In this episode, the second of our three-part series on organizing, we talk about intergenerational organizing with Adah Crandall, a sixteen-year-old organizer focused on transportation and climate justice; Danny Cage, a youth organizer advocating for racial justice, education reform, and LGBTQ+ rights; and Suzanna Kassouf, a teacher at Grant High School and a cofounder of Sunrise Movement PDX. This conversation explores questions about power, change, and anger—and reminds us that while anger is a powerful force for change, love is stronger.
About Our Guests
Adah Crandall is a sixteen-year-old organizer with Sunrise PDX's Youth vs ODOT campaign and the co-lead of Portland Youth Climate Strike. Her advocacy focuses on the intersection of transportation and climate justice, specifically working to oppose several freeway expansions across the region.
Danny Cage is a speaker and youth organizer advocating for racial justice, education reform, and LGBTQ+ rights. Danny serves on the PPS facilities and operations committee and in 2022 was appointed by Governor Kate Brown to serve on Oregon’s Environmental Justice Council as a youth representative.
Suzanna Kassouf is a social studies teacher at Grant High School in Portland Oregon, and a co-founder of Sunrise Movement PDX. She is a contributor to Rethinking Schools and the Zinn Education Project and believes that education can be the foundation for a just and caring world.
- "Second Growth" by Lee van der Voo
- "We Are the Original Conservationists" by Jennifer Perrine
- "The Bottom of the Toolbox" by Alexis Schwartz
- "Burn Down Valley" by Theo Whitcomb
- "How to Build a Kite" by Daniela Naomi Molnar
Keiren Bond: Hi, and welcome to The Detour. I'm Keiren Bond, the show's producer, and I want to welcome you to the second episode in the mini-series on organizing.
When coming up with the themes for this mini-series, we were looking at the different dimensions of organizing and how people organize, which is what we covered in our last episode with Hahrie Han, Bruce Poinsette, Joy Alise Davis, Keith Jenkins, and Marcus LeGrand.
If you haven't already, do check it out. It's a great conversation. In this episode, we wanted to think about who organizes, and I was reminded of the stories I've heard about the powerful young organizers making waves across the state from Portland to La Grande, Rogue Valley and beyond. When I brought this idea to my colleague, Rozzell Medina, who thinks a lot about organizing and advocacy work, he said, “Sure, youth organizing is interesting, but intergenerational organizing is more interesting.”
And that got me thinking about the ways that Oregon Humanities seeks to work with people across identities, geographies, and values and how most of the issues we see youth working on, especially climate justice, are those that impact all of us, no matter who we are, where we live, what we believe in, or even how many years we've been alive.
So I took Rozzell up on his offer to organize a panel discussion with two youth organizers and one not-youth organizer on intergenerational organizing and why we need everyone, not just inspiring young people, to fight the good fight. This conversation dives into those ideas as well as thoughts about power, change and anger, but reminds us that while anger is a powerful force for change, love is stronger.
Adah Crandall is a 16-year-old organizer with Sunrise PDX, a Youth vs. ODOT campaign, and the co-lead of the Portland Youth Climate strike. Her advocacy focuses on the intersection of transportation and climate justice, specifically working to oppose several freeway expansions across the region.
Danny Cage is a speaker and youth organizer advocating for racial justice, education reform and LGBTQ+ rights. Danny serves on the PPS Facilities and Operations Committee, and in 2022 was appointed by Governor Kate Brown to serve on the Oregon Environmental Justice Council as a youth representative.
And finally, our nearly not-youth organizer, Suzanna Kassouf, is a social studies teacher at Grant High School in Portland, Oregon, and a cofounder of the Sunrise Movement PDX. She's a contributor to Rethinking Schools and the Zinn Education Project and believes that education can be the foundation for a just and caring world.
Adam Davis: Hey, welcome to The Detour. My name is Adam Davis, and as part of our early 2023 podcast and radio show, we're talking about organizing. And today we're going to be talking a little bit about intergenerational organizing. I'm happy to say I'm here at X-Ray studios with Adah Crandall, Danny Cage, and Suzanna Kassouf. Before we do anything else, can I just ask as a way of starting—and maybe Adah, you could start us—organizing, how did that show up for you as a thing in your life?
Adah Crandall: Yeah, I feel like I was organizing before I realized I was organizing because what I started with was building a movement with my peers to stop the expansion of a freeway into our middle school, Harriet Tubman. And so we were planning rallies, we were getting people to go show up and testify. We were doing all these things that I now recognize as organizing. But at the time, I didn't think of myself as an organizer. I thought of myself as a student who was doing the only thing that I could think to do when you're faced with that terrifying situation of: the climate crisis is happening, and the state is trying to expand car infrastructure. I realize now that what I was doing was pretty incredible at that young age. Being able to bring that group of people together and get them to realize our power.
Adam Davis: Even if you didn't have the name “organizing” for it, now you look back and you think that's what was going on. Well, there's lots in there already. We'll come back to you, but Suzanna, can you say a word about organizing?
Suzanna Kassouf: Yeah, so I guess it was in 2018, the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out with this report which was like, we have—what was it at the time? Like twelve years?—to cut our global emissions in half if we want to prevent runaway climate change and all these just really scary effects of it. And when that came out, I kind of just couldn't stop reading all these articles about it and picturing this really apocalyptic, scary future for myself and kind of seeing all my hopes and dreams feel like they were no longer accessible to me. I had so much fear, and I went through a really significant period of depression.
I read this book, Active Hope by Joanna Macy, and it really made me realize that the only way I was gonna get out of this place of despair was to do something about it. I had been like scrolling through social media one day, and I saw a post by the Sunrise Movement, which was this national movement of youth organizers fighting the climate crisis, and they didn't have a chapter in Portland yet. So I reached out to them and a bunch of us other kind-of-young people in Portland got together and launched the Portland chapter here. For a year of my life, 2019 mostly, it was just like every moment of my life was dedicated to that. And I was training to be a teacher at the time. I was 29 years old and I was still considered a youth organizer at the time. I feel like I'm on the cusp now. It was so empowering. I just felt like, wow, we really can make a difference, and we can support each other in no matter what it is. All my thoughts about organizing have really grown and changed since then, but that time will always be one of the most significant and important moments of my life.
Adam Davis: So I’m going to go from Suzanna to Danny. Organizing—where did that start showing up for you?
Danny Cage: For me, organizing started showing up a lot during the Black Lives Matter protests. Like what Adah said: no one knows they're an organizer. No one really sets out to be an activist. You don't just wake up, and you're like, oh, I'm gonna be an activist. Just during the Black Lives Matter protest, we had this big giant election going on with a person who had not been the best president to many people, at least half the country, and also this giant uprising of people and civil unrest.
I have the ability to organize young people to do election work. I have the ability to get people to register to vote who are 18, 19, 20. I have the ability to hold a sign and to get people to show up in spaces, and that's really where it started off for me. I was able to print paper and go around neighborhoods and pin information up, and I was able to get people slowly to join me for different events or different causes. And slowly, it's just started to turn into something that I was able to get first one person and then thirty people to get out the vote or get 200 people to show up to a space to hold a memorial for a Black person who had lost their life to this White supremacist system. That's kind of where it showed up for me. I was like oh, I have to do something.
Adam Davis: Which is interesting. So for all three of you, it sounds like there was a response to something in the world. And it was in, in that response that you started moving towards a thing which maybe you now see as organizing. Danny, you said a few times, you said, “I had the ability to…” and all those things were pretty approachable. I can print copies of something. I can get a few people to show up. Was that deliberate that you put it in those terms that you were talking about? Things that it seems like most people can do?
Danny Cage: Yeah. I think a lot of people have this idea that you have to be like, I don't know, magical or super strong. Before I started doing this work, I was actually super shy. A lot of people would be shocked now. I would be the type of child who hides behind their parent when someone else comes up and they're like, “What's your name?” And I'm like, “No…don't talk to me.”
But I was able to print out paper. In Multnomah County you just go to the library, and you print out paper. I went to the library and used the taxpayer dollars that are already in use right now and printed out library paper for posters. I was able to post on Instagram. Social media especially has been utilized really in the last two years of organizing as something that a lot of people who have access to social media can use for the greater good.
Adam Davis: Well, thank you. It actually made me think back, Adah, to what you were saying about when you were in middle school, in Harriet Tubman. Were you aware at the time that there was something almost precocious about that? That you were young to be doing this, or did it just seem like the thing to do?
Adah Crandall: I mean, it was definitely not how I imagined middle school would be for me. I was a kid, I was thinking about soccer practice and hanging out with my friends and getting my math homework in on time. And then suddenly it felt like my life sort of changed from that to like, “Oh my goodness, this freeway is gonna be expanded into our school.” And I'm terrified about my generation's future because we’re breathing in asthma-causing pollution every single day at recess. Like 40% of our state's emissions come from transportation, and we're still continuing to go deeper down that status quo.
And I think to what Danny said, it's fascinating how much voice people can realize that they have when they're forced to use that voice. Because I feel like I'm an organizer, not out of choice, but out of necessity. I'm an organizer because I didn't feel like I had an option. And I was shy too. A lot of people in my life were really shocked, like Danny said, when I got up in front of this Metro task force and started talking about how scared I was about the freeway. I think it's sort of like living in these two different worlds. Having to present yourself with this confidence and power in order to be taken seriously, but then on the inside realizing that I am a 16-year-old who's trying to live my life and figure out what it means to be a person in the world. It's an absurd amount of responsibility to be put on us.
Adam Davis: Lots there, including the word you finished up with, which was “responsibility”, and you said responsibility put on you. I saw you, Suzanna, nodding at a couple of key points, including when Adah said, “forced.” What were you nodding at? What are you thinking about around that?
Suzanna Kassouf: Yeah, well, I'm a high school teacher. I teach ninth grade so I think about this all the time because, on the one hand, I can't stand hearing people be like, “This generation is gonna save us.” Like it's their responsibility to save us when, like Adah said, they should be able to just be kids and hang out with their friends and go to soccer practice. It makes me want to cry almost, because it's just so unfair that we put this on these kids.
At the same time, I do think that your teenage years are years that align with activism quite well. Because in those years, you have more of a need than in any other point in your life to be social, and activism gives you that. You are more willing to take risks, and activism needs that. I wouldn't say you have more time because you do have a lot of responsibilities as a teen, especially like in a school like Grant, where there's all this academic pressure. But I think that it [activism] can be like a healthy avenue for a lot of things that you need to do as a teen, and so I think it can be really generative and wonderful, when it's not like the whole world is on your shoulders.
The thing I love about the Sunrise Movement is that it's really based around song. We would sing at every meeting. And one of my favorite songs is like, “Don't go putting the world on your shoulders.” And it says that a few times and it says,”You don't have to do this alone.” I think that when I started organizing, and I got really into climate organizing, my tagline was like, “We have twelve years, we have to do this in twelve years, or we will fail.” As I've gotten older, or I don't know if it’s being older or just having more experience with this, I'm not sure how useful that was because the movement is something that is like forever lasting, and we can't all be 100% on in the movement at all times.
There's this parable of the choir and how a choir can hold a note essentially forever because some people can drop out and breathe, and other people can hold it. So I think that when it comes to organizing, it can be really generative and amazing if we focus on it being generative and amazing. If we make sure that we're making time to care for each other and to party together and to take breaks and to rest and not putting all the pressure on us to save the world, especially on teens.
Adam Davis: Yeah. So I guess I want to ask both Adah and Danny: how has it felt to try to integrate or balance the movement work with soccer and school? And how do you decide what you're putting time into, Adah?
Adah Crandall: It's really hard, people will ask me, “What are your extracurriculars?” And it's like, “Oh, climate organizing.” I think a lot of adults don't realize that the young people who are really, really engaged in this fight, how much of our time and energy and capacity is being taken up with this. And so I try my best to sort of separate the two and let myself have that life outside of organizing but also when you care about something so much, that thing becomes your life. So then it gets to a point where it's so hard to separate your value as a person from the value of the work that you're doing. Dealing with that as a 16-year-old is ridiculous. I think there are just a lot of funny moments. Like my first date was canvassing for Tina Kotek. The contrast of it is just absurd; it feels dystopian.
I think a lot of adults in society perceive youth as being very naive. Like, “Oh, you don't know what you're talking about. You just don't understand. You think you're so powerful because you don't understand how these systems work.” I would argue that our “not understanding” how the systems work is what makes us powerful, because I think that because we are young, we can see the world with this sense of clarity that older people just don't have because they have been so worn down by this system that teaches us that we can't be powerful, that we can't step into our power.
So I think it's interesting, I sit in on a couple of these random, government advisory committees, and so it's odd to be the youth member who's like, “Hey, no. Why are we sitting in this space, arguing about which schools are going to get crosswalks with the funding, and why are we not demanding more money from the state when they're spending billions on freeway projects?” Having that sense of clarity and simplicity is really powerful.
Suzanna Kassouf: That's beautiful.
Adam Davis: And it sounds like an amazing first date. Danny, it sounds like you also have moved a little bit from the activist space into a kind of policy space. How did that happen, and what does that feel like to be moving from in the streets to in the room where people are sitting with microphones and buttons that they turn on and off?
Danny Cage: Yeah. I view this work as I have to be the activist in this room. I have to be able to be the person who asks the questions because a lot of the questions, if no one asks them, they aren't gonna get asked. People are going to fly right over them. And a lot of times I'm the person who asks the question where they're like, “Don't, say that!”
Adam Davis: I feel like you're talking a little bit about what Adah said about clarity. Can you think of a question you asked that you thought only you could ask?
Danny Cage: It was one time, they were talking about a sustainable freeway. And the thing about the term “sustainable freeway” is that it is itself an oxymoron, because a sustainable freeway doesn't exist. And then I was like, “Well, a sustainable freeway doesn't exist, so this is crap.” And then everyone just being shocked that I said that. It made the room quiet, and no one talked for like a whole minute. Just things like that. When you say the silent part out loud, a lot of people are surprised.
Adam Davis: And that sounds like actually even more than a question. That sounds like an evaluation.
Danny Cage: Yeah. Just calling it out for what it is.
Adam Davis: And it's interesting to think of the room going quiet. Which it sounds to me like it was a kind of shift in how the power in the room was moving. So, I kind of want to ask all three of you a little bit about your sense of power. What is the power of the organizing work you do? What gives it power?
Suzanna Kassouf: I could say the obvious answer, which is like the power is with the people. And it's hard to believe that some days because you're like, wow, it doesn't feel like it because there is all this bureaucracy, and there are all these entrenched systems where people have so much power over other people. And then, unfortunately, a lot of us don't have like very good training about how to resolve conflicts in generative ways and keep the community feeling strong because we're all operating under capitalism, and this type of capitalism where we're all just out for ourselves.
And so it can feel really demoralizing, but I have experienced, and so have Adah and Danny, that feeling of marching with 20,000 people, and like you feel like you can do anything, and every change throughout history that has benefited the people has always come from the grassroots. It's always come from people saying, “No, we're not gonna take this anymore. And actually, you can't make us. And when we stand together, you can't tell us what to do. We're gonna tell you what to do.”
But the only way we can really stand together and make a movement powerful, and maybe this is corny or whatever, but it's really through love, through genuine love. Being able to say, “Okay, I disagree with what you're doing right now, but I'm not gonna write you off because of it, and I'm gonna stick with you and work through it.” Because what we're working for is what's most important, right? [More important] than our egos or our dramas or anything like that.
Adam Davis: Adah, you moved up to the mic. What are you thinking?
Adah Crandall: I think a lot about power and what power is, and I think a lot of the time, power has this sort of negative connotation because we live in a world where power is so often used to cause harm. And there are so many things that we see in our political system of power hurting our communities. I think especially young women are socialized to have this fear of power and not to want to step into their power and to want to be quiet and complacent. I think a big part of what organizing has made me realize is that power is not a bad thing, because when power is held by the right people, when power is held collectively by communities, it has the ability to make such a positive impact on the world.
I'm also thinking back specifically to a conversation that I had over the summer. I was at a summer camp with a bunch of youth from the Sunrise Movement, and we were sitting around the campfire at night, and we were talking about power. We had just learned this module about power in a training during the day, and everyone just kept talking about it. [Talking] about this idea of: is power good? Is power bad? Is power neutral? Eventually, what we came to is: power is like potential in kinetic energy. There's power in all of us. There's power anywhere, like everywhere. An organizer's job is to activate that power and make people realize their power and make people realize their power together as communities. That is something that has very much guided my work.
Adam Davis: That’s nice. A really clear way to think about it. I wonder, Danny, can you think of an instance where you felt like: “I'm feeling powerful right now?”
Danny Cage: I would say a lot of the times that I felt “powerful” has been when I am with my community. Because community has the ability to change really anything. I think a lot about Youth vs. ODOT, and the way that within a year, the script, the culture, and the conversation about the freeway in the Portland Metropolitan Area changed drastically. I remember when we were talking about the freeway as just something that is just going to happen, and there wasn't really any conversation about it. And then we see all these youth rally and protest and bring in elected officials and bring in organizers. And now we open up the news, and we see one thing about the freeway probably every week. Like the Portland Trailblazers just came out against the freeway. That happened because of community power.
Suzanna Kassouf: Beautiful.
Adam Davis: It is beautiful. I think you were talking a little bit about impact. One way that you know your actions have power is you see the results. We said at the beginning that we were gonna talk about intergenerational organizing, And so I want to push back toward the intergenerational part a little bit. How much does it matter who's doing the organizing relative to whether it [organizing] is effective? How much do you want to pay attention to whether it's all youth or multiple generations, for example?
Adah Crandall: In my mind, the movement can't and won't be successful if we don't have the engagement of all generations because each generation has a specific strength that they bring to this. Even in Sunrise spaces, which are like kind of “young people,” there are even generations of people within that. And so sure, there's the high school students who are sort of just coming into this work, and then there are these adults who have been organizing longer, who can teach us and mentor us, and we can also teach them.
I think a big part of organizing is this understanding and this culture of: “We all have something to learn from one another.” Even someone who has never set foot in an organizing space, they have something to teach us. And so even with the intergenerational bit, even when we think about student organizing, it's difficult because people are in high school for four years, and then they sort of move on. So there's like generations of students within that, even if it’s not the full society or the Gen Z, and millennial generations, there's still this constant learning and passing down of knowledge. That works at a student school organizing level, but also at a movement-wide historical timeline level. We're constantly learning from movements of the past and organizers from the past.
Danny Cage: I think a lot about when people, especially older people, tell me: “Oh, you're so inspiring.” Or like, “I'm so inspired.” Or what you talked about, which was, “Young people are gonna save us.” I often tell people: “It's great that you find my work inspiring. I am inspired by that. But I think what would be more helpful and more inspiring to me would be if you were to join in my work.” Because I don't think it is enough to tell people that their work makes you feel good. Or that you can push the problem off to another generation, which I almost find abusive in some ways, if not neglectful. I really think about that a lot and try to urge people: don't tell me that my work inspires you. Join me. Let's figure out how to work together. Let's figure out how to organize together. But don't tell me that my work is inspiring. I think that we could all be inspired together, if we were to do something together.
Keiren Bond: You are listening to The Detour with Adah Crandall, Suzanna Kassouf, and Danny Cage.
Adam Davis: It's interesting because I think we've been—and when I say we, I mean mostly you—have been talking about a lot of the ways that organizing can go well. I want to take a minute and ask about the challenges, either moments that have felt tough, or parts of it that just feel like a huge obstacle.
Suzanna Kassouf: Well, I think the biggest challenge was Covid. Having to move so much organizing online. We had been talking about this a little bit before the break, but organizing on Zoom, it's just like everything that's hard about organizing and nothing that's fun about it.
I agree with what Danny was saying. I remember this time I was with my friends, and we were like, let's practice about how to say, “Don't thank me. Join me.” It is really hard. [People are like] I have this busy life. I have a job. I have kids. I'm thinking the same thing with my students too. I'm like, you're so busy, and I want to say go join the movement. But then, unfortunately, in a lot of movement spaces, there's all this drama, and there's all this like “you didn't do this good enough.” Like we don't take care of each other enough. Because often people are forced into being activists because, again, most people don't just wake up and are like: “You know what I want to have on my resume? Activist.” You are responding to injustices, usually that you are facing. When you have faced a lot of injustice in your life, you have a lot of trauma, and when you have a lot of trauma, you are easily triggered. And unfortunately, when you're easily triggered, you act out, and you hurt other people. We hurt each other. And so that, to me, is one of the biggest challenges.
I read this amazing book last year, or the year before, by Kazu Haga called Healing Resistance. It’s like: it's not enough to just fight the system and destroy yourself and each other in the process, and it's not enough to just go to yoga and eat healthy and heal yourself when the system is destroying people. How can we, in our movements, make this a space of true healing for ourselves and for each other and forgive each other and forgive ourselves and commit to staying with each other when things really get hard and when there are real conflicts?
Adam Davis: Danny, building off of what Suzanna just said, or other elements of the organizing work you kind of didn't know you were gonna walk into, and now seem to be a big part of who you are, are there things that feel particularly challenging, or moments that have felt especially challenging?
Danny Cage: I would say just having to learn to work with people, because you have on one side as an organizer: the opposition. That would either be rich people, political PAC groups, and people who want the world to die in the climate crisis. And you have to learn how to work with that because you could just go up and start yelling at people, but sometimes you have to be strategic in what you do. And then you also have to learn how to work with people who are dealing with the opposition.
There is an amazing book that I read. It's called, How We Can Win. She talks about having to work with people who may not always see eye to eye. She worked on ballot measures with Islamic groups, Catholic groups, pro-choice groups and a climate group. They all worked together to get this ballot measure on. Within those groups, you can imagine how there might be some things that people don't see eye to eye on, especially with a pro-choice group and a conservative Catholic group. But, though there may be some things that people don't see eye to eye on, they all wanted the same thing, which was this ballot measure for affordable housing in California.
I think that there's so much value in working with people who don't always see eye to eye with you. I have had so much [time] working with the government. One of the things I would almost say I’ve had pleasure with is working with people who are Independents or Libertarians, or even Republicans, as shocking as that might sound, because you learn that these people are human. I think a lot of times that we look at Republicans on Fox News and you see them as so different, but then you talk to them, and you realize that they're facing the climate crisis, they're struggling with affordable housing, they're also trying to put food on the table for their children. You learn that they are human and that there may be differences, but you can agree on some things.
Adam Davis: Beautifully said. It's interesting the way you pointed to the challenge as working with people, and then you talked about opponents, but also the people you think that you're with [politically]. And then it felt like by the end of your comment, those two groups were actually getting a little closer together. That's a super interesting and a beautiful thought. Adah, challenges?
Adah Crandall: I think that it is so hard to bring people together in a system that is constantly trying to tear us apart. The reason that the climate crisis is happening and that these oppressive systems have been upheld is that the status quo is constantly trying to prevent movements, prevent people from organizing across race and across class and realize that we all, at the end of the day, have a lot in common. We are all suffering under these systems to varying degrees, and our collective power is what will make us win.
But with the climate crisis, there's been all of this emphasis put on personal responsibility and reducing your carbon footprint and things like that. That is an intentional tactic of the fossil fuel industry to make us fight with each other and yell at the person who's using a plastic straw instead of realizing that these massive corporations are knowingly, and have been knowingly for decades, making decisions that are making it so that there won't be a possibility of a future for future generations on this planet. So that in perspective, I think like once people realize that, it changes things a lot.
Sort of on another note, with climate organizing and with any organizing, it feels like the victories are so few and far between. The losses are so big and so frequent, and it often feels like it's this constant battle of trying to catch up; prevent the bad thing, trying to stop this bad legislation, stop this freeway expansion. So it's like, how can we even begin to conceptualize and build the world that we want when we're trying to prevent it from getting worse? And that is so exhausting and so much weight. And so it's very hard to feel excited about the victories when they’re just sort of these like little bits in what feels like this cloud of scary, bad stuff.
Adam Davis: That's heavy, which is what the endeavor is too. I was thinking about the word you used earlier, Suzanna, the word love. It made me think that my coworker Rozzell Medina, who is really behind this episode and who isn't here because he's sick, I know he would want to be talking about love while talking about organizing. It feels to me like one of the ways to get at the heaviness and the size of the work. And I wanted to ask you if I can, as we move towards closing this conversation: is there something that you feel like, here's when I, or how I, really feel love in this work?
Suzanna Kassouf: I think oftentimes a primary emotion in organizing, or activism, can be anger. And I think anger has its purpose. We often feel anger in response to injustice. I often think that anger can be a shield for our grief. It's really hard to deal with the fact that we are facing this mass extinction, and we know that our future's going to be harder than today. We are up against so much, and there's just so much to grieve, and it's so hard to feel that.
Joanna Macy says that grief is the other side of love. We only grieve what we loved. We're scared to lose it, or we have lost it. So I think when we remember that there's so much power in our grief and to really allow ourselves to feel that grief because the world needs people to feel it. If we all just keep numbing out, we're never going to change anything. And I think when we organize, and we do our activism from anger, it can just burn us out so fast, and we start to attack each other, and we attack ourselves.
But if we can instead just allow each other to grieve—feel how painful it is to live in this world where there's so much injustice. Then we can allow ourselves to really think about: what do we love about this world? Why do we wanna save it? Why do we wanna fight for it? And that can really motivate us to do this work in a generative way and to have fun.
When Adah was talking about the victories and the losses—it's true. It's just like, “Loss, loss, loss, loss, loss. Ooh! Victory, loss, loss, loss.” But when there's a little victory, you have to have a party. You have to have a big party with everyone you know, and you have to hug and dance and sing and celebrate that we are living. Like, yes, things are going to get worse, so we need to appreciate what we have now, and we need to live. We can't just say, “Okay, fossil fuel industry; you get my life. You get my hope. You get my future. Like, “No, you can't have that. You know, you are probably gonna take my future, but you know what? You can't have my hope, and you can't have my life because I'm still gonna live to the fullest extent.”
Adam Davis: Actually, that laugh feels really important. The laughter while you were saying that, feels like a huge part of it. It even feels related to how love shows up too. That laughter, that sense of joy even in the face of that stuff.
Adah, do you think about something you love or the way love shows up in your organizing?
Adah Crandall: Yes. I have met some of the most incredible people in my life ever from organizing. People who I know are gonna be there for me in the best moments, best victories, and the times when it feels like everything is falling apart and we'll never win. Like, why do we even try? Why do we even do this? And finding people who can recognize that sort of weird dichotomy between being an organizer and being a teenager, who will make me be like, “No, Adah, you are not checking Slack this weekend. We're going to go to the beach and run around and be kids, and it's going to be great.”
I think that is a sort of radical care, having people who at times will forcibly be like, “You're not organizing now because you need to take care of yourself.” And I think that's something that is easy for me to lose sight of. That piece of like, the climate crisis can't have my life. I get to live my life. Sometimes I need people to remind me of that. I have found those people in this movement, and that is invaluable.
Adam Davis: Danny, love headed your way. What are you thinking about love in organizing?
Danny Cage: I think a lot about the fact that we live in a world that lacks love. I think about this book that I reread probably at least once every two months called The Care Manifesto. It talks a lot about love and the way that love has been under attack and care has been under attack. It talks about the way that Reaganomics and Reagan, which I find a way to blame somehow, every way, once a week, I find a way to blame it back on Reagan or Nixon. It talks about the way that love and care, if you look at every system, Medicare, Social Security, every system that is made to care for people in our society, education that fosters people, every single one of those systems is underfunded.
I think about the way that love needs to be a priority in our politics. Organize people and not have the main focus be anger and aggression, but we can have people show up and give out food and make sure people are cared for and make sure that there are tears shared, and we can watch movies together. Organizing doesn't have to be this thing that people constantly show up and hold a sign. We can take care of our community through different measures and different times. I just think that care and love is something that needs to be done through our politics and through how we approach the world, because there currently, right now, in my opinion, isn't enough of care. There isn't enough love.
Adam Davis: It's interesting as we go towards the end, thinking about even the examples you gave of government spending and thinking about what you said earlier about commonalities with Independents, Libertarians and Republicans. I suspect almost everyone comes to the table thinking that they're motivated by love and care. And then so much of the difference seems to be in the form that it takes and that's a challenge. It's hard to talk about different ways we love or different things we love. And so then it feels like, they don't care and we do. And that's just really hard. For me, it's one of the questions that I carry around a lot of this is: why do I see what I'm doing as driven by love, but I see what they're doing as not?
And so what I want to do, if I can, is actually ask each of you, is there a question that you feel is a kind of an open question for you?
Suzanna Kassouf: I think my open question is: whether we win or lose, what does it even mean to win or lose, and how are we gonna take care of each other no matter what happens?
Adah Crandall: I think my question is: how do I live my life to the fullest and be happy and find joy and also be contributing whatever I can to this movement. I'm at a point in my life where I'm graduating high school. I'm trying to figure out—what am I doing now? Every adult I encounter is like, what are you doing after high school? And it's like, I don't know, in the face of the climate crisis, it's so uncertain. Do I pursue being an organizer outside of the system? Or do I go into politics and like try to run a campaign off of joy and love and caring for people?
Danny Cage: Adah, 2024!
Adah Crandall: I don’t know! We will work on each other's campaigns one day perhaps.
Keiren Bond: Adah Crandall is a 16-year-old organizer with Sunrise PDX, a Youth vs. ODOT campaign and the co-lead of the Portland Youth Climate Strike.
Danny Cage is a student representative on Oregon's Environmental Justice Council and serves on the Portland Public Schools Facilities and Operations Committee.
Suzanna Kassouf is a social studies teacher at Grant High School in Portland and the co-founder of the Sunrise Movement PDX.
Adah Crandall: On March 23, Danny and I are hosting an Oregon Humanities So Much Together workshop about intergenerational organizing. Specifically through case studies about our work and the climate movement. So if you're interested in continuing these conversations or hearing more about the chaotic teenage organizer lives that we lead, join us. The link will be somewhere!
Keiren Bond: You can find links to our guests’ work in our show notes at oregonhumanities.org.
The Detour is produced by me, Keiren Bond. Dave Friedlander is our editor. Adam Davis is our host. Special thanks to Rozzell Medina for the inspiration in the organizing of this episode. Ben Waterhouse, Karina Briski, and Alexandra Powell Bugden are our assistant producers. Thanks for listening. See you next time.