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AIDE: Action In Defense of Education

By: 
Linda Salinas
Date Published: 
November 01, 2005
    I’m on a conference call talking to mostly people of color across California. They are organizers, leaders, friends, and students from community colleges, California State Universities, and the University of California. Throughout the past year, it has been amazing to connect with so many people of color that are organizing within their communities and campuses. The energy and dedication they show is only surpassed by their societal understanding of oppression. We met in the process of creating a network called AIDE, Action In Defense of Education.

These conference calls helped to reconnect these inspiring people and to coordinate our organizing. We also held statewide meetings, and at the end of last year over 40 members from all over the state got together in L.A. and crafted the following working mission statement:

    Action In Defense of Education (AIDE) is a network working to transform the current educational system into one that is equitable, accountable, democratic, empowering, and community controlled.

In order to achieve these goals we believe it is necessary to reflect the society we wish to see. Therefore, AIDE operates as an autonomous, egalitarian, diverse student-led network. We are committed to holding individuals, policy makers, politicians and legislatures accountable through mass mobilization and direct action. We strive to create an educational system that will foster self-determination and self actualization.

Common goal

At this statewide meeting we decided that a statewide action would have the power to put our issues in the media and show a united front. We wanted to demonstrate that we were not divided and that the work being done across the state was both connected and directed towards a common goal.

I was impressed with the skills and abilities of these organizers. We had hundreds of students from San Diego walk out on April 20th, or what we called A-20, and take over the streets. But at the same time we had coordinated actions in Los Angeles, San Jose, Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Berkeley. As thousands of students walked out we collaborated with other organizers testifying in Sacramento. Our coordination and media work help us get our message out in the mainstream and independent media.

Through the process of planning and facilitating these actions, I was able to get into many conversations with my peers through AIDE. We talked about the problems within society and our role within this movement. We would talk about how in many ways the political left—in wanting to alleviate and fight the repercussions of oppression—forgets that struggle for one goal, such as increasing health care or increasing funding for education, represents a reformist attitude.

Unfortunately achieving reforms does not change the fact that we will continue to live in an oppressive environment. We cannot forget that once those campaigns are “won,” they create but a small wave in an ocean of problems. Ultimately, our organizing should always be based on working towards creating a different way of living where exploitation is not the backbone of society.

The majority of the organizers within this network have a sense that reform alleviates a major problem but it does not eradicate it, and that we should be working towards eradicating the problem, not alleviating it. We want to live in a society that no longer perpetuates the system of oppression.

Autonomous space

What made the statewide day of action empowering was the uniqueness of sharing a space for organizing with people that emanated beautiful energy. That energy created conversations and debates that questioned our society, as well as our way of organizing. I have grown so much as an organizer in interacting in these relationships.

The energy of the organizers revitalized us. Many of us had become tired of the disconnectedness and lack of ability to push the envelope in our organizing on campus. There seems to be a lack of space to coordinate strategy and share resources for our similar struggles and battles. There is also a lack of space in established organizations to develop direct action skills. We felt there needed to be an alternative to the strategy of only asking and lobbying the government.

We found many other student networks lacked the ability to push the envelope because they are afraid of tainting their reputations, relationships with decision makers, or funding. We wanted to create an autonomous space where our strategies were not limited by an organization, and at the same time not limited to collaboration with them. This is not about the organization or AIDE it is about the organizers and organizing within it and what they are capable of accomplishing. AIDE is just a name. We are not here to sustain AIDE. AIDE should exist to sustain us and our work.
The method of being innovative and acting proactively is hard and is a process that we must develop. The government and forces in power keep throwing curve balls at us, giving us little time and ability to be more proactive. They keep us overextended and burn us out.

Many of us also realized that as people of color there was a lack of opportunity for skill building on being effective and strategic organizers. There is a lack of institutional support, knowledge, and memory. We felt uninformed of resources available or did not have access to them. We wanted to train ourselves and pass on these skills so we could become more effective and proactive in our strategy.
Right now we are taking a step back and training ourselves so we can do a trainer’s tour across the state to the different areas where we know folks and pass on training to predominantly youth of color. We want to develop these trainings so they are more relevant to organizers of color and take our perspective and qualities into the organizing field. We hope that we are able to develop more long term strategy and collaboration with existing battles to create not just an adequate and just educational system but just and empowered communities.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linda Salinas currently works with youth of color organizing in their high schools. She is one of the founders of the AIDE network and is currently studying Social Welfare.