Together With Joanna Love

An interview with Joanna Love by Benji Ramirez Gomez

BRG: What can you tell me about the current uprising?

JL: It’s happening. We’re making changes already here in our city. It’s so obvious, we have so many cities all over the country on fire for this because it’s not okay, because we’re tired of giving up to the injustice that we continue to go through. Things continue to happen. Ice continues to violate human rights, parental rights, children rights, women rights. ICE continues to attack our communities, all over the state and country as we speak. The police continue to murder black people, the police continue to get away with shit. 

These are things that have solutions, these are problems that are man made that can be man un-made. We’re only here for solutions to make this world a better place for everyone especially those most vulnerable right now those who have been more affected for longer. Communities are screaming right now we need to make sure we come together and support each other so we can create a solution together.

BRG: What is your role in the revolution?

JL: I am an activist who’s going hard in every space that I can, everywhere I am. If I can do something from wherever I am, I’ll get it done because I know it’s important.

There’s a lot of organizing that I personally get into. A lot of things at the local level especially.  It’s something that I’m really invested in, moving local ordinance. Push or encourage officials to pass or advocate against other ordinances because it benefits our communities. Things like that are really important because there’s decisions that they’re making all the time. They don’t want us to know that it’s happening, because they don’t want us to have a voice in those decisions and we should have a voice. We need to raise our voice up, and make sure that they know how we agree or not about certain things.

I am a manager at a restaurant. Myself and a group of other people started the Restaurant Worker Coalition, right when the pandemic started because we realized that we have to come together and get ready. We didn’t know what we were really heading into. We just wanted to make sure we kept restaurant workers connected and supported with resources and everything that we need to get some basic workers’ rights in our jobs. It was really important to make sure to have that out there for workers to stay safe. This is the group of people that are here with you and we will make it through this together.

I’m also on the board of directors of Our Wisconsin Revolution. That’s only been since this summer. It has been great. I personally like OWR a lot, but now I feel like the Board is actually pushing to do bigger things that are happening right now. To support things that are happening in this moment like much of the racial injustice going on and everything with COVID and basic human rights, like healthcare for instance and housing. I can go on and on.

The board is made [up} of straight-up activists. They are inspiring. Most of these people came together late last year when we started creating the Wisconsin For Bernie coalition. That was really exciting. I had never really met people who were so invested in their community and making this world a better place for everyone, fighting for all of this stuff that technically was there in the Bernie Sanders platform. So a lot of these people came together from all over Wisconsin, activists and people who were encouraged by each other to run for something. Let’s get it done. At the very end of the day, like Bernie Sanders says it’s not him, it’s us.

BRG: How did you feel about Sanders’ run?

JL: When Bernie Sanders dropped [out], it was really depressing. It’d be nice to have a leader as president, that says these things are wrong and provides basic human rights to people. That doesn’t mean these older politicians will do it. It’s us who have to make change. We understood that we have to continue to work together and do something wherever we are, even with the pandemic. A lot of people ran for office, a lot of us took over boards of organizations and used that capacity that they have – the public, the members, the supporters – all these organizations, we have to hold them accountable as well.

I am so ready to start moving things at the legislature, as soon as they come to work in January and February of 2021, because there is a pack of legislation that was written over the summer after the BLM protests started, and they technically criminalize protesters. There were about nine bills that were written in June and July, and we need to start advocating against those, and [advocating] for laws in our state that will actually protect our communities and hold accountable people who brutalize our communities, like the police. 

We need to make sure there are act like the Hands Up Act, Breonna Taylor’s law, all of this legislation that we can start moving when the state House is ready to start working for us. We need to make sure we’re there everyday to give them the struggle that they give us. We need to make sure that they don’t get no peace just like we don’t, until we get justice that we deserve. That’s coming together, doing it together. We’re doing it.

There are so many things that we have to push for, that we have to stay informed for. Especially right now with elections, see who are our representatives, who will be speaking in Congress for us? Even if it’s a person we don’t like, we have to make sure we come to an agreement, we have to make sure they are working for us. Because even if we didn’t vote for that person we have to make sure that they are being held accountable for not doing their job, for not working for the people. When a person gets elected they should work for everyone. [So if] that’s not how we’re moving forward, we need to make sure we’re working with these politicians, that we’re calling them out, we run against them, we build a coalition to hold them accountable if we have to and to make sure that they do their job.

BRG: It sounds like you’ve found some community among OWR and other grassroot orgs. What does community mean to you?

JL: There are so many organizations out here that are actually doing the work, providing that support for whoever in whatever situation might need. There are so many situations. If you’re going through anything. If you’re going through domestic abuse, there’s an organization that’s willing to support you. If you’re not getting enough food at your house there’s an organization that can do something to support you. To me that’s community coming together like that. Providing these resources, not turning our backs to the people we say we serve and are here for. We are supporting each other. That’s how you become stronger, whatever you’re going through, you instantly get some faith in humanity that things will be okay, and I am so grateful for that. 

Ever since I was really young and dealing with the ICE situation in my family, with my dad, remembering how my community and other communities came together to say, “This shit is wrong.” Just to continue to fight and be a voice for other people who don’t feel brave enough for their fair reasons. It’s so much just to survive. It’s painful to go through stuff, seeing other people going through stuff, seeing how we get treated, and seeing that, for instance, in this pandemic a lot of us have been neglected by people who think they’re better than other humans. What I call the rich and the privileged, all of those people that can stay home during the pandemic, while we’re essential workers, and we have to survive all the struggles that are happening. That really gets to me. Especially being a mom, I think of everyone as someone’s child and someone would like for everyone to be looked out for, we all deserve not to struggle.

We need to fight for each other, even if it’s not the same struggle, it’s a struggle. “Tu lucha es mi lucha.” Your struggle is my struggle, and we need to fight together. That’s what community really is; not only helping each other survive, but fighting and coming together with a plan to fight this government and the laws that already exist or the ones that they are trying to pass and will only affect us even more than they already are. It’s coming from the same place, from the same group of people, the same officials making these decisions for us.

We can only win together, we can only move forward together, we can only get it done if we really wanna get it done. We need to come together and for that, once we do, which is happening, which is why this is a revolution because it’s happening because more people are listening more people are willing to understand the pain that you are going through. I see that everyday in my personal life, and it feels great it feels like I am the voice, but maybe I am just amplifying more voices. To me, that’s the revolution right there, having more voices and having more ears out there to speak for you and to listen to you, to me that’s what democracy building is like right now. 

BRG: Speaking of democracy, how do you feel about the election so far?

JL: I’m glad you’re asking me that today. Apparently we’re a blue state now, not by a lot. By just a little bit. We barely made it. What that meant was that the biggest percentage of us say we are not okay with racism in this state, and we’re willing to fight it. To me that tells me we need to find all of those people because even though we have gotten so many people out here since George Floyd’s murder and the protests started, I don’t think its the amount of people who went out to vote. Even with the people doing stuff from home and out in the street, I don’t think we’ve seen that capacity, we need to find those people, we need to make that our job, and we need to make sure that they are also advocating. For those other people to come to this agreement with us that we do need to fight together for justice.

What that told me yesterday, when Wisconsin became blue is that we’re heading in the right direction. Now there’s a lot of people. A lot of people were probably racist in silence and now they’re like, “Well maybe I should think about this, it’s kinda wrong.” To me it’s about making racism wrong again, cause everybody says, “Yeah racism is wrong, but it’s always been a thing,” but it’s never been so bad. It’s never been as bad as Trump. 

If all of these people who have been silently racist can start thinking about how they can be a better person, all of those people need to come to this agreement where we can be this community where we don’t have to like each other, but we support each and make sure everyone has basic human rights without bothering each other. We don’t have to go out of their way, we just have to come together and make sure that everyone has the same privilege and not just white people. White people need to use their voice more than ever. It’s okay to do it, it’s okay to stand up for other people.

BRG: How can everyone get involved?

JL: People can do things out here, obviously there’s protests, marches, rallies that are going on almost every week. There’s groups out here that have not stopped, because it’s not worth it to stop, because they need to continue to hear us.

If you can come out here in person, do it, get out here. Always stop by the Capitol, check it out to see what’s going on out here.

Follow groups that are out organizing. There are so many organizations, follow all of them: Follow Freedom Inc., Black Umbrella, Madison for Black Lives, the list goes on and on and on. At this point they’re all coming together. It’s a coalition of groups and organizations just willing to support each other and come out on the streets even if it’s a small group of ten, twenty people. Let them know that we still out here, we’re still in pain, we still screaming.

You can do things from home like writing emails, making phone calls, sending letters. I’ve heard handwritten letters are even more appreciated.

Be present at meetings that will be happening, these meetings are happening through video calls, over zoom. You can do it from home. I always say, “Start from whatever is easier, whatever is near to you.” The people that you know, the things you have access to. There is something you can do everywhere you are. If you’re at work, literally during your break you can use five minutes, three minutes of your break to write a short email, two or three sentences, “I don’t agree with this, this hurts my community.” Send it to your mayor, send it to your common council, stuff like that, encouraging people to do more.

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