How can we help student and community activists engage more effectively and creatively? The Organizing Praxis Lab, sponsored by the Pace Center for Civic Engagement and the University Center for Human Values, helped undergraduates, graduate students, and community participants hone the skills of community organizing. Learn how this unique collaboration came together and what it sought to accomplish in this video by Adia Weaver '21.
"So basically, the election happened," said Jessica Sarriot, a graduate student in Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. "People were reeling and there was a deep hunger to sort of take action. Nyle, Dan, and I were on a panel with Cornel West and Jeff Stout that was basically about what is community organizing. And it went well, and after it was done we looked at each other and said, you know, it looks like one day events are great but also there's a hunger and an interest. And we also thought it would be really cool to bring together undergrads, grads, and community folk altogether and to sort of nurture a community that was intentionally thinking about how to do organizing well at this moment."
"I ended up at Princeton because of a commitment to thinking about practices of citizenship and democracy in the scholarship of my advisers and faculty," said Daniel May, a graduate student in the Department of Religion. "I don't know of any other where ongoing conversation and relationships are really, in this space, peers. Despite the breadth of experience there, really coming together. All those people want to learn about organizing and are in a collective struggle together. So I find that's really been one of the, if not the most meaningful, aspect of what we've been doing."
"I think there is more opportunities than there are challenges," said Nyle Fort, a graduate student also in the Department of Religion. "And the opportunities are that you have people who are really learning from one another. So you have an undergraduate student who may just be getting involved with organizing talking to a pastor in the local community, who may have never really thought about what it means to be a pastor in Trenton."
"One of the ways it's redefining service is by showing that actually service is not enough," he continued. "Giving back is not enough. We have to ask the question of why do we have to give back in the first place? What was taken? And so it's asking some fundamental questions about society, about power, about relationships between different groups of people. And I think that's a whole different kind of project. It's a project about justice and freedom and not simply about sort of charity."
"So it's a lab, and that word is intentional. It's an experiment. So I don't know if we know just yet what it's going to become of this, but I'm really excited to see the afterlife of OPL. I would love to see it continue. But I think, like any good organizing, it really comes from what people need. I'm hoping that it really impacted the group of folks who were in the cohort and the people who came to the public events to just do the work of justice and freedom."
"It's essential for the work of organizing because it takes us coming together to affect a change on campus, affect a change in our community, affect a change in the world," Fort concluded.