Oxy in New Orleans
Solidarity, Not Charity

Struggling towards Solidarity

Is solidarity possible while being here only for three weeks, receiving more from our experiences in the community than we can give in return? Another question that arises is: why did we feel the need to travel all the way here instead of working to improve our own communities, where we aren’t seen as outsiders? Maybe one of the reasons we chose to come here is because home is too personal for us, seeking an outside perspective to apply to our own communities when we return, especially because the topics of racism, sexism, ableism and classism are universal regardless of the part of the world you come from. This question is one of the challenges each one of us is struggling to answer. The fact that we are privileged enough to travel down here while thousands of displaced families don’t have the opportunity to come back to their community, their home. This fact alone makes us realize that solidarity is more complicated than we thought. We don’t intend to be here for “charity”, which is more about making us feel better about ourselves and seeking recognition for our “good work”. We intend to be here in solidarity, which means working with the community to meet their needs as well as making connections with the residents, all while we inevitably meet our own needs of wanting to learn and grow. However, the latter is the “downside” of solidarity, restating what we said earlier, taking more from being here (whether it is our knowledge of how the government works, construction skills, and better understanding groups and systems of oppression) than we can and really want to give. Therefore, does the community gain as much as we do with our presence? In the end, after all these thoughts, students keep coming back to the Lower Ninth Ward, working with the community one way or the other, while others stay back home using the skills they learned to empower, rebuild and work with their own communities.

We’ve been welcomed by the Lower Ninth Ward for only about a week, still having time left to hopefully find the answers to our struggling questions while we, in solidarity, work with the community and each other.

(Myaisha H., Malachi K., Lizzy F., Fatima A.)


One Response to “Struggling towards Solidarity”

  1. hi–malachi’s mom here with some questions/thoughts. what role does vulnerability play in building solidarity? what is on the line for oxy students in n.o.? can you be self-protective/privileged and build solidarity with those on the edge of survival? can you maintain stability while striving for solidarity? what role does leadership play in a horizontal organization? what’s needed in this moment: peers or leaders? is it possible or appropriate to be both? a really great essay is “when we were friends: a geography lesson” by bill ayers from the book “some of my best friends” ed emily bernard. you oxy folks are great. kudos for struggling w hard issues of systemic oppression.

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