Wednesday, February 27, 2019

international social justice day

Apparently sometime last week was International Social Justice Day (who decides these I do not know), but reading that made me so grateful, again, for the work I've been able to do (for an astounding 17 years now!) assisting and supporting some of the most dedicated and hardworking social justice activists in our country.

I'm still not really sure how I managed to fall into this.

As a pre-teen the running joke in our family was my allergy to the word 'responsibility'. Being the oldest of 3 I guess it was a natural backlash against having to be older and wiser, more responsible than my seemingly carefree younger brothers.

But responsible I have become - for giant budgets, complicated international travel arrangements, hordes of delegates, deadlines and deliverables - I am often the hinge upon which it all swings, the stick upon which the plates are spinning, handling the immense stress of logistical success so that my clients don't have to, so that the participants - the social justice activists - can concentrate on the WORK.
The work of listening, of speaking for the voiceless, of finding the platform for their voices, and making them heard.

Recently I got in touch with an old lefty friend of my parents, and chatting to him brought back memories of sleepily listening in on their rigorous debate, around dinner tables and braai fires, often wine-fueled, always fascinating.
I learned so much from those evenings - not just great swear words - but how to agree to disagree, what injustice looked like, how to fight it, intersectionality (before that was even a concept probably), how to protest without getting arrested, what to do if you were arrested, how many people it took to build a movement (not just the big names), how to put your ego aside and do work for a greater good.

It was when bringing up these memories that I realised this was the foundation of the work I do now. A logistical mind is one thing - that's some weird shit I got born with (from my Granny Molly I think) and eventually made peace with, but the ability to use that in a social justice space (see, I can even speak the lingo) with empathy and an innate understanding of those specific challenges is a learned skill, learned in part by the example of my parents - social activists themselves in many ways - and in part from those long weekend evenings of being exposed to highly inappropriate discussions and arguments. 

Many of the activists I work with say that the key to social justice is for everyone at the table (more lingo see, I'm fluent) to work to their strengths. To find their skills, be acknowledged for them and be given the chance to use them for the greater good.

I think I might have found mine, and I'm so grateful to have found the perfect niche in which to flex them.