Working through the plateaus
by Emily Gallagher
Apr 11, 2018 | 1534 views | 0 0 comments | 83 83 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For me, the most exciting time of spring is when you first begin to notice the new buds on the branches. Tiny bumps slowly untwist into flowers that shock and delight us, or leaves that last all summer and provide shade and clean air.

This spring I am noticing a different kind of new growth: I am seeing new activists developing.

I have quite a few interests, as my readers know, but two that are evergreen for me are fighting displacement and sexual violence.

In 2016, I started the group Greenpoint Task Force with a few other concerned neighbors, who did amazing and efficient organizing work with me to respond to the urgency we all felt after a string of rapes and assaults in the neighborhood.

But eventually, and thankfully, our sense of urgency ceased. Other issues arose and people had to make hard choices.

I really wanted to see long-term change happen, and because I can sometimes be crazy about my commitment to things, I wanted to make sure I helped to push an actual culture shift.

However, it is a lot of work to plan, advertise and accommodate meetings, and often despite my own initiative, I just couldn't hack it on my own.

Despite all other fluctuations, a young activist named Erika Jozwiak stuck by my side, dutifully note taking at every meeting, thinking strategically, and remaining enthusiastic even in the midst of boredom and no action.

Unfortunately, issues like this never go away, so when #MeToo came up, we found ourselves suddenly relevant again. Because of Erika, I didn't give up, but I thought about it many times, believe me.

Every time I got tired, she would email and encourage me to believe in it again. Even as I got "too busy," she would email "when is our next meeting? We need to follow up!"

And she was right. I wanted to celebrate Erika here, because the hard, long-term, quiet workers are rarely granted the appreciation they deserve. These movements and efforts are built on their participation and they matter.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I halfheartedly held a meeting at Greenpoint Beer and Ale, defeated on the inside by lack of participation and a loss of direction, but on the outside trying desperately not to give up.

I advertised the meeting on a few community Facebook groups, but I was not confident that anyone would come. To my surprise, two new participants came who both said they were passionate about the issue and wanted to help, Jess and Deborah.

These women came in with fresh perspectives and passion, wisdom and know-how. Suddenly I was thinking bigger and I was able to plan better, knowing they were there for it.

Jess then brought Kaley, and with our other stalwart members Jane Hansen and Katie James, we now have a really rock solid, organized and efficient group.

With their fresh perspectives and energy, we started working on an event that will happen on April 23 at 7 p.m. at the Wythe Hotel at 80 Wythe Avenue.

It is a panel discussion between advocates and those inside the system, like the police, politicians and hospitals. It is a collaborative event, where we will work to teach our neighbors how the system operates so that they can be prepared in the face of an emergency.

It is also an opportunity for all to share how the system could be improved. I do hope you will come! If the information isn't lure enough, there will be food and drinks as well.

Over the last few months, I have been humbled by these new collaborators. I have learned that it is staying faithful and diligent in the plateaus of our work that matters the most.

It is only when you are practicing in the plateau that you can prepare for the next big moment. Strength is not conditioned on the fly, it is built in the long, slow, dull, uneventful and boring moments when you just keep showing up with good faith and an open heart.

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