Jessica Hoffmann

Hope in the Neighborhood

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | February 04, 2008 12:29 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: community organizing, Critical Resistance, election campaigns, gentrification, grassroots, Justice Now, New Jersey 4, prisons, Q Team, Rebecca Solnit, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, TGI Justice Project, Transforming Justice

As election fever intensifies, I've found myself saying, over and over, to slightly baffled listeners, "No, I haven't really been watching the debates"; "No, I didn't see that big speech"; "Um, no, I'm honestly not sure of the distinctions between Clinton's and Obama's policy proposals on health care [or the Iraq war and other military/imperial projects, or jobs, or ... ]."

"But aren't you, like, really political?" folks say back.

"Oh yeah, I sure am. And I'll vote on Tuesday. But that's not where my hope for change lies. And that's not where I'm putting most of my political energy."

I'll spend some time reading up on the local and state initiatives on tomorrow's ballot, and I'll speed-read through the candidate's platforms one more time, and I'll spend a piece of my day voting tomorrow. But I don't see deep change coming from that direction. For that, my hope lies in the grassroots, in community-based organizations working toward profound social change.

For Bilerico readers, I offer this tiny, non-comprehensive list of some grassroots queer groups I'm lately inspired by:

FIERCE! : Fabulous Independent Radicals for Community Empowerment -- queer youth fighting gentrification in NYC's West Village, organizing support for the New Jersey 4, doing political education, and more.

Q Team -- queer and trans youth of color collective in Los Angeles

Transforming Justice -- first-ever national gathering of LGBTIQQ former prisoners and allies working to end the criminalization and imprisonment of trans people, organized by a huge coalition including the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Critical Resistance, Justice Now, the TGI Justice Project, and many others.

What political projects are giving you hope right now?

(With nods to Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark, which is currently lying open, half read, in the book pile next to my bed.)


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I'll spend some time reading up on the local and state initiatives on tomorrow's ballot, and I'll speed-read through the candidate's platforms one more time, and I'll spend a piece of my day voting tomorrow. But I don't see deep change coming from that direction. For that, my hope lies in the grassroots, in community-based organizations working toward profound social change.

Absolutely, Jessica!

Voting should just be a small part of everything we're doing to try to change the world. And, my Gawd, if I have to put up with another one of my friends turning into a crazy candidate supporter, thinking that all change is going to come from voting for someone for president, then, then, then...

Well, I'll probably just get quietly annoyed.

And, my Gawd, if I have to put up with another one of my friends turning into a crazy candidate supporter, thinking that all change is going to come from voting for someone for president, then, then, then...

totally! i am not the type who thinks it will hurt radical social-change politics to spend 20 minutes voting, but i am at a bit of a loss in the face of friends who tell me they are *crying* they are so inspired by a certain presidential candidate's latest campaign video.

go advertising industry, i guess ...

Jessica, I'm with you (and Emma Goldman) on this one: "If voting made a differenc, it would be illegal."

It has been and continues to be illegal (voting, that is), to varying degrees and more or less in certain places. Just sayin'.

Of course, you could live in Indiana where we have draconian voter ID laws that are disenfranchising the elderly and minority communities. I'm sure some of them would think voting is something radical. :)

Here in Indiana, our group Indiana Fairness Alliance is working the grassroots angle too. Grassroots is where real change comes from.