Freedom Road at 25: Notes from a Newer Comrade

As I think about the personal significance of our organization celebrating its 25th anniversary, the first thing that comes to mind is thank you.  Thank you to the founding members for having the vision of a Freedom Road – an organization that would bring together comrades from different traditions and sectors of the movement to develop a holistic analysis and strategy to fight back at the multifaceted beast that is global capitalism.  And thank you for having the strength to invest in that vision despite the material conditions of the 1980’s – rightwing rollbacks, Reaganomics, fractured left, so on and so on.

Thank you to all of the members who have joined Freedom Road, both those who have stayed and those comrades who’ve moved on, whether it was in the organizations 1st year or its 25th.  It is as a result of your willingness to struggle and lovingly challenge that this organization has developed into one that can legitimately hold revolutionaries committed to all forms of liberation – national, gender, sexual, and economic.  And most of all, thank all of you for just generally being cool people.  This latter point should not be overlooked considering the overabundance of strung out and off-putting socialists in this country.

Before I go any further, I think it appropriate to share why I feel the need to express so much gratitude.  Let me begin by saying that since I was a senior in High School, I believed that nothing short of complete societal transformation could resolve the glaring contradictions of the modern world.  I began identifying with a left politic and it wasn’t long before I started identifying as a revolutionary.  The only problem was that I didn’t really know what being a revolutionary meant nor did I know how to make use of my passion for social change.  So I made a plan to go off to college and try to figure it out, both through my studies and through experimentation with activism.

By the time I graduated college four and half years later, my analysis had deepened and I had begun accumulating the theoretical tools needed to articulate a personal set of politics that stemmed from a world view that, since I was a child, had been rooted in my intuitive sense of right and wrong.  At the center of these politics was a commitment to feminism, anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, and ecological justice.  A year of organizing in a radical left mass organization gave me the opportunity to apply those politics in the street and ground theory to reality.  But something was still missing – I still didn’t feel like I had figured out what it meant to be a revolutionary.

Then a very insightful group conversation led by one of our leading comrades provided much needed clarity.  Basically, it really boils down to practice.  I had been considering myself a revolutionary for nearly six years, but it didn’t really matter because the only thing that was revolutionary was my line of thinking.  And as powerful as thoughts are, they fall short of changing the world unless they are manifested into action.  So if I wanted to be a revolutionary, I needed to begin engaging in revolutionary practice.

This brings me back to my opening list of thank yous.  Since early adolescence I’ve been searching for my own political identity.  And while I don’t expect, nor do I want, Freedom Road to give that identity to me, I do believe this is the organization and you are the people that will provide me with the space, direction, and insight I need to construct it for myself.  And for that I am humbled and extremely grateful.

Malcolm Douglas has been a member of the Road since April 2009.  He currently lives in the South with his wife and works with a community based workers’ organization to build power in communities of color.
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