From SFTR’s ED’s Seat This Earth Day
From the ED’s seat this Earth Week is me grappling with the understanding of the Non Profit Industrial Complex where our social justice movements can get monitored and controlled to “make the world safe for capitalism.” Of course, much has been written and theorized about alternatives as a counter response. The inimitable Ruth Wilson Gilmore has argued for attributes for non profits to be effective: “a clear mission and purpose” and being “funded by their constituents”. I think of San Francisco Transit Riders’ preparedness in this regard. Our mission to elevate the voice of riders to improve public transit in the city and the 600+ dues paying members, you all, fueling our engine to make a difference in the cacophony. How do we deepen our impact?
As transit advocates, we often like to tell the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott as Rosa Parks’ assertion over her seat in the bus even if we understand the larger infrastructure as “a series of refuseniks who sat in the front of the segregated public from 1943 forward” behind Parks’ grit. Where people were well organized to desegregate buses in the short term and to undo larger forms of apartheid over the longer term. The three political formations that were involved were all grassroots led: the Women’s Political Council as the think tank and the strategists, the Montgomery Improvement Association as the doers and the boycott participants, and the Dexter Avenue Church, as the rhetoric pulpit for voices like Martin Luther King Jr’s.
What formations will further our movement? What united fronts do we bring forward? Are our outcomes our sole purpose of being or is it something else?
Those are a few of our long standing conundrums. For now, we continue to engage: on Sunday Streets in Tenderloin, with Muni Diaries at Rickshaw Stop; convene working groups (we are launching our third Transit Planning working group next week); to connect with and empower riders, one after another, as steadfast leaders in the larger transit (justice) movement we claim allyship to. Your partnership is the investment we ask of you this Earth Week. Honoring your voice is our commitment we make to you in return.