Why do folks on the margins need money and multiple college degrees in order to be taken seriously as an authority on their own lived experience within their own community? Because it makes the privileged folks who make the rules feel more comfortable with the idea of us having a voice? Probably. We’ve jumped through their hoops and they give us a treat and a pat on the head. These nonprofit organizations need to be made accountable not just for making more opportunities available to folks on the margins, but also for re-thinking how we choose to value voice and authority both on and within marginalized communities. It is the difference between talking ABOUT social justice and BEING about social justice. There needs to be effort made by these organizations to acquire more funds. Additionally, these organizations need to actually seek out hidden voices- voices who have not had the chance to be heard, let alone made popular. I know so many brilliant fellow trafficking survivors and sex workers who have immensely valuable things to say but because they are homeless, transient, destitute and barely surviving — they don’t get these opportunities. That is wrong. It is also something we can actively work to address. So as a community of social justice activists- especially those of you who have greater financial stability which allows you more of a platform — it is your responsibility to step back and advocate for making room for others on that stage. I’m not saying that no one who presents at these conferences struggles with their finances-I’m sure many, if not most do. I’m also not saying that the activists who can afford the cost of presenting are not worthy of doing so. The point is that the way the system is set up right now in social justice activism, being heard it is still a privilege not afforded everyone and money is still a huge factor determining how much someone can participate in these grander conversations around social justice. The aims of these nonprofit organizations when they’re assembling speakers for a conference needs to be towards making space for the folks most adversly effected by the policies these social justice conferences seek to address.
And yet the web at its heart, its true, strange, heart is still a document delivery platform. We take that for granted after 25 years, that you can have an idea and share that idea with thousands of people, for very little money, in very little time. But it’s still pretty radical. In fact, I think that we haven’t fully figured out what it means, culturally. Otherwise we’d stop building CMSes. I love that immediate, nearly-free global distribution is increasingly a birthright of people who live in open societies. That’s something worth defending.
Your heart will break and maybe some of your fingers. Their fingers will find a way into your eyeballs and your cheesecake. Their hearts will break and then yours will break again. They will tell strangers embarrassing lies and some equally embarrassing truths. You will cringe and compare your team to others, calculating kindnesses and wits, stamina and grace. The voice inside that used to read real books and converse with large, thoughtful humans will tell you that, “comparison is the thief of joy,”** but that language is forgotten. The one you speak now is guttural, monosyllabic, and not friendly with aphorisms. The one you speak now is all business and would say something like, “aphorisms can kiss my ass.”