I have lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, for less than a year and have about six months of experience working as a community organizer in the city. Nevertheless, the Freedom Center for Social Justice took me on as an MSW (Master of Social Work) intern.
From the beginning, I realized that the bulk of my work would revolve around just listening, something I have been trained to do well as a social worker.
During my first week on the job, I was given the opportunity to participate in a conference call of several organizers and activists from different parts of North Carolina, representing various organizations. I quickly learned that the purpose of this group coming together was to address issues of intergenerational gaps in community organizing within North Carolina.
The group began talking through some of the observations individuals had made over the span of their organizing careers. No matter how long or short the careers represented had been, everyone had something meaningful to share about their experiences. Even I discovered that I had something to offer during the conversation. I began to think about the groups I had worked with briefly in the past in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. I thought about what I had observed within nationally recognized groups and movements, the faces and ages I had begun to associate with certain organizations and hashtags.
I quickly realized that the difficulties of intergenerational organizing are not just an issue for North Carolina, but rather a trend that can be observed within movements across the country and the globe, and most likely an issue that has plagued generations before my time or even the “time” of the eldest person on the call.
As we delved deeper into the conversation, a concept greater than age differences began to emerge.
The guiding question we began to ask was this: in what ways do ideological differences contribute to the barriers of sustainable intergenerational work, genuine collaborative spirits, and effective coalition building? The group recognized that folks younger and older had both expressed a desire to increase age inclusive spaces, but for some reason these collaborations still failed.
It had to be something greater than just age that slowed down or halted these processes. Instead we discussed ways that ideological beliefs such as radicalism, liberalism, or traditionalism are associated with or have been perceived to be associated with certain age groups. These associations or perceptions may actually be the greatest barriers to strong intergenerational organizing and collaborations.
These findings emerged from a relatively small sample of the community organizers in the state of North Carolina. To further our understanding of this work, I created a survey for social movement builders and community organizers working in North Carolina. The survey will help us expand our reach and better understand attitudes, challenges, and successes in intergenerational/intersectional social movement organizing within the state and around the country.
The goal is to obtain 500 completed surveys. The Freedom Center would greatly appreciate it if you would consider helping us reach this goal by completing the form yourself and then forwarding the survey link to other community organizers, service providers, and advocates you may be connected to.
The online survey takes approximately 5-10 minutes to complete and can be reached at this link.
While we know that a survey alone will not solve the tensions that have been identified, it is our hope that the data collected will allow us a chance to formulate solutions together in a way that will enrich our collaborative efforts and envisioning of a truly intersectional movement.
Thank you in advance for thoughtfully sharing your experiences, and passing along this survey!
Photo by the Freedom Center for Social Justice