Recentering Multilingual Organizing at Wayside

Posted by on Mar 20, 2014 in Blog, Featured | Comments Off on Recentering Multilingual Organizing at Wayside

We had $2 radio sets and a broadcaster in a box. Before Wayside, many of us were driving around the state and fighting against hate legislation, raids, and detention centers. We didn?t have a home base, but we met in libraries, churches and homes, and we interpreted all of our gatherings into Spanish and English.?Some of us had gone to the the?Highlander Center?and learned how to interpret, and how to build our own radio interpreting sets.

The idea to start Wayside came from many years of organizing like this in Virginia. In the midst of all the hectic campaigns, we realized that we needed a space to reflect on our struggle.

We had all of our reflections and conversations in several languages.? We never could have accomplished what we have and dreamed what we did if we hadn’t been able to do it in Spanish and English interpreted simultaneously. The little radio sets took us, with some static, through difficult and inspiring times.

And now the voice of the South is in many languages, and it is changing. Among the non-English speaking communities currently living in the Southeast and Appalachia are people who speak primarily Spanish, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Mien, Khmer, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Sudanese, and Croatian. In this multilingual and ?cultural environment communication between diverse communities is crucial for successful movement building.

We ask, what impact would it have to bring these voices into the struggles for economic, racial, environmental, and gender justice, which oftentimes are predominantly white and English speaking? How powerful can that struggle be? ?Without dismantling language barriers, the likelihood of these possibilities is nil.

This year we are about to celebrate five years of Wayside, and we have made a new commitment to language justice. ?Since the spring of 2011 Wayside has trained over eighty-five interpreters capable of integrating language justice and interpreting into the organizing work of their community or organization. We build a cadre of skilled movement interpreters able to respond to movement needs in the region. We train community-based interpreters in simultaneous interpretation, ethics, and setting up multi-lingual spaces. More than this, we educate about the politics of language and the power of voice.

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We?ve reflected on our long term goals and strategy in the movement, and we have committed to centering and expanding language justice in all of our work. What does this broader commitment mean?

  • Wayside will offer Spring and Fall ?Interpreting for Social Justice Workshops? every year, no matter how many people register or whether we break even on registration costs.
  • We will expand our outreach beyond our immediate region to the broader South and the rest of the U.S.
  • We will look to grow beyond Spanish/English interpretation and find, over time, how we can grow into supporting more languages that are represented in the South
  • We will look in the future to support the development of further curriculum beyond what we already offer
  • We will incorporate multilingual work into all of our workshops
  • We will continue to purchase new, high end, digital receivers, expanding our simultaneous interpretation equipment, increasing capacity to provide interpretation for larger groups.

With so much work ahead of us, we look forward to building with you, in whatever language you call home.