We’re excited to welcome Minsu Longiaru (Senior Staff Attorney for Worker Power), Sawsan Abdurrahman (Events & Operations Coordinator), and Lisa Lei (Lead Online to Offline Organizer). Get to know them below!
We're building people power across the country so that we can transform our communities, our economy, and our democracy. What excites you about being a part of achieving this vision?
Minsu: What is there not to be excited about? I love the chance to imagine, co-create, and build towards our shared visions of justice with so many different people from around the country. In her book Viral Justice, Ruha Benjamin says “all the great transformations that societies undergo rely on the low-key scheming of everyday people.” That’s what we get to do with our affiliates and allies day in and day out. It’s such a joy and it’s deeply meaningful to me.
Sawsan: I’m most excited about supporting work at the intersection of climate justice, housing, and labor organizing. Throughout my years of community organizing, these are the issues that have been most important to me and that intersect all too often to view them independently of each other, particularly when thinking about how to build community power and uniting people around transformative change. I think this intersectional approach to organizing has created a network of remarkable people and leaders that I’m excited to work with and learn from.
Lisa: I love seeing the power of organizing and how people and communities can overcome the toughest of situations. I remember one of my first experiences winning a worker contract, how it took 4 years of organizing and strategizing to get done. Victories like that remind me that worker power can win even against powerful multi-billion dollar corporations. I love how people come together and build a plan that wins for the betterment of everyone. That is what excites me about our vision at PowerSwitch Action.
Where are you from (whatever that means to you) and what is something about that place/space/community that you’re really proud of?
Lisa: I grew up in San Diego, CA and was raised by my grandmother and mother. San Diego holds a special place in my heart because it is where I learned about love, family, and what life is for Chinese immigrants. What I learned in my hometown, I brought with me to Orange County where I got my first taste of organizing as a student and then in labor. I dedicate my work in the labor movement and community to my family because I want to be part of building a better future for all of us.
Minsu: Whether by accident or by nature, I am a bit of a wanderer. I was born in New York by way of Ohio and South Korea, and have lived in New York, Massachusetts, Mexico, Michigan, and now, California. Each of these places has its own specific history. In all of them I have witnessed and been deeply moved by the different ways people, through acts large and small, care for and build community and strength with one another even in the face of great pressure not to do so.
Sawsan: Both my family and my people are very nomadic, so I call many places home. My family is Amazigh, an indigenous group from North Africa that translates to “free people.” My people existed without borders for thousands of years and I like to think my family’s nomadic tendencies are a continuation of that culture. We have called Texas, Washington DC, NYC, and Libya home. I currently reside in the Sonoran Desert within the homeland of the O'Odham and Piipaash peoples.
What is something that you’ve read, watched, or listened to that constantly inspires or grounds you?
Sawsan: Music is what grounds me and has a huge impact on my mood. If I’m ever feeling overwhelmed or stressed, putting on some music and moving my body always helps me feel grounded. Music also grounds me in times of celebration and creativity because it helps me get out of my head and reconnect to my body and community.
Minsu: I came across some words by Carrie Mae Weems many years ago that have always stuck with me: “I knew, not from memory, but from hope, that there were other models by which to live.” To me, these words are almost like the sky. Each day they take on a different cast. I think something about them expresses that edge between lightness and darkness, the past and future, and how it is that something new and vital can emerge from the injustice and exhaustion of everything that has come before. In a world without silver bullets, they feel like a question I want to hold on to.
Lisa: One of my favorite books is No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh because it teaches us to be kind to our mind, body and spirit. Especially in our line of work, this book grounds me to stay rooted and move mindfully when things seem to be all over the place.