Community organizing goes beyond the college years

Posted: August 24th, 2012 | Featured, Political Spectrum | No Comments

Allan Acevedo | Political Spectrum

Allan Acevedo

The other day I had coffee with a friend who had been actively involved in student clubs in college. I asked her if, after college, she had gotten involved with any community organizations. She looked rather confused about the question and said no. She asked me if I had, and I ran through a list of the various non-profit and political organizations with which I was involved.

She seemed to think that organization involvement was something reserved for your college years, when you are looking to explore interests and network with people who may fall into your same future career.

It took me a second to really understand what she was saying. I found it interesting that someone, with so much passion and energy, had finished college and fallen into a routine of work and home without thinking of the possibility to continue to effect positive change.

This seems to be a typical pattern among recent graduates that is, unfortunately, often times permanent. It seems so many of the best student organizers and leaders fall out of the habit of staying involved and seeking opportunities to improve their communities.

I encouraged my friend to attend a meeting of the San Diego Democrats for Equality. I explained to her the club’s long tradition of educating its members about important ballot and candidate races. I told her we recently had Vladimir Kogan, author of “Paradise Plundered: Fiscal Crisis and Governance Failures in San Diego,” come speak. She was not convinced and really believed organizations like this were not needed, as people could research for themselves for whom to vote, and if they wanted to volunteer they could search for that information online.

I reminded her of early 1960s feminists who argued that women, especially those who stayed at home, were isolated from other women and therefore did not understand that many of their frustrations were not personal, but actually related to systemic forms of oppression by men. In order to combat this, women met in consciousness-raising groups to gain a better understanding of their oppression by analyzing their lives and finding commonality and empathy. These groups allowed many women to understand their lives in terms of the limits set on them by society and societal institutions.

Many times, those of us in the LGBT community can become complacent with the level of openness we experience walking around Hillcrest. We revel in the fact that we are able to mount a rainbow flag in the heart of our community, and can kiss and hold hands in public with few comments of disapproval or hostility.

But the borders of 92103 do not define our world as a whole. We have to force ourselves to be aware of the systemic and institutional oppression our community faces on a daily basis.

We often talk about protecting LGBT youth from bullying. What we have to remember is that just because those bullies graduated high school, it does not mean they have gone away. Prejudicial ideas and stigma escape and can be born outside the walls of our learning institutions.

They are reinforced by policies that impact our community, by the media’s portrayal – or lack thereof – of our community and by conservative organizations and community leaders who promote inequality and intolerance.

I argue that if we do not make sure that we are taking the time out of our busy lives to interact and raise our consciousness about the salient issues impacting us politically and personally, we do ourselves a disservice by passively allowing the continued inequality that exists.

In that sense, the San Diego Democrats for Equality and other organizations that focus on engaging affinity groups and aggregating their concerns are vital to the continued health of our democracy. If we lose these clubs as the foundation, we lose our ability to come together to discuss the personal aspects of our lives that become political, not by our choice but by societal institutions.

It is incumbent to our community for our LGBT brothers and sisters to associate and affiliate with each other in order to organize and mobilize for the advancement of equality. I urge LGBT people to not become complacent, and to seek out organizations that share their values to make an impact in their own communities.

—Allan Acevedo is co-founder and president emeritus of Stonewall Young Democrats of San Diego. He has worked on multiple political campaigns and served on numerous boards including the San Diego Democratic Club, California Young Democrats, Gay-Straight Alliance Network and Equality California PAC. Follow @allanacevedo on Twitter.

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