“A warrior of light accepts his Personal Legend completely. His companions say: ‘He has remarkable faith!’ For a moment, the warrior feels proud, then immediately feels ashamed of what he has heard because he does not have as much faith as he appears to have. At that moment, his angel whispers: 'You are only an insturment of the light. There is no reason to feel proud or to feel guilty. There are only reasons to feel happy.’ And the warrior of light, aware now that he is but an instrument, feels calmer and more secure.” by Paulo Coehlo
On August 26-28th, a group of organizers from across the country held a Grasping At The Root Conference in Durham, NC in conjunction with Duke University, Sanford School of Public Policy. Various community organizers from my family, Dream Defenders, Black Youth Project 100, Rise Up Georgia, Maroon Project, United We Dream, Wildfire Project, Movement NetLabs, IIRON Student Power Network and National People’s Alliance. Some of the other folks there I met through Momentum Training. The folks I did not know, were from some policy organization, electoral organization, co-op business, or something of the sort.
Now, I am well aware of how critical I can been. With that being said, I thought there was serious desirable and potential energy with having different sectors of organizers in one space to build a shared analysis. Various policy proposals that people have been working on for a long time, and attempting to get community organizers on board with radical reforms and for us radicals to promote transformation in these proposals is too rare. I appreciate space created to begin those conversations.
Along with that, for me being someone living, working, organizing, building, collaborating, learning and developing in Durham, I found it uncomfortable at best and disrespectful at worst for these amazing people to come here with no invitation to be there. There is not a single person I know from the entire state of North Carolina that was invited to this conference. Its like when you have a house party, and people you’ve never met before come over, because they heard about through a mutual friend, but come in yo shit and dont speak, introduce themselves, nothing. Grasping At The Root was that friend. Which, for me, makes this title of the conference an oxymoron. Idc if you bring my favorite bottle of tequila (1800 Coconut) or my favorite snack (Jackson’s Honest Chips Salt & Vinegar cooked in Coconut Oil) you fucking speak!
Other than that, I think the outcomes desired by the coordinators of the conference were a bit premature. There were 4-5 policies for everyone to read, discuss via panel, and vote on by the end of the weekend. Even with reading, organizers tend to questions “How will this be implemented?” or “What does this look like in action?”. Which requires a whole nother conversation in itself. There was not enough time and/or space to deeply discuss these proposals or how we felt about them. There were many times where myself or someone else would bring up something we disagreed with, or found problematic in the proposals and it was pushed to the side, instead of addressed. I grew bored of the panels, and restless with the lack of excitement, meat or anything juicy about it. It had no juice.
It was difficult to be there and without the people I know and love being there, I would not have stayed.