UTA #3 How To Keep On Keeping On: Sustaining Ourselves in Community Organizing and Social Justice Struggles
by Jen Plyler
In the context of everyday injustices like poverty, racism, heterosexism, colonialism and ableism, community organizing is often carried out with a strong sense of urgency. While this urgency is understandable given the intense struggle for basic survival on the part of those living on the streets, struggling with HIV/AIDS, coping with gender-based violence, facing police brutality, and/or facing deportation, it is often accompanied by a marked disregard for the question of long-term sustainability. Social justice work often takes a detrimental toll on activists; I have witnessed – within the political and community groups I’m a member of in Toronto – organizers paying for their activism with their emotional, mental, and physical health. Instead of figuring out ways to take care of ourselves and each other, social justice groups lose brilliant and committed activists to burnout, disillusionment and poor health. As a result, movements are plagued by fragmentation, lack of reflection and discussion, and ‘wheel reinventing’ that keeps them from moving their agendas forward.