I love my mom and am grateful for her. She had her own ways of fighting patriarchy and nepotism, but my parents were far from being – or identifying as – activists or community organizers.
I am only 26 years old, but in my few brief years as an organizer and nonviolence trainer I have met many people whose parents raised them while doing the kind of work to which I have committed myself. I envy their privilege sometimes, and for good reason. They do what they do with extreme tact and passion.
Jesus had a mother who, although she would not have used the terminology of “activist,” sought to be the change she wanted to see in the world. She moved whatever inch she could to do what needed to be done. She offered herself – her very womb – to the liberation of her people.
Organizing is an inherently humbling experience. It reveals the extent of our finitude and shatters our egos. The lesson of being human is that without others, you simply aren’t. Everyone is born into this world through a mother. This is the ultimate metaphor for interdependency.
I work a lot with young males – training them, planning actions, helping them strategize. They may have a lot of tenacity, but they often make a fatal error: assuming they are the best at what they do. To prove this, they engage in competition rather than collaboration. They give themselves hierarchical and militant titles like “commander” or “officer in charge.” I believe strategic nonviolence often has a militant male youth wing, but if it neglects interdependency and the acknowledgment that its mothers are far more powerful than the males they have produced, it is rendered useless at best. Their internal struggles for power and prestige will just benefit the opponents they are claiming to resist.
Mothers do things together. In areas where I have done community organizing, I have often seen how females take some time to work through their hesitations and fears, but once they decide to take action, they do it together – cooperatively and not competitively. They are not concerned with attrition, but have that natural affection for their kin and for one another.
Women demonstrate a natural solidarity with one another, especially in the global south. Even pregnancy and birth is done together, often intergenerationally with the elderly women guiding the new mothers.
This is the story of Luke 1:39-45. Mary had heard of the miraculous impregnation of Elizabeth, who was in her old age. She journeyed to see Elizabeth, who then encouraged her. Such journeys and exchanges related to childbearing are common the world over. Female solidarity is often centered around wishing and working for the best for familial wellbeing.
Often activists are isolating individuals. They are stereotyped – sometimes rightly so – as reckless, angry, self-focused, and fiercely independent. Without doing life together and speaking good into the realities of one another, the joys of the human experience are lost. We end up reaffirming the stereotypes and elevating society’s distaste for our movements. We must have the ability to dream and believe in the liberation we want to achieve that can only be born out of solidarity and community. Jesus himself was a product of this.