Left wing families face a serious challenge integrating their politics into their lives. The pervasiveness of international corporate exploitation, consumerism and pacification through entertainment make it almost impossible to live progressive lives that are consistent with their values. Yet without such integration, it is difficult to create the essential culture of resistance and alternative vision that is needed to transform our society.
At the RFC we’ve recognized the need to build progressive infrastructure in order to transmit such values from one generation to the next. This is why, whenever possible, we channel our funds through progressive providers to our beneficiaries. It is also one of the reasons we developed our Gatherings. The program consists of Carry it Forward Gatherings for the children of targeted activists and targeted activist youth between the ages of 18 and 24, and Family Gatherings for targeted activists and their school-aged children.
Last week we held our first Carry it Forward Gathering since 2006. Originally we planned this event for 2009, but in the wake of the crash of 2008, we were forced to cancel it for lack of funds. This time we brought together over 20 young adults, all current or former RFC beneficiaries, for four days of sharing, network building, artistic expression and fun. A few were targeted activist youth, while most were the children of targeted activists, although many of the latter had as young adults become activists in their own right. They were a dynamic and inspiring group. This level of engagement, coupled with our exhilaration at reinstating this threatened program, had a cathartic impact upon me.
We could tell from how they responded to us and each other, that the program had a powerfully positive impact on them all. Moreover, a number of the attendees connected with kindred spirits who, I believe, will provide mutual support for their ongoing organizing work in the future.
I wish everyone in the RFC community could have shared this experience, because no one who did could have doubted its value. While the vast majority of our constituency has expressed strong support for the Gatherings, we’ve received some correspondence from those who have asked that their funds not be used for these events because they question their long-term value or impact. Rather than being a waste of precious resources, the problem with our Gathering program is that it needs to be a hundred times bigger in order to build the communities of resistance that must complement the direct actions needed to transform our society.
While I have little doubt about the importance of the RFC’s work, and am proud of the hundreds and, perhaps by now, more than a thousand children and youth we have helped, I do not have delusions of grandeur. We’ve just taken a few steps on what must be a long journey. But I come away from last week with a profound sense that we are headed in the right direction.
PS We are most grateful to the Fineshriber Family Foundation for their leadership grant, the Puffin Foundation for providing funds for the Arts workshops, the Shana Alexander Foundation for assistance with staffing the Gathering, and four individuals whose generous support has allowed us to move forward with this summer’s program.
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