[Editor’s note: Today is the first day of October – our birthday month! Two years ago, the OK4RJ Blog began posting regular contributions from a diverse array of young Oklahoman feminists, organizers, writers, and activists, and we couldn’t be prouder or more excited about how far we’ve come and where we’re going. To celebrate, we’ll be posting new content as well as revisiting some of our most popular posts from the past year, like this guest post from dear friend of OK4RJ Yucca. Enjoy!]
Guest Post: An Open Letter to Young Organizers by Yucca
Apr. 9, 2013
I am tired of contributing to this alcohol/barcentric culture that we have created for ourselves. This letter springs specifically from my experiences with activists in Denton, Texas, but it is for all young organizers, community builders, and anyone trying to advocate for social justice in red states.
For the past three and a half years, most activist events that I have attended or organized were centered around alcohol. The equation seems to go like: needing money + kegger + catchy title = queerfeministsocialistanarchistdanceparty fun time! I understand the ease around this; throwing a kegger can instantly lead to fundraising money that we desperately need to continue working in areas that are difficult to organize in. Throwing events at bars is tempting, because we’re able to draw a built-in crowd. There have been problems with the chosen event spaces and with random party goers fucking up the houses that we have built as homes for ourselves.
And where are the sober spaces? We often talk about “building safer spaces”, and yet our fundraisers are not safe for people that have a current or past history with addiction. They are not safe for people that have experienced abuse because of alcohol/drug dependent partners or family members. And they are definitely not safe for everyone if there is a possibility of police interference. Consent violations also occur more often in non-sober spaces. Don’t we want to ensure the safety of event participants after the event has ended? Including alcohol limits who can attend, what conversations can occur, and who wants to organize. These events usually end with no advancement of our movements, and do not build long lasting, genuine connections.
I am interested in building and sustaining more sober spaces, bridging intergenerational gaps (especially in the queer community), and being accessible to ALL peoples, not just college kids. I am tired of people throwing around the word “community”, when what we really mean is our close group of (amazing and supportive) friends and acquaintances. Most of the work that we do does not incorporate people outside of our age range and folks outside the radius of the university. There are exceptions, but for the rest of us, it’s better to recognize that our activism has not been community centered. We need to reevaluate our organizing strategies and start to reach out to other groups to make sure that their voices are included in these highly important conversations.
Our current default organizing lacks creativity and is not very well thought out. As people living in resource-scarce red states, I wholeheartedly believe we are creative enough to develop different strategies. We should have meetings and events that are at an accessible time, provide childcare, and are not always campus-based. There are ways to incorporate art auctions, workshops, live music, poetry readings, and film showings without depending on the distribution of alcohol. Planning events may take longer, but we need to organize in more honest ways. We need to be more mindful of ourselves and our surroundings, our boundaries, and other people’s boundaries.
Basically, I really want to hang out with elder queers, pregnant people, angsty middle schoolers, drooling babies, people of fucking color, non-english speaking populations, people of different cultural backgrounds, high school nerds, parents of all ages, and people with varying abilities. We can only include a broader spectrum of people into our conversations by creating and sustaining sober, safer spaces and hold ourselves accountable to our organizing, personal past, and future actions.
I am not preaching a sober lifestyle, nor do I live one, but I think it is important to recognize the limitations of alcohol-focused events. I acknowledge that I have not been the best at creating safer, sober spaces and would like to continue these conversations and invite you to be a part of them.
Yucca is a chican@ from south tejas trying to mitigate life in north tejas and become a full spectrum doula. When they are not thinking about child birth, they are riding their bike and dreaming of reproductive justice in their lone star state.