Revisiting Rhode Island: Reflections on Movement Building (Intro)
By John Cronan Jr at Jan 23, 2008
In two days, it will be the fourth anniversary of my moving to New York City (NYC) from Providence, Rhode Island--a move that has definitely changed my life in many ways. I technically came here to attend Pace University, transferring from the Community College of Rhode Island, but the truth is I wanted to move to NYC and Pace just happened to be the school I went to. Though I considered myself a radical before I moved, I did not submerse myself into the "movement" until I made Manhattan my home. Morever, I would say that I did not really enter the movement until Fall of 2005, when I helped initiate the formation of what is now the New York Metro Alliance of Anarchists (NYMAA), and shortly thereafter, when I was involved in the early stages of the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) (which just celebrated its 2nd birthday). Since then, I have also become highly involved in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Food and and Allied Workers Union 460/640, as an organizer and elected delegate. At the moment, however, SDS and the IWW are where my organizing efforts are focused.
Throughout my time organizing in NYC, I have learned a lot and have grown tremendously--both as a person and politically. No doubt this has come because of struggling side by side with students, workers, and community members, along with lots of personal self-reflection. Whether it was in jail listening to ordinary New Yorkers--disproportionately Black and Latin@-- telling me their stories of how the system has done them wrong, or the times I have marched in the bitter cold with striking immigrant workers; or having countless one on one conversations with fellow organizers about theory, vision and strategy; it has been nothing less than a top-notch learning experience. It has been a time where life long connections have been made, and where I have built a new life for myself, filled with as many ups and downs as my last. All with the hopes of building a new world, of building a participatory society.
I rarely make trips back to Providence, due to time and money constraints stemming from having to work and my organizing, usually only going home three or so times a year. However, this year has been different, I have had relatively more free time since I graduated college--not too much more because of more time devoted to organizing--and, subsequently, I have made it back to Rhode Island more than usual. This time has proven to be some of the most influential on me, so far. My experiences in Rhode Island this past year gave me so many insights into multiple facets of movement building, in ways that I have only recently realized. Most may seem simple, but it is usually the simple things that get overlooked and prove to be the most important. And much of what I have realized isn't necessarily new to me, but rather, is a result of seeing things through a different lens in an old environment that seems so foreign every time I revisit it.
So, without further ado, consider this the first installment and introduction of my new series, "Revisiting Rhode Island:Reflections on Movement Building." Posts will vary. Some will be short. Some will be a bit longer. All of them are inspired by happenings in my home state of Rhode Island with NYC experiences in mind; however, I feel they are definitely not regional specific. I was going to give the actually first substantive installment but my computer is about to die, and the cafe I am at doesn't allow you to plug in. Damn capitalists!!