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April 07, 2007

Leaving Southern Africa... full circles on the first half of my journey

I’ve had a very full and fulfilling two months in Southern Africa, exploring South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. My goals were to:

* learn about local issues and effective grassroots efforts for sustainable change

* connect with my global peers (community organizers, activists); build a network for continued information exchanges—cross pollination!

* consider how Americans can be in true solidarity with efforts in other countries (very complex issues)

* simply get out of the American bubble and see how other people live

Before I left the U.S. I was nervous about if and how an outsider could meaningfully interact with local efforts in such different places, but my initial concern has long melted away. This journey has been more meaningful than I could have imagined, both for myself and (I hope) for the people whom I have visited. It has been such a joy meeting comrades in other places and exchanging ideas. And while the circumstances may be different than in Portland, Oregon, the bottomline is still the same: people are people, needs are needs, business, power and bureaucracy operate in similar ways, and the solutions, I still firmly believe, are to empower the grassroots to care for and connect with their own issues and solutions. The world feels small to me now… the sky, ground, trees, stars and human nature are universal phenomena. And so is organizing.

Therefore my exploration into “cross-pollinating” (networking, exchanging ideas) has been quite rewarding. Just taking the time to listen to people’s stories and learn about their projects has filled me with ideas large and small that can’t help but to seep out into other places at the appropriate moments. I am often finding myself telling stories of my new friends (and I am thankful to have my computer to show photos and short videos – always better than a mzungu (white person) trying to explain things). The cross-pollinating has been local and international… from introducing people to each other within the same city, to sharing ideas from one African country to the next, all the way to translating the experiences of City Repair and TLC Farm to new friends in the ghettos and various organizations of eight major cities in four countries.

The one aspect of this journey that I still feel deeply confused and open about is the role that American activists/organizers can and should play in places like Africa. This is quite a complicated situation, and I am hoping that by the time I go back to the States, I will have some sense of how I can incorporate this experience into my other experiences of localized Portland organizing.

And so in the first half of this African “Journey de Jenny,” I feel good about my work so far… though of course everything I learn just opens up new questions and more to do!

1 comment:

charla said...

jenny jenny bo benny banana fanna fo fenny me my mo menny!

you know who's the best darn cross pollinator in the world