8:00am: Wake up on the floor of a community center, get ready for the day, roll up sleeping bag, head to the purple, 15 passenger van
8:30am: Eat granola bar in van, drive 2 hours from Leavenworth, WA to Seattle, WA
10:30am: Visit Aradia Women’s Health Center, a pro-choice women’s health center
1:00pm: Stop for lunch at Subway (for the zillionth time!)
1:30pm: Visit El Centro de la Raza, an organization of Chicano and Latino individuals that fights for worker’s rights, provides assistance to young mothers and works with youth to promote bilingualism and educate them on Chicano and Latina history
4:00pm: Visit the Community Coalition for Environmental Justice, an organization that mobilizes youth of color to work on environmental justice issues affecting their community
6:00pm: Visit Tribes Project, an organization that provides race relations education through the performing arts
7:30pm: Dinner, reflection time, and finally, bedtime!
That’s just one day on the road with ROAMS — Reaching Out Across MovementS — a series of immersive experiences for youth social justice activists, organized and led by Third Wave from 2000 to 2002. Over the course of those three years, ROAMS participants traveled to the Southeast, the Pacific Northwest, and the Southwest to visit community-based organizations in each region. There, they met with activists and organizers to learn first-hand about issues that their communities face, making connections with other activists, and building a movement together.
On the inaugural ROAMS 2000 trip, participant Julie Shah stated the goal was to “connect, network, and share movement building resources with organizations and individuals using a multi-issue social justice perspective in their work.” During ROAMS 2002 in the Southwest, participants learned how the women’s movement relates to immigration activism, as community organizer and participant Kat Rodriguez explained how “domestic violence is connected to the economic situation of the family, which is tied to the immigration status of the family.” Connecting such issues demonstrated how multi-issue social justice movements are fostered.
ROAMS provided a unique opportunity for young feminist activists to learn about issues facing diverse communities and how different organizations respond to those struggles. The format of their meetings was much more personal and went deeper than any formal conference could. Meetings with the grassroots groups were much more than a one-way education on a specific issue. Rather, ROAMS participants had the chance to ask provocative questions that allowed them and the leaders of organizations they met with to truly think critically about their work together, to consider their role in social change, and to consider a range of different ways to address community issues.
The wide breadth of people on the trip also contributed to its unique nature, for each participant brought a different perspective to discussions about activism. The ROAMS participants ranged in age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and background. Further, their familiarity with grassroots organizations and social issues was equally diverse.
From the leaders of local organizations, to participants who were just beginning to realize how they can be involved in social change, to Third Wave staff members (including co-founder Amy Richards and Third Wave’s first Director, Vivien Labaton), and pre-existing members of Third Wave chapters, each person on the trip related to social justice and Third Wave in a different way.
With their experiences in activism training, meetings with organizations, protests, and just going out dancing in a new city, ROAMS participants cultivated a special bond. As ROAMS 2000 participant, Mia Herndon, writes, “I feel like I learned so much about people and group dynamics…I’m grateful for the times when I was moved to extreme laughter and tears, and feel so happy to have met certain folks who I hope will remain a part of my life.” After participating in ROAMS, Mia went on to become Third Wave’s Outreach Coordinator, and now, ten years later, serves as Third Wave’s Executive Director.
Nidhi Kashyap had a similarly life-changing experience, where visiting SAWERA (South Asian Women’s Empowerment and Resource Alliance) on ROAMS 2000 was the impetus for her to become involved in activism for the South Asian community at her school, University of Wisconsin. Nidhi also became even more active in the Madison, WI chapter of Third Wave.
Beyond being a formative experience for the participants, ROAMS was also informative for Third Wave’s larger approach to its grantmaking, underscoring the importance of valuing organizations’ expertise on the ground and identifying and supporting organizations that are often under-resourced by philanthropy.
Looking back at ROAMS was inspiring for us — and maybe it jogged your memory of those early days at Third Wave, too. Do you know someone who went on one of the ROAMS trips? (Maybe it was you!) Or are you familiar with one of the participating organizations? We’d love to hear your reflections on ROAMS as we enter into our fifteenth year of supporting feminist youth activism across the US. For those of you who have been with us since those summer days of all getting on the bus together, your vision and commitment is still firmly rooted in our work today.