Over the last few years, Move to End Violence has been deepening in its commitment to Language Justice and deepening our understanding of how Language Justice is part of liberation work. For us, Language Justice is grounded in the following beliefs:
- All people should be able to communicate in the language and accent with which they feel most comfortable and whole.
- Marginalized peoples across race, gender, class, region, language, and dialect should have equal access to be active and engaged participants and leaders in the work for social change, equity, and liberation.
- It allows us to deepen relationships and create new possibilities for authentic and sustained solidarity.
- It expands our collective analysis, practices, and imaginations.
We live in a context where people are discouraged from speaking their native languages, where people have been punished, criminalized and discriminated against for doing so, where thousands of Indigenous languages have been forcibly disappeared across the globe. Language injustice perpetuates violence in the ways that it silences, erases, and dehumanizes whole populations of people. Language Justice allows us to disrupt privilege and colonization, challenging English dominance and Western-centered knowledge, communication, and leadership.
It is also one of the many ways we hope to ensure that everyone has what they need to understand and participate fully in our spaces, helping break down isolation and foster connection. It is something that we are in a process of learning, practicing, and experimenting with. This has manifested in our programming in multiple ways – from having welcome signs in various languages at our convenings, to encouraging participants to speak in the language in which they feel most comfortable regardless of whether others can understand, to adding a “Translate” button to our website.
As part of this experimentation, we have made a deeper commitment to Spanish, most notably in our Spanish language micro-site, cohort application materials, and in blogs and videos about our recent International Exchange. This is connected to the demographics of the United States and those in the MEV community, where we have partnerships and relationships, and where we have expertise and experience. We recognize that the choice of Spanish is complex. MEV holds the tension of Spanish being a language used by colonizers to attempt to eradicate Indigenous languages, peoples, ways of being and entire cultures, from the continent of Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean. We constantly grapple with this violent history that very much lives in our cellular memory and our families. We choose to engage with the complexity for the sake of our movement.
Our learning is built on the many organizations and collectives that have been doing this work and calling forth others to join them for years, and on members of the MEV Community who have been naming their concerns and asking us to do better. We offer special thanks to:
- Antena Los Angeles
- Caracol Language Cooperative
- Catalina Nieto
- Center for Participatory Change
- Communities Creating Healthy Environments
- Highlander Research and Education Center
- Just Communities / Comunidades Justas
- Matahari Women Workers’ Center
- The Indigenous, Black and Brown members of our communities who have found ways to keep their accents and tongues alive, and have found new ways of communicating and organizing with words, dance, music, arts, and spirit.