Reflections on the 2016 Summer Internship in Community Organizing

Posted on August 25, 2016

headshotWritten by Samaya Abdus-Salaam, 2016 intern in philanthropy

After my experience as a SICO intern with Riders Alliance and the New York Foundation, I have come to understand community organizing through a more nuanced lens. Hearing the interns’ stories about why they’re involved in community organizing, whether it’s as personal as being tired of seeing how their friends and family who live in public housing are treated, to thinking ideologically about why housing policies allow and encourage displacement, helps me appreciate why they’ve chosen community organizing strategies for bettering their neighborhoods.

I often find myself in spaces where diversity is a coded word for preserving the image and self-interest of individuals or groups who really don’t value what diversity means.

Being able to learn about people’s personal stories, why they’re invested in pushing our government and our society to think, do, and be better is all a part of how I envision diversity.

Throughout the summer and particularly at the orientation session, this image of diversity coming into fruition—young people who were meeting for the first time were having deep and engaging conversations about the current state of their society and how they could change this reality. In this space, interns freely exchanged their ideas and opinions, and acknowledged and accepted their different backgrounds without invalidating one another. And while the national socio-political climate is important, we can’t ignore what’s going on in our own communities.

Though the conversations among interns were telling of the emotional duress we feel when seeking justice, their passion is what made these moments so powerful. Having the space in which to have these conversations is rare and often confrontational.  Participating in these exchanges reminded me how important they are in helping us emerge more hopeful, energized, and uplifted to engage in community organizing.

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