This is one of my favorite photos. That's me there in the ponytail, locking arms with one of my heroes: international peace activist, former Black Panther, and nonviolent direct action master trainer George Martin. Alongside friends in the struggle... wearing a photo of courageous youth leader Salvador Rojas' family as his father faced imminent deportation... supported from the sidewalk by hundreds of Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES) + Voces de la Frontera members... shutting down the downtown Milwaukee thoroughfare in a bold act of hope for immigration reform.
This day felt fierce and empowered and real as we looked up at the windows of Senator Ron Johnson's office, spoke truth, and disrupted the status quo. I felt connected and supported as we linked arms and brought our message through art and stories to illustrate the dignity and right of immigrant families to stay together, even as the police rode up on horses. After organizing with these groups for years - supporting youth leaders to raise their voices and taking care of the details, logistics, police communication, media, and more - this was also the first day I got to participate in civil disobedience and raise my own voice on the megaphone to speak of my commitment to the students and their families that I love so much. It was liberating.
Since then, I have had many moments of empowered connection and victory in our shared work for social justice, as well as many moments of discouragement, frustration, isolation, confusion, and exhaustion. One of the most important things that has sustained and balanced me (to the degree that I have some balance some of the time) is my commitment to embodied and spiritual practice, as well as seeking relationships of support to keep my body and mind healthy and strong. This is important for my contribution to the struggle, and also for my own freedom and happiness now (which is still hard for me to believe matters, but it really does).
Imbalance and burnout spreads in our movements as unhealthy conflict, misunderstanding, mistrust, and separation - causing us to write each other off or create divisions that fracture our power. We cannot afford that collateral damage to ourselves, to one another, or to our shared mission. The cost is too immense.
These are not days that afford us the leeway to build upon a shaky foundation. I am committing myself in this season of my life to supporting organizers, activists, movements, and organizations in this deep and necessary work.
One project I am involved in that does just this is LIBERATION SCHOOL: a 5-day intensive at the Highlander Center this October, followed by a 9-month cohort program for changemakers who are ready to invest time and heart into our own sustainability, to be present for this work for the long haul, and to lead fulfilling lives in rewarding community as we do it. I couldn't be happier and more at home as part of the Organizing Team & Faculty, a geographically, racially, and spiritually diverse team that is deeply committed to birthing this vision in a way that genuinely models the values we hope to inspire you to cultivate in your own work.
If this sounds nourishing to you, check out more information and please apply to be one of the 30 very special leaders selected from all over the country to join this powerful cohort. (And there's a big earlybird discount if you apply by May 1!)
We are ready to build with you!
In love and power,
-- Kate Werning
& the Liberation School Team: Jardana Peacock, Sara Green, Kristi Papallier, & Will Brummett