I’ve been humbled and inspired by so many (in-person) conversations the last month or so. From conversations with movement leaders to the intergenerational dialogue during Chinese Progressive Association’s 50th Anniversary, one thing continues to ground me in this moment – “Generations hold the long arc and generations hold each other.”

Image of CPA's 50th Anniversary's Silent Film. Click here to watch.
Image of CPA’s 50th Anniversary’s Silent Film. Click to watch!

Generations Hold the Long Arc, Generations Hold Each Other

Norma Wong, a Chinese and Native Hawaiian movement elder, often reminds us that “generations hold the long arc.” We are part of a long arc of hundreds and thousands of years, a legacy of freedom fighters and justice warriors (seen and unseen). We are not alone in this journey and must always remember that.

Generations also hold each other. I invited an OG (movement elder) to the CPA 50th anniversary to draw on his inspiration and wisdom. He is a co-founder of CPA who is now on the east coast. When he arrived, we had a meal before the event and talked. He said something that really got me deep into my feels. 

He talked about how hard the last few years have been mentally and emotionally. Then he said, “Honestly, I don’t feel like I did shit in my life.” We talked about how the state of the county, world and planet. I got emotional and broke down crying.. For him to be so honest and vulnerable made me realize how alienated and isolated we have all felt. It is so important it is for us to hold each other in this long arc. 

The day after our 50th Anniversary celebration, we had an intergenerational dialogue where we all shared our reflections on the current moment, challenges and what we were hopeful for. It was inspiring to hear from youth, adults and the OGs and how each generation was so drawn and connected to each other’s stories. From youth questioning their role in the movement to yelders and OGs responding that they too have not figure it out was affirming and powerful to bear witness too. 

After the event, the OG shared with me that he was glad I invited him. He said he felt validated and seen. He chuckled and said, “I guess we all need it once and awhile.”

We do. And that is the key organizing lesson here for me. 

I also thanked an OG for reading my blog and being open about their mental health needs. She was surprised and grateful I said something. She also said that we need to learn how to take breaks and HAVE FUN while we are on this long arc.

This was not surprising but I felt seen and affirmed. 

We often run from campaign to campaign (or zoom meetings to zoom meetings). We need to remember that to reach our north star, we must collectively hold the long arc and we hold each other. I share this to remind us that you are not alone, we are not alone.

There Are No Guarantees, Take Nothing For Granted

I’ve written about this before but it is always worth repeating. In the face of a growing authoritarian and fascism locally and globally, there are NO guarantees and we shouldn’t take anything for granted. Holding the long arc and each other takes intention and strategy. 

It requires a crew, a SQUAD (not everyone!) that has a shared STRATEGY towards a long term VISION. A squad where there is a baseline of TRUST to make assessments, take risks and manage conflicts and tensions. We need an ecosystem of people to harnesses WISDOM across all generations to learn and grow from each other. And, most importantly, we need PRAXIS where there is space to practice ideas, improve individually and collectively, build power and WIN material changes in everyday people’s lives. 

To be clear, we don’t all need to be in the same squad but we are on the same path. “One struggle, many fronts,” as the saying goes.

What Eva Taught Me

During event, I shared how I met and built a relationship with Eva Lowe, who formed our predecessor organization, the Chinese Worker Mutual Aid Association in 1937. Years before, they organized unemployed councils, hunger march, hundreds joined, formed the Chinese Worker Center, which was taken down by police in 1934 because of the general strike in San Francisco. They grew to 400-500 members and organized thousands of workers in Chinatown. It was humbling to know that there were only 8 core leaders.

Again, I don’t think I was surprised. I felt seen and affirmed. 

Not everyone is going to be in it for the long haul but there are some people who need to be there to keep holding the long arc and each other, some to keep the door open for others to join and come back in the movement.

Not everyone is going to be in it for the long haul but there are some people who need to be there to keep holding the long arc and each other, some to keep the door open for others to join and come back in the movement.

Don’t get me wrong there is a lot of pain and heartbreak all throughout the movement that drive many to burnout and leave the movement. Being part of a long arc and hearing the lessons of multiple generations, humbles us and evolves our practice over time. It takes deep LOVE and RIGOR for generations to hold the long arc and to hold each other – we cannot take any of this for granted.