By Equal Voice Action
What is power? What does it look like and feel like to you? How do we build power – and how do we direct it?
In late October, members of the Proyecto Vida Digna + Equal Voice Action partnership explored these questions and more in a day-long campaign organizing training held in San Benito, Texas.
Run by Equal Voice Action Community Organizing Manager Rose Berry, the workshop was the latest in a series of community organizing trainings that PVD + EVA members are engaging in through our partnership to support families in the Rio Grande Valley.
The training brought together nearly 50 PVD + EVA members to connect around their shared goal of building leadership skills and collective power to drive change in their communities.
Before covering the ins and outs of community organizing, participants shared their personal stories and motivations – their “why” for wanting and needing to organize – and they engaged in a series of activities and discussions about power.
Among these exercises, participants were asked to consider a time in their life when they felt powerless, and a time when they felt powerful.
By and large, the difference was clear among the group: the feeling of powerlessness comes when someone else, often an institution, has the power to decide or control what happens to us. And the feeling of power? – when we, as individuals or a community, can make our own decisions and shape our own circumstances.
PVD + EVA member participants then took an important step in visualizing power for themselves and their communities through their budding community organizing work. For those who may not often be seen – or see themselves – as “powerful,” this practice can be empowering in its own right.
“In order to understand the power that we, as a community, have to change the systems that don’t serve us, it’s important that we also understand our relationship to power,” said trainer and organizer Rose Berry in reflecting on the workshop and the purpose of the exercises. “We have to first be able to see ourselves as change makers. Then the pathways toward change become clearer and more necessary.”
After the training, participants described what they liked best about the workshop in ways that speak to this important transition from investigating power, to visualizing it for themselves, and, ultimately, acting through it.
Members named the following as among their favorite parts of the training:
“Visualizing the power.”
“Knowing that I have the power.”
“Knowing that we have support to achieve goals we thought we would never be able to.”
Other participants shared their takeaways from the day’s activities, from exploring their relationship with power to working through organizing tactics and the key components of a campaign:
“I learned to value myself more.”
“I can have the power to make decisions without being scared.”
“Speaking up teaches us and opens new doors.”
“The more informed we are the better we serve our community.”
“There are no limits when we speak up…We need to speak up and not stay quiet.”
“I became more focused and felt empowered. Now to plan and achieve our goals.”
“We have the power – we are the movement to change our community.”
As PVD + EVA members move into the planning and execution stage of their organizing work, they will seek to sustain and draw on the growing strength of their membership – now numbering nearly 400 in total.
As one participant shared after the training: “I liked that we are a strong group and that together we can achieve our goals and that we support groups that are in need. Raise your voice!”
Equal Voice Action partners with Proyecto Vida Digna to help families in the Rio Grande Valley access essential resources and build their capacity to organize for change. Learn more about the Proyecto Vida Digna + Equal Voice Action partnership.