By Geovanni Gomez

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Aurora, Harold, Grace, Monica, Sharon, Roger, Claudia, Geo, Kyle. We’re the TOLA fellows.

We remind each other every day why we do the work we do.

The campaign: pushing through a soda tax in 2 different cities. The work: on the ground conversations. Human interactions to convey the importance of the campaign, everything we have to gain.

When we go into the field, we are prepared. We speak with strangers on the street and knock on doors to speak with voters. We know the campaign inside and out. We want others to know what is at stake and how they can make a difference.

We engage communities on their terms. Why should they listen to us? We care for them. We listen, we learn, we inform.

An organizer sees something in the community that needs to change, and goes about the work to change it. We tackle the work head on. We develop a network within the community.

There are good conversations. People, some who are complete strangers, want to know more and enjoy our engagement. Our intellects are pushed as people ask questions and challenge assumptions, asserting their commitment.

There’s laughter. There’s focus. On the really good days, people thank us for the work we are doing.

There are difficult conversations. We have been cussed at, told we don’t know what the hell we’re doing, and that we should be ashamed of ourselves. That hasn’t stopped us. TOLA fellows are fearless in our pursuit. Fearless.
An organizer does not stop when faced with opposition. An organizer sees conflict, works to understand it, and then acts accordingly. We act.

Every day we analyze what went wrong and what went right. Every day we challenge our strategy and reaffirm the principles we’re dedicated to. Truth, community, health, democracy. And always, we have the dedication to do better.

Organizing is work that aims to make our communities a better place. Organizing is a joy. It’s the best thing I’ve done in my young adult life. And it will stay with me forever.

Aurora, Harold, Grace, Monica, Sharon, Roger, Claudia, Geo, Kyle. We’re the TOLA fellows. We organize.