In Spring 2021, the Harry Bridges Center launched the Building a Movement (BAM) Labor Internship, placing UW students with local labor organizations. At the end of their internships, students created creative projects reflecting on their experiences in the labor movement. The students' projects, along with their full project statements, appear below.
Project Statement: This collage includes both words and imagery depicting my viewpoint of the labor movement. Using magazine cutouts it shows children, questions, reflections, warped concepts of productivity and free time, love, community, and dedication to seeing liberation in my lifetime.
This collage represents the cycles of my emotions as I have journeyed through this process of raising my consciousness and figuring out how to participate in the labor movement and other intersecting movements for justice and liberation. I chose this title as it was the main question that propelled me to dive deeper into my community and revolutionary texts, to finally find ways to satisfy that a life under capitalism would never allow. Much of my journey has involved questioning the many narratives and ways of living I’ve been socialized to simply accept, as well as reflecting on my place in the movement. My journey to this point has been an emotional one that stemmed from deep feelings of anger and dissatisfaction, but most of all it has been one that has stemmed from love: love globally, love for the working class, love for my ancestors, love for my posterity, and love for myself. Now it is all about working together to reinvent and rebuild a life rooted in community and care that is absolutely possible.
Project Statement: The Bridges Center connected me to labor issues in Pakistan and I hope to further social justice by studying or working to resolve those issues in the future. But something that bothers me about this is all of the injustices that are happening while I am still studying, because I don't know what I can do right now other than prepare. In one aspect this motivates me to work harder, but in the other, it saddens me that I can only do so much for the time being.
Project Statement: In 2020, the world collectively experienced the effects of the COVID-19 virus, which has now taken over 4 million lives. That year was ever more polarizing as America faced another killer–though not new, dormant, nor silent–racism plagued the country. During this time, Asian hate crimes surged and people were forced to confront the issue of police brutality against people of color after the death of George Floyd. It is estimated that up to 26 million people participated in these demonstrations, making it the largest protest in US history. I started this piece at the height of the protests because I wanted to use my skills and what is within my capability to make a piece which honors those that couldn’t be here with us today, calls attention to the existing power struggles regarding race, and be an ally. This piece is meant to honor and make space for the people that do not have the opportunity to be here with all their friends, family, and community today because their lives ended before they were supposed to, at the hands of police. I also wanted to highlight the names of those that aren’t always remembered, specifically the lives of black women, black transgender folks, or gender nonconforming black people, as they face some of the highest levels of discrimination in the US. One example is Charleena Lyles (depicted on the right), a 30 year old pregnant mother of four that was killed after she had called the police to report a burglary. She could have been alive today had she not called for help. She put her trust and faith in the system and it failed her. Moving forward, we must not only hold individuals accountable, but also hold systems and institutions to that standard as well; so that no more lives are lost in pursuit of what they call justice. Let us not forget the names and fate of those that could not be with us today, spare a moment of silence, and hold ourselves accountable to strive to be better for tangible, measurable change.
Our country was built on stolen labor, on stolen land, and though we like to think of slavery as a shameful thing of the past, it has only been rebranded as what we know now as the prison industrial complex. It is still a structure of oppression that systematically targets people of color, favors cisgender white men, and the authorities often end up harming and killing the people they are sworn to protect—as they continue to uphold and enforce these structures. This is nothing new, as capitalism and race have always been interconnected. Race has historically been used as a tool to justify the oppression of people of color, and profit off of their bodies and labor. It has also been used to divide the working class and keep workers from collectively organizing against causes in which they share similar positionality. We must remember there is no race but the human race and people should be treated as such regardless of age, class, gender, culture, birthplace, skin color, religion, dis/ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and ability to have homes/shelter. As a country, we need to do better in order to build a space that not only respects diversity, but embraces it; and those within positions of power and privilege hold a higher responsibility to do so.
Click the project title to view the full zine.
Project Statement: Throughout the course of this internship, I jotted down thoughts and feelings about my involvement in this movement and what pushed me to engage more deeply with the labor movement. I decided to create a sort of a pseudo-zine documenting my stream-of-consciousness thought process. I wanted to show my journey from the isolated peak of the “ivory tower” (as we all know, it’s a metaphorical space where people, usually academics, are cut off from truths and practical solutions for the world because they are so deeply embedded in unattainable intellectual pursuits) that hoarded knowledge in apologist archives into a community where I could actually give back and contribute and help actively dismantle these oppressive institutions that we keep learning about but somehow feel discouraged to interact with. If I were faced with a barrage of microaggressions, which I certainly have been in the past, I doubt that I would say anything in disagreement or in protest. I see now that being able to brush off these microaggressions is a privilege that my class affords me, and with the recent publicization of Asian hate-crimes that not speaking up for my Asian brothers and sisters can cost people their lives. I am not a very vocal person, and I am afraid of being shut down. Nonetheless, I realized through this internship that activism doesn’t have to be leading protests with a loudspeaker up on highway overpasses, but that it can manifest itself in kind interactions in massage parlors with immigrant women and families whose stories are similar to those of my own family. I can empower and educate those around me.
You also sort of see my struggle to understand the reason for my activism in this zine. I was always confused as to whether I was doing this out of guilt, or fear, or anger. But I think that at the root of my activism is love. I love my community, and seeing those I love being hurt makes me upset— hence, I act to protect and defend and uplift and support those around me. I’m still trying to understand how I feel and what kind of impact this work will have, but I hope that I am moving on the right track. I hope that this descent from the ivory tower is meaningful, and I trust that it will be.