I have been thinking a great deal this week about the importance of visibility in social justice and progressive political movements in the South. As my team at Neighbors for Equality has been preparing ideas for future work in North Carolina, we have been discussing visibility. Last year we wrote and helped encourage others to embrace the power of the written word. While I think that oral conversations are vital for our visibilities in the South, I also think that we must also embrace and encourage the written work as a public act of dialogue. If progressive voices are not present, they are silent, and a community appears to be monolithic. If progressive voices speak loudly, we are present, and we hold the potential to shift and sustain a public dialogue. We become visible.
When I worked in Democratic politics, I never really thought of myself as a community organizer. Political organizing is something that is very short-term in a lot of ways: most field organizers are only in a location for three to six months at the longest, many field organizers are not indigenous to the area in which they are organizing, and the nature of political organizing is such that you discuss many issues within a campaign, and not just one or two. I always used the term “community organizer” to describe those folks that worked for non-profits or issue-based organizations like Clean Water Action or the ACLU.
Y’all, I was SO wrong.