Last Friday, Yale students, staff and faculty held their first weekly workshop on organized opposition to President Donald Trump’s administration.
These Fired Up Fridays sessions provide opportunities for Yale community members to learn how to be effective activists. Organized by participants of the post-election Law School gathering in November, these sessions are part of a continued effort to organize and act in response to the political situation brought about by Trump’s presidency.
The series of workshops, the first of which was held in the Dwight Hall common room, will bring together people at Yale with long-standing experience in community organizing with students who are just getting involved now, said Gregg Gonsalves ’11 GRD ’16, co-director of the Law School and Yale School of Public Health’s joint Global Health Justice Partnership.
“The overarching goal of this is to get people to be better citizens and better advocates for themselves over the next three to four years or however long this administration is in power, because, as we can see from the executive order on immigration and refugees, our community is in peril,” he said.
About 100 attendees from the Yale community filled the Dwight Hall common room during the first session, during which human rights and labor activist J.J. Rosenbaum showed people how to power-map — a method to analyze problems and identify pressure points within the political structure.
Attendees and organizers interviewed were enthusiastic about the workshop.
“It was just really exciting to see so many people in the room, all people who wanted to spend their Friday afternoon learning about how to organize,” said Caroline Kanner ’18.
Catherine Liu ’18 said the session was a testament to the solidarity within the community and demonstrated how it could be used toward positive action in the world. She added that Fired Up Fridays provided an important venue in which students could develop a tool kit of advocacy skills and resources much needed for the years ahead.
Maria Melchor ’18, president of the Yale Refugee Project, said “the workshop shifted our strategy from writing op-eds and letters to government officials to researching about immigration politics, calling government officials and entreating people who may be more influential than us among certain populations to publicly support refugees.”
Since the workshop, the YRP has started long-term phone banking, letter writing and other outreach projects directed at government officials and civil society leadership.
Organizer Hope Metcalf ’96 told the News after the event that she had received positive feedback from attendees, as the power-mapping framework enabled many to take account of their strengths and assets and develop a strategy to tackle their issues.
“I think it’s a powerful tool, and it’s exactly what we want. This is meant to support in an organic way what’s already happening on campus. It’s not about setting priorities for people. It’s just trying to help put oil in the engine so that people can do their work,” she said.
For Kaveh Khoshnood SPH ’89 GRD ’95, facilitator of the refugee working group, events like Fired Up Fridays played an important role to play in adjusting an academic institution like Yale to the new administration.
He referred to the fact that institutions like Yale traditionally interacted with the public sphere mainly via research and publication and relied upon politicians and civil servants to take the knowledge generated by the institution into account when making policy.
“I think those days are gone,” he said. “I think when you see that entire reports on climate change are being removed from the White House website, it’s a wake-up call for us in academia that business as usual may not be effective if you care about not just doing the research but seeing an impact on policy and people’s lives.”
Khoshnood stressed the importance of venues such as Fired Up Fridays in which conversations about how to move forward as a community and an institution can occur.
Metcalf echoed such sentiments, emphasizing the need for more collaboration among groups within the Yale community.
“My personal hope is to defeat cynicism and fear on campus,” she said. “The best way I can think of to do that is to bring people together to develop a sense of energy, purpose and solidarity.”
The next Fired Up Friday, again at Dwight Hall, will be a political organizing fair. Student organizers will run phone banking, emailing and letter writing booths for various issues.