Building Beyond Borders
For this fifth and final cohort, we are partnering with Grassroots International, a global grantmaking and social action organization, to build with Black and Indigenous communities in Honduras–Garifuna and Lenca communities–alongside OFRANEH and COPINH. Spending significant time building relationships with our partners that we collaborate with during each cohort’s international convening is a central element of our movement building strategy. This work builds on the last cohort’s partnership in Guatemala with JASS. There we collaborated with Garifuna and Lenca communities from Honduras as well as Afro-descendant, Maya Mam, Kaqchikel, and K’iche’ peoples in Guatemala.
A core element of Move to End Violence is transnational movement building. While our cohorts are made up of U.S. based activists, the work to end violence is interconnected across the globe. Much of our work is about building across borders, whether those are national borders or building across differences like race, gender and class.
During our third convening last month, we deepened this relationship-building by being in conversation with OFRANEH members about their work and the context they face in Honduras as Garifuna people fighting for their land and their livelihood. It was a powerful conversation during which the members did not mince words, describing the challenges they face as attempts at extermination, criminalization and extraction. The threats to their livelihoods are immediate and immense.
As part of transnational solidarity we constantly work to break down the ‘us and them’ mindset. While there are many borders that separate us from our compas in Honduras, there are also many shared experiences, and buying into an ‘us and them’ construct makes those invisible.
Monica Dennis, MEV Co-Director, made this apparent when she remarked as the OFRANEH compas joined us on zoom, “you look like home.” For one member of Cohort 5, Aneiry Zapata, these communities literally are home. Aneiry is Garifuna and from Honduras, and shared powerfully during this conversation about her experience as a trans woman and her struggle for acceptance in Honduras. “I can’t have a Honduran passport because they won’t recognize me as a woman. If I can’t go to Honduras and be Aneiry, that is criminalization by denying someone’s existence.” While trans people, especially Black trans women, still face significant barriers to acceptance in the U.S. and elsewhere, this context for what shapes people’s decisions to migrate is important.
Throughout the conversations that week, the threads of connection were woven. Other Movement Makers connected with our compas in Honduras through other shared identities or experiences, for example being from Central America or the Caribbean, or being part of the African diaspora or the LGBTQ community. Discussions of missing and murdered Indigenous women, the twenty years since 9-11 and the impact of the “war on terror” on South Asian and Muslim communities, the abuse of Haitian migrants at the U.S./Mexico border all reinforced the ways in which white supremacist and gender based violence impact all our communities.
Alongside these true connections and fluid relationships, it is also inevitable that the weight of the U.S. and the legacies of U.S. imperialism are always present. Each cycle there has been a furthering of our understanding of what it means to be in solidarity with activists in other countries, particularly as U.S. based people of color with ties across the globe. After the intercambio in Guatemala in 2019, program coordinator ramelcy uribe reflected on this dynamic:
“The work of solidarity is a body of work that is vulnerable. It reteaches us that for folks based in the United States, our learning does not merely come from wanting a relationship with leaders and organizers in other countries, but it comes in the undressing of ourselves of our internalized ways of Western exceptionalism and isolation. It is an act of vulnerability to admit that the U.S. may not always feel like home or ‘ours,’ but is indeed part of our responsibility because of its power and tragic influence in the global landscape.”
ramelcy offered questions for reflection in their post, and as we continue the work and prepare for a deeper exchange over the next six months, here are a few more for you and/or your organization to reflect on:
In what ways are you/your organization building movement across all types of borders?
How do you/your organization decenter the U.S. experience when doing transnational work?
How can you challenge the ‘us and them’ mindset in your/your organization’s work?