Ngoc Loan Tran in their post, My Movement Mom, captures the realities of intergenerational organizing and why expanding solutions for radical change is imperative. My Movement Mom is a call and response to all who struggle to find ways to articulate how oppression and privilege warp the communities we came from in ways that reflect truth and not academic speak.
There are theories, layered like onion skins with fancy thick words, and then there is praxis, the art of implementation that form our awareness. When members of your family, in both the narrow and broadest sense of the term, are struggling to literally survive within systems that exploit and devalue their potential, their work, and their internalized sense of self-worth ten-cent words written from ivory towers simply don’t resonate.
Some people might claim that my mother has no idea how systems of oppression work. Some might also claim that her focus on survival means she has internalized the system’s logic so that she oppresses herself. But get this: my mom has a different—but extremely deep—understanding of how systems of oppression work. She interacts with them daily, fighting to survive despite structural disadvantages. Working class laborers don’t need a physician to know that they’re straining their bodies or an economist to know that they’re being exploited. Most of the time they don’t even need organizers writing articles about “the struggle” to know that it’s there and it’s theirs. The lived experience of these oppressions is not only real, it’s indispensable. No movement is legitimate without it. We don’t do justice to mothers like mine when we alienate them by privileging analytical understandings of systems of oppression.
And it’s not like my mom is unaware of the theory. She just doesn’t deal in principles and structures; she speaks in persons and stories. She has a story for everything that theory describes because she knows what I know differently.
This idea—that we could have different valid ways of articulating systems of oppression and acting to fight them—led me to cultural, and ultimately, “intergenerational organizing.” Cultural organizing recognizes that facets of every day life, like cooking, dancing, and playing music, are legitimate forms of expression and accessible things to organize around. This helps people coming from different places with different conceptions of “the system” share in a common experience that allows a wide range of folks to contribute.
My mom’s resistance and survival helps me to acknowledge the value of all types of skills that are brought to liberation work. She also helps me reject systems of measuring engagement that determine what qualifies as “enough” experience and credibility, which often replicates oppressions that operate in our daily lives.
When we believe in the power of cultural and intergenerational organizing, the skills we bring to the movement nurture the beauty of our deep connections to one another that transcend age and generations.
-Ginger Hintz, blog editor