Lessons and questions for the movement
The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. ―James Baldwin
My family migrated to Boston, Massachusetts from the U.S. Colony of Puerto Rico in 1976. My father stressed that when you’re new to a land, you must prioritize learning the history of the oppressed people there. The hope being that with a better understanding of the systems of power and the atrocities that have occurred in U.S. history, we would stand in solidarity with others and challenge those systems and policies in place that allow for few to benefit from the injustices done to many. I often reflect back on this lesson.
Since its inception, the U.S. has required those who are being oppressed to unite with accomplices and fight back—or continue to be exploited. Historically, from the Abolitionists, Suffragists, and the Civil Rights movement to modern social movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock, an organized radical resistance has been the vehicle for social change. Social movements have organized to combat the roots of inequality: white supremacy, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy in the U.S. These movements have shown over and over again that there is a need to build coalitions across social issues and agitate, agitate, agitate!
When asked what our priorities should be after the recent U.S. presidential election, activist and scholar Angela Davis said, “I think we need to build community, we need to come together. We cannot allow Donald Trump to govern the way that he wants to. It’s probably going to mean doing a lot of civil disobedience, being disruptive, but we also have to build something constructive. We can’t just engage on the anti-side of the political struggle.”
For me, this led to more questions than answers. These are some of the questions I believe we should be asking ourselves:
- What does building something constructive look like in these times?
- What are some of the practices that have worked to dismantle empire and build a better world?
- How do we shine a light on these examples and support each other in creating alternatives to systems of exploitation?
Also: At this critical moment, how will we choose to live, learn, and love while remaining true to ourselves and our communities? In what ways can we develop substantive connections across social movements? How do we resist fascism? What does collective resistance and coalition building look like moving forward? How are we decolonizing our movements and strategies? What does liberation mean to our movements? How do our coalitions evolve to address these new challenges? How do we collectively strengthen our support of movements against social injustices across the United States of America?
Will you challenge yourself, and those around you in the movement for social justice and beyond, to take the time to reflect and build on these questions?
From Standing Rock, North Dakota, to Ferguson, Missouri; from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Oakland, California and across the globe; together, and taking the time to build genuine connection and solidarity, we can build sustainable coalitions that will not only resist empire but also continue working towards creating a better world.
We must keep striving for an authentic interconnected, interdependent, intersectional, and intergenerational movement. It is beyond time to come together, connect, build coalition, agitate, and resist!
Eroc Arroyo-Montano is a founding member of the Hip Hop group Foundation Movement. An educator, artist, organizer, and a proud father of three, he currently works as a popular educator at United For a Fair Economy. This essay was excerpted from United For a Fair Economy’s “State of the Dream 2017: Mourning in America.” Download the entire report at faireconomy.org/dream17.