Yet still at the commencing of my summer with Democracy North Carolina, it is difficult for me to recall my original expectations going into my placement here in Charlotte; to be honest, I’m not sure I had any.
As someone who proudly carries my fusion of heritages, a daughter of Palestinian refugees who migrated to America and set roots in the South, while simultaneously a North Carolina resident born-and-raised, it is sometimes embarrassing how little of this state I call home I have actually laid eyes on. This is my first time in the Queen City.
My transition from life in the triangle to Charlotte has been exciting, but tough at times. Separating from connections I’ve built over the years organizing in Chapel Hill translates into a necessity to forge new relationships and find footing in a different political landscape. Patience, a virtue that often eludes me, is a lesson that will be necessary to learn over the course of this summer. I cannot take it personally when phone calls go unreturned and projects do not move as quickly as I desire; this is the work I have chosen to invest in, people work, and people lead complex lives that unfortunately do not fit so seamlessly into the neat borders of my google documents. Luckily, organizing work has never been, nor will it ever be, a solo endeavor. I work on a team with Robert, a veteran organizer who constantly makes me laugh and always keeps it real, and Stefan, a bright leader from NC Central who maintains a calming and poised presence. Yet beyond this immediate team, in collecting these varied experiences and attempting to place them into a coherent narrative, one theme constantly emerges: community. We all exist, work, and fight within and for community.
Sharing an office with Action NC has been such a privilege. It’s exciting to work alongside an organization that does different yet equally important work in the community. Sharing a space with them has served as a metaphor for political organizing in Charlotte, a small but mighty community doing a vast array of work all under the collective banner of social justice. Luis, an organizer for Action NC helped put me in touch with poets in the Charlotte area for a spoken word event we are planning on holding on July 4th –inspired by the symbolism of patriotism associated with Independence Day and in recognition of the power of art to inform and mobilize the people. The poetry scene in Charlotte is very active and it is an honor to work with such talented poets who utilize spoken word as a tool for social change. The worlds of artists and activists intersect and exchange reciprocal inspiration.
Activist communities zig zag all over, I’ve noted, across the North Carolina geography. For example we are currently planning an event in Asheville. Even here in Charlotte, miles away, we are able to engage with individuals who Robert has built relationships with over the years and plan an event at the Bywater Riverside Bar where diverse communities can come together, share their initiatives and issues next to a beautiful outdoor view. Conversation and celebration, two other themes I hope to continue to develop as the summer narrative progresses. Robert makes fun of me for being a wide-eyed idealist at times, but I take the taunts in stride. For all the losses our organizing communities face – most notably and painfully carved in my recent memory, the campaign against Amendment 1 – we continue to thrive and in struggle build ever stronger communities of resistance. As Robert chimes often, we “Keep it Movin”.
We have a lot of uphill battles this summer, money in politics after the Citizens United decision is a wild and untamed tidal wave drowning out the voices of common people in our elections. I am not expecting a cascade of victories over the next couple months, yet I acknowledge my successes and failures through a relational approach—we win and lose together. This understanding diminishes my fears of coming up short and makes the pursuit of victory, in the context of sustaining democracy in my North Carolina community, that much sweeter.