Beginning our Learning Journey: Year One of the Political Education Working Group

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Political Education Working Group Members: Caleb Beaudoin, Stephanie Cerda Ocampo, Sara Feldman, Angelica Laguna, and Ivy O. Suriyopas

This past year, GCIR embarked upon an exciting new initiative and formed an internal working group to engage in intersectional and cross-movement analyses and develop an organization-wide action plan to ensure equitable and inclusive policies and practices in GCIR’s internal and external work.


Comprised in 2023 of five staff members from different areas of the organization, GCIR’s political education working group began by developing a learning agenda to deepen the team’s understanding of political, social, and cultural systems and forces relevant to GCIR’s work. Working from our new theory of change, the group delved into complex topics – including imperialism, racial capitalism, anti-Blackness, and militarism – and explored their intersections with migration. Political education working group members serve a one-year term before cycling off and allowing other staff members the opportunity to lead this area of work. For those of us now wrapping up the first one-year term of the working group, it has been an enormously enriching experience that has strengthened our capacity for advancing justice and solidarity and employing an intersectional analysis.


We entered this process intentionally, with our first year focused on collective discovery, knowing it takes time to genuinely transform thinking. Throughout the year, the working group curated articles and resources that were shared with GCIR staff and board members and held co-learning sessions with incredible guest speakers ranging from advocates to academics. These speakers surfaced tough historical truths and connected them to current issues and how they impact migration. Robust discussions with GCIR staff and board members took place over Slack as we connected lessons between readings and at the end of each quarter.


Several key insights emerged about how imperialism, anti-Blackness, racial capitalism, and militarism intertwine and manifest in the context of displacement. We learned how imperialism serves corporate interests and has been historically aided by U.S. policies. We saw how anti-Blackness is deeply rooted in our societal structures, including our immigration system, and how this has an insidious impact that goes far beyond individual prejudice. Our learning led us to see that racial capitalism intentionally extracts the labor of certain groups at the lowest cost possible, often justifying that exploitation through the use of racialized identities. And we learned how militarism causes dislocation while at the same time controlling movement. Wrestling with these histories and structures was eye opening and deeply troubling.


We have had conversations about how best to mobilize philanthropy to support community power instead of perpetuating extractive practices. We thought together about how to build solidarity beyond allyship and transform those impulses into concrete acts of collective care. And we recognized the need to balance hard truths with hope, avoiding fatigue and burnout and uplifting positive visions for tomorrow.


While challenging, this effort enabled us to grow as leaders and forge closer connections across the organization. We learned to meet varied learning styles through diverse types of media offerings. Encouragingly, we found that external partners were excited to hear about our political education efforts and were interested in possibly replicating something similar within their organizations.


This learning strengthened our collective muscle to view migration with an intersectional lens and gave us the motivation and confidence to continue working to drive change. We stand better equipped to uplift narratives that humanize rather than demonize and to advocate for holistic solutions addressing the root causes of migration, such as white supremacy, not just the symptoms.


We are grateful to have had this opportunity to engage in collective study with our staff and board, and we thank our colleagues for partnering with us on this learning journey. Education is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. This work sparked a fire within us that will nourish our journey for years to come. What possibilities will open when we approach systems with curiosity, not apathy or cynicism? What will we discover about ourselves and each other along the way? The path of learning calls us to walk boldly ahead.

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