Kristerfer Burnett is a City Councilman in Baltimore and an alum of our Progressive Governance Academy.
What does power look like to you?
Power is when organized people mobilize around a shared collective vision to bring about change to their communities, institutions, and our democracy.
If you could scream something from the rooftops that you want people to know about organizing, what would it be?
Effective community organizing must be rooted in truly authentic relationship building, deep listening and understanding, and 1-1s are the “bread in butter” of effective organizing work – and it takes time! Don’t rush it.
What’s the best piece of advice you carry with you in your organizing work?
Being an organizer and being an activist are very different roles in movement building. We as organizers have to ensure that the identification of problems in a community, and the development of solutions to those problems are theirs alone – leave your own biases and solutions at the door! People may not always come to the same desired outcome that you’d like to see, but it’s their lived experience that needs to be honored.
What do you wish you knew or what do you wish someone would have told you when you were first getting started in organizing?
The importance of self-care! As an organizer, so much of your time in the work is spent meeting people where they are, literally and figuratively, and that can take a toll on you in many ways. But you are only helpful to our communities if you are able to bring your full self into the work – so develop a wellness plan to ensure you can do that.
What are some of the biggest organizing lessons you took away from 2020?
This past year, and the three that proceeded it, were particularly difficult to organize in because there were so many problematic issues all occurring at the same time and all seemingly as important as the next. So the biggest lesson for me was to prioritize issues that arose from community and not to lose focus on elevating those to the forefront of the work.