Blue Mountain Center Retreat - Movement Voter Project

We arrived at the Blue Mountain Center in Indian Lake, NY after making our way from all corners of the country. Our long plane rides turned into quiet car rides that wound out of the city, and through the backwoods of upstate New York.

I, along with my sister Lauren, were fresh off the plane after having joined our sisters and brothers of the International Indigenous Youth Council in Washington D.C. to accept the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for our collective efforts to raise a global consciousness about the inherent life and rights of water. We entered the space created for us by Movement Voter Project (MVP) Director of Special Projects, Jess Pierce, with the words of movement leaders in attendance at the RFK Ceremony such as Congressman John Lewis, and la reina Dolores Huerta ringing in our ears.

For the next three days, we sat with grassroots activists, nonprofit directors, and organizers from varying backgrounds to discuss the state of our movements. Together we discussed issues that each of our movements faced, and what needed to be addressed immediately. We focused on facets of intervention, specifying what it is that we, as organizers and movement workers, needed help with. Folx within our group shared situations they’ve faced and offered the interventions they utilized in order to overcome the obstacles they faced. In addition, each person shared a call-to-action about what and how other movements and leaders could intervene and support in each movement presented.

Beyond issues and interventions, were ideas and incubations. Our discussions moved from the “what” to the “where” as we talked about making room for creativity when addressing future issues in our movements. Coming from organizations such as Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Seeding Sovereignty, Million Hoodies 4 Justice, Community Justice Reform Coalition, Democratic Socialists of America, and more, we realized that we were a complex, diverse, decolonizing, and rare birds of a very specific feather. We were, assembled together, a handful of educators, impassioned kids from the block, all relatives, and descendants of caged birds being set free by acts of resilience.

The final thing we asked ourselves was what could we build or attempt that could begin to both address issues and build better, different, and stronger movements.

One suggestion brought forth was to further embolden the youth organizers trying to navigate movement spaces. Lauren and I had just come from the adventure of a lifetime, having held space with youth who are adding to the groundwork laid by community members that have fought gun violence and police brutality for decades. In addition, we were able to wrap our arms around young people who are undocumented, unafraid, here to stay, and ever willing to educate the masses about full equality for all. How was it that so many movement spaces lacked room for young people to lead?

An attendee, pushing back on our euphemistic approach asked why it was that youth spaces were created but many movements still lacked opportunity for established community leaders and older folx that wanted to get activated. As a youth advocate, the sting of the question settled on me before the hurt behind the words revealed themselves. In a matter of minutes, a gathering was devised. One that would be inclusive of the people who worked relentlessly to guide the movements we were apart of, while simultaneously enriching and engaging those that will inherit the works of the foundation layers.

We cried together on the shores of Indian Lake, sharing our stories with each other, the water, and all the plant and animal relatives that were among us. Teaching one another how to canoe and kayak for the first time, we found ourselves out on the lake learning and building community on gentle waves.

Our last night was spent in the boathouse, ruminating on all we’d learned, what we envisioned for our personal journeys, and what we aimed to see happen with commitments we made to one another.

Sitting in a handful of canoes, kayaks, atop paddle boards, and in hammocks and chairs alongside the water, we blasted old records, danced, clinked glasses, and sang along to tunes while the stars rose high in the sky.

Together or apart, we were hype to be with one another, engaged in the moment and motivated by the movement.

Resilient and resistant, til chains broken we part.

Eryn Wise