A hope based on ourselves, not politicians.
Here in the U.S., it is a monumental day. After experiencing the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, economic uncertainty, and the continuous damage of white supremacist systems — among so much more — we are exhausted. We are scared. And we are anxious, because it feels like just about everything is hanging in the balance.
We know that the decisions that are on the line are much more than political parties. They will have an impact on real lives and institutions for years to come. As we hold the weight of that, we are inspired by what social movements in the U.S. are doing to ensure people are informed, engaged, and heard. And in the midst of these particularly trying times, we are also looking to our grassroots partners, who continue to teach us how to summon courage in the face of threats to their rights and democracies in this moment.
In South Africa
Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM) is a social movement comprised of street traders, hostel and flat dwellers, fisher folks, residents of polluted areas, migrants, and workers in South Africa. They are most at risk in every disaster, whether it is floods, fires, pollution, disease, or the COVID-19 pandemic. And — they marched on October 19th. ABM demanded food relief for the poor, reinstatement for those who were displaced from their homes and lands, compensation for property that was destroyed, and justice for illegal acts. They voiced their concerns about gender-based violence, about xenophobia against groups that are vulnerable, and so much more. In their statement, they said, “But this democracy was not won by the politicians and it does not belong to them. It was won by the struggles of the people and that includes people like us, people like Jabu Ndlovu, Dorothy Nyembe, Florence Mkhize, Johannes Nkosi and Zulu Phungula. It was won by organizations like the ICU, Fosatu, the UDF and Cosatu, organizations with members who were people like us. This democracy belongs to the people, and we are part of the people.”
João Pedro Stedile of Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) spoke about how the Bolsonaro administration explicitly threatens people’s movements in a recent interview on Brasil de Fato Radio. He encouraged activists to continue to take on the struggle without fear, reinforcing that our fight is for justice and for people to improve their living conditions. Even as he recognized the challenges of misinformation that are consistent in England, Hungary, Brazil, Andalusia, and the United States, he also offered words of encouragement. Stedile said, “It is up to us, the Left and progressive political forces, to create a new kind of democracy that goes beyond the ballots, a democracy based on people’s participation, where people effectively take part in the social life and run the State.”
And our longtime Indigenous, feminist grassroots partner Asociación Femenina para el Desarrollo de Sacatepéquez (AFEDES) sent us a powerful message from Guatemala that we want to leave you with:
As indigenous Mayan women of Guatemala who are part of AFEDES, we sympathize with you since you are on the eve of your next election. Voting is a right that has a history of struggle, especially for women and indigenous peoples. The decisions of the governments affect us all; The important thing as human beings is that our hopes are not only based and focused on politicians, but on ourselves. The hope is to build community and reciprocity.
May the fire and light that you carry within not go out. Fight for that world that your heart yearns for, the same world that took you to where you are now.
We hug you,
Women from AFEDES
Las mujeres mayas de Guatemala que integramos AFEDES, nos solidarizamos con ustedes ya que están a la antesala de sus próximas elecciones. El voto es un derecho que tiene una historia de lucha, especialmente para las mujeres y los pueblos originarios. Las decisiones de los gobiernos nos afectan a todos y todas. Lo importante como seres humanos es que nuestras esperanzas no solo estén basadas y enfocadas en los políticos, sino en nosotros mismos. La esperanza está en construir comunidad y reciprocidad.
Que el fuego y la luz que llevan dentro no se apague. Luchen por ese mundo que su corazón anhela, el mismo que los llevó a donde ahora están.
Mujeres de AFEDES