By Faith Ashton, Community Organizer in Standard Heights
My trip to Highlander was such a wonderful educational experience. I learned so much about myself and the others who traveled with me. I was also able to see how the struggle for justice was not bound by the particulars of causes, race, or geographic location. Everyone was on the same page although we were fighting for different things. I was shocked with all of the misconceptions about how, outwardly, culture seemed to play a minuscule role within organizing but really it was at the heart of every issue. How it was equally as important to know and value your own culture as it was to understand and value the cultures within the community. I found that the health and wellness of the organizer played an important role in their ability to be an asset to the community rather than a force of negative energy. One of the most invaluable lessons I learned was the art of tearing down barriers while simultaneously building trust. The lack or presence of strategic planning, although important, seemed to be lower on the list of things that hold up the movement.
In every group where success was found art seemed to be somehow present whether through: singing, painting, dance, music production, writing, photography, or graphic design somehow art found its way towards the middle of the healing process. The process of self and community expression seems to be a pivotal point in the direction of the movement within any given community. What also seems very high on the list is finding the art which reaches rather than offends the people most affected. Transparency, honesty, and a firm grip on reality were also taught and how the lack of these three things can not only stifle the movement but brings it to its knees. Adaptation within any given situation and observation also play an important role in the survival of your community’s individual cause. The information I learned at the highlander is sure to follow me and guide me though a life long journey of activism and community organizing. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be blessed with those seeds of wisdom.