“That’s Why I’m An Activist!” Reflections on the Community Organizing Learning Exchange

Article by Jasmine Brown

<Empowering, insightful, and inquisitive are just a few of the words that could sum up the impact of the Community Organizing Learning Exchange, held in Atlanta on November 1-3. Keynote Speaker and cultural organizer Tufara Waller Muhammad spearheaded a “culturally powerful” Learning Exchange along with Project South and Alternate ROOTS facilitators. The weekend was jam packed with activities, freedom songs, and pivotal discussions that brought everyone closer together. Held at the headquarters of Project South, members of both organizations were genuinely in-tuned and openly participated in each and every activity without hesitation. Members of both organizations joined forces in unity which led to discoveries of how each member can contribute to enacting social change within our communities.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The opening dinner ceremony included catering by Avalon Catering and an intimate discussion about where we are from and who are our people. These questions gave everyone a glance of who is physically and spiritually present in the room. As we progressed with the night, the room was relaxed and ready to fellowship.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Bright and early at 9:30 AM, members of Alternate ROOTS and Project South gathered to have breakfast and sing a freedom song to welcome everyone to the second day of the retreat. After breakfast, we all viewed the Project South Timeline which encouraged everyone to take a look at the transgressions of oppressions over time. Members of both organizations were also able to incorporate a personal oppression to the timeline and discussed how oppression can affect different communities. As we progressed through the day, we were able to decipher the difference between cultural organizing (the strategic use of art and culture to change and shift policies and practices) and community organizing (collective action to grow power and dismantle oppression). Deciphering between the two was most effective through group activities such as deep discussion about modern day patterns. Saturday’s session concluded with unique reenactments of the issues many communities face such as displacement, gentrification, stereotypical views among African Americans, and preventing racial profiling.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

The last day of the retreat was calm and somber due to thoughts of departure. The weekend closed with Mind Blazing Conversation – an activity where everyone within the unity circles writes down a question on folded paper and someone else randomly chooses the question to read aloud. What makes the activity exciting is that there is limited amount of seconds for everyone to speak out with an answer. As the final question was answered, we all decided to conclude the day with one more freedom song led by Tufara Waller Muhammad.

“My mother was a kitchen girl//My father was a garden boy//That’s why I’m an activist//I’m an activist//I’m an activist!”

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Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.