designing for imperfection in movement work

“there has never been a social justice movement that didn’t include people who were disappointing.” — alicia garza, episode 1 of how to survive the end of the world

“how many of us are perfect? how many of us have been a part of the perfect movement? that’s right, none of us are and none of us have been.” — eroc arroyo-montano at the raíces borikén collective decolonize puerto rico rally

hearing this twice in the last few makes has made me to think write this up.

alicia went on to say that there is so much we do in movement spaces that (problematically) is just trying to deal with this reality. sometimes, people just disappoint us.

i have only seen this directly in bits myself, but it definitely looks like people who were hurt by someone else’s mistake(s) destroying the mistake-maker. call outs, banning people from spaces, friendships ending, and more. sometimes whole groups are totally reshaped by a conflict/disappointment that happens at the core. groups split, change name, move funding, etc.

part of me is worried that because i haven’t experienced anything like this before, i can’t really speak to it. i haven’t had someone who i trusted deeply let me down in a movement space. i haven’t ever had someone steal money in a way i didn’t expect.

but the other part of me feels like it is still wise for me (and everyone) to design our work to make space for people’s humanness. that includes our excellent ability to surprise and surpass expectations and as well as our ability to disappoint each other.

this would actually just give us more resilient movements anyways. not designing movements around individual leaders allows us to be more impactful and removes the “cut off the head” tactic from the toolkit of our opposition. if we design work to be done in teams and collectively, even if some individuals get sick, they can take time off if they need to rest and it’s still likely that things will get done.

anyways, thanks for sharing your wisdom alicia and e. here’s to building on that in 2018.

words / writing / post-processing
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