud to ska-p on my headphones and feeling as though life…well. Life is truly beautiful.
Shall I share the secret? It is that I have changed the world. A tiny little piece of it to be sure, but in a way that may impact the lives of many others. It’s a bit similar to the high you get from a good action, like the day we used press and the city housing department and a critical mass of protesters to force the police to protect human rights rather than property rights and force the armed security guards of the Morrison hotel to let us in. Tenants cheered us as we roamed the corridors. That was a good day but today, today was even better. Today gave meaning to so many years of work and belief. Today represented the difference between tenants cheering organizers and organizers cheering tenants. It showed me how many years it can take for someone to step into their own and the immense beauty of such a thing in action. It validated the need for long term vision over short term gains, how right we were to always struggle against the demands of quick fixes, emergency responses and funder driven results. It is a deeply profound thing, a permanent victory not a momentary one, and one that builds speed as it goes, irreversible and always stronger. I believe that what will come from here will be truly extraordinary…bigger then I could ever imagine because it is not just me who is fighting, but us. This whole world is like Estero beach in Mexico–wealth, education, privilege, pristine English and usually a white skin on one side of the fence, and everyone else on the other. I am still on the right side of the fence, and together with the friends here with me I believe we shall tear it down…at least this small section of it. Prove that it can be done. Make a difference for our community and help it step into its own. It takes so long because the fence is hardwired inside most of us wherever we stand, the feeling that we are where we are supposed to be is so hard to overcome. Most people don’t even know it’s there, or how much they give way to a perception that whiter, higher class, more professional is better. It takes us working together to overcome it, and now I don’t just believe it is possible, I know it is. And this is the only thing that can move us to the conversation about what must happen to make real change, this is what it takes to move thousands to action, not hundreds. It is what the mass movements in latin america have proven…who will risk all for incremental change and a sensible plan of minor policy adjustments led by those who risk nothing? Professionals should put themselves in service of the vision of those who do risk all, and never seek to limit it believing that their position means they know best. For this to happen there is a desperate need for those who can stand up to privilege and direct it, who can articulate where the greatest need lies, articulate the vision not of what is possible but of what is necessary, who can grow into leadership and bring others with them. It takes rejecting once and for all the idea that poverty and marginalization makes people less than those economically above them and that solutions come from the top. It takes the poor stepping into responsibility, taking ownership of struggle, speaking their minds, educating themselves in what they don’t know, and holding themselves and others accountable to the greater vision. It is popular education and years of work and friendship. It is helping people discover within themselves their own capacity to do all of these things, and the courage they always had to risk standing up…standing up always bears a risk. And I watched them say they were taking it all on with a smile, and it was so beautiful I almost cried. Life is beautiful when it has this sort of meaning…and it is in risk that we find the meaning.
I rode the train home, saw the potential in everyone around me, and loved them all. Mi gente.