In my recovery program, one of my favorite adages is to let go and let god. As someone who grew up idolizing Bea Arthur, I replaced it with, “Let go and let Maude.” Sometimes, my higher power is a headstrong white woman from the 1970s, sometimes, she’s the god of Abraham, sometimes, she’s my mother, and sometimes, my higher power is
Over my years, I’ve observed this cycle of change that’s hard for me to process, because I always want to analyze what went wrong. I am hard-wired to believe that change is bad and needs a cause so that change is preventable. Conversely, most of my work in my life has been to instigate change, going so far as to work for a presidential candidate whose slogans were “HOPE” and “CHANGE.” As a human being, I’m riddled with contradictions.
The lie I tell myself is that if one thing is true, it’s inverse cannot be allowed to be true. In movement work, we use Tema Okun’s Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture, to highlight this as Either/Or Thinking and One Right Way.
I learned it early on when I was taught about the Christian God of Abraham, how it is really a trinity but still one. Then I was taught that thinking about the trinity like we Lakota people think of our Great Mystery as four beings in one was incorrect and if we accept the reality of our own faith was on equal footing with the God of Abraham, then the Christian dogma of one, true, infallible god was inherently not true.
Where I apply that in non-religious terms is that I tell myself the lie that if I don’t have a movement home in one place, that either I am not useful to movement work or the movement I served no longer exists. That too, is a remnant of white supremacy culture thinking.
In my life, I’ve been part of more organizations and campaigns than I care to remember (that’s what my resume and CV are for). What I’ve learned to be true about all of them is that they ebb and flow, and a good chunk of the time, some of them end. In a scarcity mindset, I’ve seen grown people turn into surly adolescents who want to know who to blame for a failure, as if attributing the feeling justified the hurt (Right to Comfort, anyone?).
The good movement work continues right where it starts: in people.
In my days, I’ve been a queer organizer, I’ve organized for political causes and candidates who were queer, Black, brown, women, and transgender folks. I’ve been on boards of directors and advisory committees who served LGBTQ, Indigenous and recovery communities and environmental causes and mayoral campaigns. I was an executive director of a community newspaper, I’ve been a managing editor of a tribal newspaper. I’ve been a communications director, a storyteller, a graphic designer, a videographer and even a copy editor from time to time.
In so many words, I have seen a lot of aspects of movement work and the thing that I’ve come to see as true is that none of it is ever static or unchanging. The institutions that do not change are the ones that lose constituency and relevance over the course of time.
But the greatest liability that movements have are when people do not change. This is not to say that movement elders are unnecessary. Most of the time, they truly have earned the right to be intractable and intransigent, every movement needs an elder who knows where the bodies are buried and who did the digging. But being willing to change tack and adjust strategy is a good sign of every thriving movement and we see them in their elders. It’s something I aspire to be in the fullness of my own years.
In these times, however, I find myself remembering that flexibility and change are what’s asked of me to effect change wherever I am. It’s not that I’m unafraid, fear rules my inner child, but I remain willing to confront what is asked of me and embrace a willingness to change myself as a result. I must move.