by Charlene Carruthers, Teen Vogue: “I wasn’t born a leader; I was agitated into choosing leadership by growing up on the South Side of Chicago. I didn’t wake up at 18 understanding what white supremacy, patriarchy, anti-blackness, and capitalism meant. Self-study, comrades, elders, and people I met in the streets taught me how to understand the world and gave me the room to imagine a radically different future.
Building powerful movements is difficult, heartbreaking and — if we do it well — joyful. When I look back on the past 14 years of activism, community organizing, and movement building for racial, economic, and gender justice, there are many more things that I wish the younger me understood.
I was 24 years old the first time a more experienced organizer took me to the side and gave me honest feedback on my leadership. We’d spent three days together at a training for community organizers in the Washington, D.C., area. She and I were two of the few black women in the room. Unbeknownst to me, she watched my interactions with other participants. I openly disagreed, debated with other participants, and at times spoke over people. I was consistently agitating others and agitated by other people in the room who were mostly white and older. At the end of the day, she asked if she could speak with me about the training privately in her room.
I didn’t know what to expect. She sat me down and talked to me. She asked questions. She was honest and compassionate. By the end of the conversation, it was clear to me that I had the power to choose how to extend my energy, who was worth it, and to determine how I wanted to build relationships with people who had opposing views and different experiences. It wasn’t a callout, and her goal wasn’t to embarrass me; it was to make me a sharper community organizer and more effective leader.” Read More