One of the core values of the work environment at GreenRoots that has left the biggest impression on me is how the organization and those in it put language justice into practice. In a society that very often prioritizes English over other languages, the matter of translation is also often assumed to mean simply translating English into other languages, and not as much the other way around. Since GreenRoots is a bilingual organization using both Spanish and English, one way that language justice informs how the organization operates is that staff meetings are typically conducted in Spanish and then translated into English only as needed. This routine practice is an example of what it looks like to try shifting the dynamic that often places unequal burden on non-English speakers in order for those people to be able to access information, resources, and conversations relating to the work of community organizations.
I have observed that it is equally as important for this to be the case not just in communication within the organization among staff, but also throughout community engagement such as at events. While it is one step to provide materials such as event flyers in multiple languages, or even to use a Spanish script when door-knocking/canvassing, using only these methods can limit the opportunity for meaningful conversations with community members, which are crucial for those representing an organization to use as opportunities to listen to the hopes and concerns of local residents.
For instance, the majority of conversations that take place at events such as the free canoeing/kayaking days on the Chelsea Creek take place in Spanish. This is highly important because it is in these conversations with individuals in which we contextualize the canoeing/kayaking event with its multiple purposes – to improve open and free access to the waterfront for the community, and also to raise awareness around the proposed construction of the electrical sub-station (the no to Eversource campaign mentioned in blog post #1) because people can literally canoe/kayak right up to the potential construction site.
Working with GreenRoots differs from academic life mainly in that connecting with people and building relationships with community members takes a longer time and happens on a slower timeline than when living on a campus where other students, faculty, and other administrators you may want to get in contact with can all be found in very close proximity to you and each other. I do not think that this is a negative comparison, it simply means that it takes more creativity in order to engage people outside of a confined university context.
Helping out with community events like the canoeing/kayaking days on Chelsea Creek has been just one example of such creativity that simultaneously puts language justice in practice.