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Here, Us, Now: Students Come Together This Week to Build a Powerful Nationwide Movement

In the face of massive student debt and an uncertain future, students are coming together to build the future on their own terms.

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For example, Julieta Salgado, a student organizer from Brooklyn College, aims to use the Convergence as a way for students all over to come together and ultimately put a stop to the increasingly corporatized university system and create the alternatives we want to see. “We can resist the things that harm us, that misrepresent us, but that is limited. The next step is creating the settings we desire: the curriculum we want, the culture we want,” says Salgado.

Now

We believe now is the time for students and youth to converge because our generation is on the verge of a “movement moment” -- a time in our history where society as a whole begins to stand up to the power structure, resist and win. The gains in the undocumented youth movement and Occupy Wall Street’s ability to revitalize tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience -- which eventually spread to over 1,000 cities -- are both evidence of that sentiment. A year ago, the political conversation was all about our nation’s debt ceiling; today, a conversation about economic inequality has begun. That is an effect, we believe, of the very “movement moment” we are describing. We know that if we can effectively harness this energy, we can organize ourselves in a way that shifts larger, national conversations to include the concerns of students and young people.

Remarkably for an undertaking of this kind, the Convergence has been coming together rather fluidly, with many of the 80 young people involved in the planning organizing with people they have never met. For some, the Convergence planning process has created a sense of community that supersedes physical space. Through colorful Google spreadsheets and back-to-back conference calls, we are working remotely to secure housing, donations, food and transportation for the 300-plus students we expect to attend.

With student-led movements erupting on both sides of our national borders, we also seek collaboration from those movements at the Convergence. Organizers have made it a priority to include international student movers and shakers in the programming of the daily events. Members of CLASSE, one of the prominent student unions in Quebec, will be joining hundreds of U.S. students at the event. Emilie Joly, an elected legal committee representative of CLASSE and full-time law student at Université du Québec à Montréal will be one of our keynote speakers; she works to organize students and citizens involved in legal battles related to the 2012 strike. In Joly’s own words:

Throughout the student strike in Quebec, we've been inspired by student struggles and social movements in Chile, Brazil, Spain, and Egypt. We are both surprised and excited to note that our movement has inspired others and we see sharing our experience as an important part of building stronger movements. We also believe that we need to build more cross-border solidarity...In the face of neoliberalism and capitalist destruction, solidarity is our weapon. And we need to fight back.

Joly will be joined by two other CLASSE representatives who will lead a workshop on the Quebec unlimited general strike.

It is also our hope that the Convergence will allow for the possibilities of learning from historical movements alongside the struggles of our own time. In order for participants to develop a clear set of goals and a strong community in August, we feel it is important that the Convergence environment, as well as the organizing leading up to the event, does not reproduce the very systems of oppression we are trying to undo. What makes this moment different from resistance times of the past is that we are ever more aware of racism, sexism and classism, but we must continue to combat the internalized ways we subtly reproduce these ills. Some of this ethos was expressed in a Colorlines report on racism: