Originally published on APA for Progress
A New World, a New Vision: ARC’s Facing Race Heralds Re-Energized Movement
By Ryan Takemiya
This post is late. The Facing Race conference ended on Saturday, November 15th, four days ago. And the reason I haven’t blogged about it until today is because I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking, reflecting, and internalizing the true significance of this event, and the age in which we live. We stand now at a crossroads in history. So much more has changed than simply a new president. This goes beyond Barack Obama and racial politics. I believe that the true weight of this event speaks directly to the heart of the times.
Those of us with backgrounds in studying history know what I’m talking about. We crept into this century fearful of what kinds of terror the new millennium would bring. Instead of bursting into the new age celebrating new beginnings… instead of partying “like it’s 1999” like Prince told us to… we huddled in our Y2K bunkers, clutching our emergency supplies as the clock struck twelve, listening to fanatics herald the end of the world and the impending wrath of God. We huddled, we hid, and we tiptoed into this new century, fearful and afraid. Our macabre predictions came true on September 11th, 2001, and the ensuing 8 years of international turmoil and terror. We allowed Neo-Conservatives and religious fanatics to usher in their draconian “New American Century” (aka. New World Order) rather than ushering in a new vision of our own. It was indeed, as many have said, the darkest of times.
But out of the ashes, the Phoenix rises again. Liepollo L. Pheko, of The Trade Collective, while speaking during the final plenary session of the conference, made a comment that encapsulates this feeling. She said her grandmother always used to say, “There is nothing new under the sun.” And by that, she meant everything in the world has already happened, both good and bad. Which means that there is nothing new about governments oppressing the people. What is new, she said, “Are our terms of engagement,” with these powers.
And indeed, the wide range of workshops this weekend largely focused on giving activists brand new tools with which to adapt their organizing techniques to the changing times. There was a real effort to capitalize on the internet revolution and to make it power the movement through blogs, YouTube, social networking sites, and other methods of online organizing. Throughout all the plenary sessions, panelists spoke of a new dynamic facing the racial justice movement, and pushed for participants to shift along with the shifting paradigm. There was an emphasis on cross-struggle organizing, and the final plenary panel urged for an international campaign to challenge corporations worldwide, saying that while the US globalizes its own very unique forms of racism, so too must we export our own forms of racial justice to the world because, as Saru Jayaraman of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United reminded us, “as long as there’s exploitation anywhere there’s exploitation everywhere.”
“Our time is now”
The conference itself was incredibly well-executed by the talented Applied Research Center staff from both Oakland and New York. Activists from across the country attended and contributed their own expertise and strategies. Strong bonds and connections were created, bringing the movement closer together. The weekend was filled with inspiration, motivation, and love. And it left all the participants looking forward to the future with hope and determination. No doubt all the activists in attendance are now implementing these new ideas into their work in organizations all over the US. I believe that, due to this conference and other events, in a few years we will see emerge a new activism for the 21st century; an activism that actually leads the way in technology, art, and vision, which in an inspiring turn of events, will leave corporations and the ruling class scrambling to catch up. If done correctly, no longer will corporations and governments set the agendas for the people of the world…instead, this new movement will lead the way, both in vision and in action.
Something very big is going on here. Our world is changing in fundamental ways, right before our very eyes. After going through 8 years of darkness we are now emerging to the light and the real promise of this new century. This is a transformation that happens every century, and it is happening once again for our generation. We are moving forward through it, and we must make sure that we do not let this valuable opportunity pass us by. For it is in this transformation that we can bear witness to the divine beauty of our struggle.
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