Recently, I was sitting with a woman who opens up her home just outside of a detention center in Colorado to families visiting family members in immigration detention. When I asked her why she does this work, her response was, in essence, that there are galvanizing moments people have in their lives, and one of hers was prompted by a trip to the border. The stories of things she saw and people she spoke with there paint a picture illustrating how important it is to bear witness to injustice and how that can forever change the path one is on.
Last year in Detroit, we, the Netroots organizing staff, made a conscious decision to direct media attention toward uplifting our brothers and sisters fighting the water shutoffs and working on other economic issues in Detroit. It was a chance to use our unique position in the movement to shine a light not just on the issues facing Detroit residents, but also the inspiring and powerful activism that was happening there.
So, we encouraged the nearly 3,000 activists, organizers and professionals attending our annual convention to attend the Turn on the Water, DETROIT! Tax Wall Street! March & Rally that was held Friday, July 18, 2014. It was a historic example of the power of intersectional organizing. Members of other movements from across the progressive realm turned out to support who we all feel are our folks on the ground in Detroit—not corporations, not government, but the people.
I had a distinct opportunity to go to Arizona several months in advance of this year’s convention. While I was there I went on a trip to the border with an amazing group called Borderlinks that works to educate groups about the realities of communities on both sides of the U.S. / Mexico border. For me, it was a chance to see what I had no idea I’d see: The harsh realities of the border and how our policies literally and directly affect people’s lives. Other members of our staff and board had this same experience and came away with the same sentiment: Netroots Nation is an amplifier, and as part of that gig, we choose to amplify stories from Arizona that need to be heard.
I went back in March 2015 with several other staff members and a camera crew to capture some of these very stories. The products of that trip include the four videos featured here, as well as much of the other content we’ll be sharing between now and July.
There’s a responsibility in shining a light into dark places that is centered in making sure the light is shone not on ourselves, but on issues and people in the struggle. It’s our honor to uplift and introduce to the Netroots community the strong, dedicated, and hard working grassroots organizers in Arizona and the region who are fighting for progressive things. That’s what the #AZDispatch is all about.