On this episode, Roqayah and Kumars interview Lara Kiswani, a community organizer in the San Francisco Bay Area and Executive Director of the nonprofit Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC). As a leader at AROC and in the Bay Area activist community, Lara has contributed to numerous high-profile wins for social justice, including preventing Israel’s largest shipping company from docking in Oakland following the 2014 Israeli bombardment of Gaza (#BlockTheBoat), kicking the Urban Shield convention out of Oakland, and securing Arabic and Vietnamese language instruction in San Francisco schools, among other victories.
Roqayah and Kumars discuss these high-profile wins, as well as street-tested strategies for cross-movement coalition-building, including how AROC was able to help build the 70-member-organization Block The Boat Coalition. Lara discusses the necessity of having coalitions broad enough to be large, powerful, and inclusive, as well as the dangers of watering down your message and betraying your principles when engaging in broad-based coalition work. As someone who organizes, quite successfully, through the lens of her identity as a Palestinian American, we also discuss with Lara the strengths and limitations of identity politics as an organizing framework. Lara discusses several concrete strategies for mitigating the inevitable pitfalls of both coalition-building and identity politics, while also explaining the importance that experience plays in shaping our actions and views.
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