by Shar Lichty
At the end of July I was fortunate to attend the Activists Mobilizing for Power (AMP) Conference put on each year by Western States Center in Portland. I have been wanting to attend this conference for four years and this year all the forces were in alignment to make it happen.
I have a lot of respect for the work Western States Center does, particularly in the areas of racial and queer equity. As I found myself surrounded by 400 like-minded individuals at a conference that offered several workshops on how to advance this work, had gender neutral restrooms, and a plenary on the gender binary, I felt at home.
One of the most moving experiences I had during my three days at AMP happened at a film screening for All of Us North Carolina, a documentary about queer people of color who fought against NC’s Amendment One, which stripped domestic partners of their civil rights. The wonderful folks in the film not only organized to fight the amendment but did so with an analysis of the intersections of all of us marginalized by the status quo. They made a commitment to build capacity not only for this specific campaign but to be an ally at all future threats to civil rights and personal freedoms in NC whether it was supporting comprehensive immigration reform, marching on Bank of America in response to illegal foreclosure actions, opposing voter suppression measures, and so on.
I was moved by their relationship and cultural organizing model as well. Every event shown in the film involved food and music, an opportunity for folks to get to know each other, and campaign planning. PJALS has and does this to a degree, I want to consciously use this model whenever possible as a way to both strengthen relationships and the campaigns we work on.
The day after election day, having experienced a huge loss at the ballot, several members of this group were in Charlotte marching on Bank of America. Campaigns are exhausting whether you win or lose making this a remarkable demonstration of their commitment to support all in the fight against the system that oppresses us. Our system negatively impacts us in different ways but unless you are a white, hetero, christian, male, m/billionaire you are to some degree being oppressed. This intersections of us, when recognized, is our greatest strength. It happened to a small degree with the “We are the 99%” messaging of Occupy. Yes, we are the 99%, now how do we work together to change the system that prevents us from being the 100%?