Photo: Fibonacci Blue
At 5:00pm on a recent spring afternoon, a group of eleven graduate students at Harvard University deposited their MA theses and then immediately launched a global program that drew more than 175,000 online participants throughout the month of April. Their creation, the Resistance School, is a “free practical training program” that seeks “to sharpen the tools communities need to organize and make sustained change that advances values of fairness, equality, and inclusivity.”
Shortly after the School’s launch, I spoke with one of its co-founders, Yasmin Radjy, to discuss its purpose, the founders’ motivation, and the ultimate hope for an outcome. While the project isn’t focused on any particular issue or topic, the organizers have found that a large percentage of the School’s participants have been women – just as a large percentage of calls to Congress in recent months have been made by women. Eight of the eleven original co-founders are also women. But Radjy shared that they “want to make sure this movement isn’t about any individual or about any particular cause. It is about collective action and a national effort.” She emphasized that “we need to learn from each other and take action.”
And the collective outcome has been tremendous. In fact, a very diverse group of individuals participated in the first four sessions of the School – individuals from all 50 states and more than 20 countries, as well as individuals focused on a range of issues and from various backgrounds. Student organizers, retirees, first time activists, and seasoned advocates all joined in to share and learn from each other. Radjy offered that “this diversity is a sign of the kind of energy that exists [in the United States] right now. We think a lot of people feel motivated to mobilize and organize more effectively, which is why this many people are willing to join this effort.”
Of course, it’s the energy to resist that brought this group together in the first place. Radjy noted that the original eleven co-founders began to meet in a campus conference room shortly after the inauguration in January, which she described as a “wake up call.” At these meetings they discussed how they could best resist agendas that weren’t inclusive, fair and progressive. They spoke with others around campus, as well as with family and friends, and they ultimately agreed that there was a gap in training for activists who wish to resist. That is how the idea of a Resistance School began and then grew into four practical sessions that would provide tools for communicating values, organizing and mobilizing communities, building capacity for action, and sustaining resistance over time.
When asked about her advice for aspiring activists, Radjy stated, “from our perspective all hands should be on deck, no matter what anyone’s experience level or personality type might be. Our hope is to make a clear pathway to action and encourage all people to engage. We all have to learn, act and reflect – and learn, act and reflect some more. It’s about the long haul. That is what citizenship is about.”
After the Resistance School’s first four sessions proved to be tremendously successful, the team engaged in a process of gathering feedback through surveys and phone calls in an effort to make adjustments and organize a second semester of resistance training. I asked Radjy how they plan to maintain the resistance for the years to come. She said, “political action has to be done as part of a group, part of a community. It’s the energy we get from each other that sustains us as a whole. Burnout can and does happen in the resistance. There is a lot of work to be done and we have to work just as hard to help each other and grow our community.”
And indeed the community is growing. If you are interested in learning more about the Resistance School, including watching videos of the first four sessions, take a look at their website. You too may be inspired to hone your resistance skills.