I recently attended the Rockwood Leadership Institute’s Art of Leadership training. This year I’m honored to be a Rockwood Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice fellow (yay!), so odds are I’ll be sharing some of my experiences along the way.
Anyhoo, the Art of Leadership training was amazing and I got a lot out of it. As I listened to leaders from various progressive movements share their vision for the future, I was struck by how amazing the world will be when they accomplish their goals. These leaders are building the kind of world I long to live in!
That got me thinking about movement history, how all too often activists neglect to share our vision for the future, and that it’s important to infuse happiness and joy into our work along the way.
Longtime readers know that I’m a huge fan of the civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize. I watch it often, and my favorite segment covers the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I love listening to regular folk, many of them women, discuss how they organized the logistics of helping people navigate their daily lives for over a year without using public transportation.
I’ve always been amazed by footage from the many mass meetings that took place at churches throughout the campaign. People sang songs, encouraged each other…after a long day of work, folk would go to the mass meetings and get fired up, y’all.
Tis easy to focus on the daily act of boycotting public transportation…on the harsh backlash from employers, politicians, and the police…but the emotional fuel for that work came from joyful mass meetings.
Which brings me to the present…to our current national, state, and local nightmares…and why we need happiness and joy now more than ever.
I went to bed stressed about the move by politicians to essentially dismantle Medicaid through block grants, a move that will put a lot of people’s healthcare access at risk.
I woke up this morning to news that Trump has instructed his minions to slash billions from Housing and Urban Development funding…a move that threatens access to affordable housing for millions of seniors, poor families, and people with disabilities.
Activists must now face down a powerful political force intent on using government as a weapon against the most vulnerable in our communities.
I’m worried about how these budget cuts will impact my older relatives…and I’m beyond anxious about how these cuts will impact my older brother’s quality of life and level of care. My brother has autism and, like millions of people with disabilities, relies on Medicaid and food assistance and housing assistance.
The margin between making it all work and absolute chaos is very thin for my family.
This is going to suck. This fight is personal and important, and it is going to be hard.
Now, more than ever, I intend to prioritize happiness and joy.
I’m taking more walks. St. Louis is beautiful right now, with flowers blooming and happy dogs getting their canine on in parks.
I’m making space to spend quality time with my brother and sister. We do dinner on Sundays…something yummy, soda pop, a KitKat bar or cookies or both, followed by a quick walk down the street where by brother lives.
Ah, there it is!
Happiness radiating from my brother’s face as he signs KitKat with us, as he hums some song that sounds very Stevie Wonderish, as he pauses mid-walk to exclaim his joy over the soda pop in his hand.
That's my fuel.
So, let’s dance before we march.
Shit, let's dance while we march!
Let’s sing and hug and make art and enjoy the good people who we get to take action with.
I wish you happiness and joy...
...and hugs and laughter and something yummy too.