Note: This is a guest blog from Janice Sikon, a student leader at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. She is studying Chemistry and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies and is currently the President of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at her university.
On June 11th and 12th, I had the privilege of attending the Ohio Student Association’s Catchin’ Bodies Summit. It was my first experience at an OSA event, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I encountered was a group of dedicated, hardworking, and compassionate people who worked their hardest to make everyone feel welcome. For me, the most uplifting part of the summit was meeting so many people who were not only interested in social justice, but specifically bringing justice to Ohio. As someone who plans on working in Ohio for years to come, it was refreshing to meet people who cared as much about the state as I do.
We started off by breaking into groups to practice resonance. Resonance is where members of the group share their stories, and the other group members acknowledge what parts resonated with them. Part of the challenge for some people is to simply listen to their peers, instead of sharing parts of their stories out of turn. Resonance encourages showing empathy and solidarity with one’s peers without purposely or accidentally one-upping each other. It was a fulfilling experience where I felt safe to share my story, and I could feel validated in my experiences.
That afternoon, we were treated to a history lesson that explained how the consolidation of political and economic power had created most of our modern issues in the state, such as white supremacy, corrupt university spending, and controversial campaign funding. I found it to be enlightening, but it could be confirmation bias, validating things I had already believed.
The next morning, we got into the more technical, skill building portion where we discussed and compared various theories of social movement organizing. We devised various methods for combining different strategies in order to create more effective organizations.
Finally, we split up into breakout sessions focused on specific topics. I attended the climate justice session and the organization session. I became informed about making environmental movements more intersectional and using a social justice framework. It was spearheaded by students who are actively working for climate justice on their campuses and are living in the Ohio communities most impacted by unsustainable industries like coal and fracking. The general organizing session gave me many tools as a leader. I learned how to strategize, plan actions, and sustain members to avoid burnout.
I was blown away by the summit and all of the details the organizers put in that made it such an enjoyable experience. From fidgets to keep my hands busy during long presentations to a circle of appreciation where we could publicly acknowledge those who had impacted us, it was clear that they had thought about making the summit informational, fun, and stress-free. It was a community-building experience as much as a learning experience.