Keeping our Eyes on the Prize
Or Why We Must Stay Focused, by Aija Nermer-Aanerud, IIRON Student Network Leader
This past Sunday I attended IIRON’s Covenant for Economic Justice. This gathering of IIRON members and supporters was a great opportunity to show elected officials what we, as IIRON members, care about while demonstrating our power – St. Mark’s Church was packed with people vocally showing support for our declared set of values. This was an awesome step towards keeping our elected officials accountable – one of the most important actions we can take in our fight for justice. However, as much as all of this matters, IIRON’s Covenant for Economic Justice was more important for me, personally, in a totally separate way: it revitalized me. The act of gathering at 85th and St. Lawrence with a huge number of other fired up, powerful people reminded me why I, myself, need to fight and why I need to push even harder than I have.
In the days leading up to IIRON’s Covenant for Economic Justice, I had been taking finals, moving into a new apartment, and preparing to start two new jobs for the summer; simply put, my mind was not on social justice. While I am a leader in Southside Solidarity Network and the IIRON Student Network and have taken on many responsibilities in these contexts, at this moment in time, these priorities had slipped. I had allowed other aspects of my life to derail my motivation towards achieving positive change in our communities. This changed on Sunday.
I showed up to IIRON’s assembly expecting a pretty good public meeting – after all, in my experience, IIRON delivers. I was not expecting what I actually got, though. When I sat down in one of the pews at St. Mark’s, I became one of a multitude of people, all fervently, vocally fighting to improve the conditions that many of us face on a daily basis, and the conditions that everyone can look forward to if our government does not start working for us. I was surrounded by people who could not have been more passionate, people with a drive to manifest their values, and who have empowered themselves so that they can make a difference in their own lives rather than waiting around for someone else to do it for them.
Once the reality of this environment hit me, I realized that I had not been engaged as I owe it to myself to be. That is not to say that taking my finals, arranging my jobs, and moving into my new place were not important – it is simply that I had allowed these things to push everything that really mattered to me to the side. I am sure that this is a stumbling block that many of us face in our pursuits – we allow ourselves to lose focus and get distracted, and this holds us back from building power and achieving the change that we envision. That is why I need to thank IIRON and everyone who turned out on Sunday, bubbling over with enthusiasm. This impassioned gathering allowed me to regain focus by reminding me why we are all fighting: to create a better economy to replace the one that is failing so many of us now. I am still not completely focused – I doubt that most of us are. But I am much closer, and, in turn, I am more able to achieve the positive change that I believe is crucial.
If IIRON’s Covenant for Economic Justice gave you a similar experience to mine, a great next step to take is to join me in attending one of two IIRON actions taking place Sunday, June 24th.
Their aims will be to hold Gov. Quinn accountable to release the $425 million earmarked for the Urban Weatherization Initiative and to push Chase Bank to give its foreclosed properties back to the community in Rogers Park. Both will help ensure a more just economic future, through job creation, a healthy environment, and affordable housing. Now that I am focused, I will be there fighting for economic justice, and I hope that you will, too!
At 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 24, Southsiders and SOUL members will meet at Sixth Grace Presbyterian Church and Northsiders and Northside P.O.W.E.R. members will meet at A Just Harvest’s office. For information about the Southside action, contact Will Tanzman at email@example.com. For information about the Northside action contact Cindy Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org.