The Power of Intergenerational Organizing
Updated: Aug 21, 2022
WNPJ intern, Erica Werner, interviews longtime WNPJ volunteer and former WNPJ Network Director, Judy Miner. They explore the value of collaboration across generations, potential challenges that can arise and the Just Transition Framework.
Judy Miner first got involved with WNPJ while still a nurse at a UW hospital. During this time, the United States was about to invade Iraq, and as someone who was opposed to this, Judy asked around in an effort to get involved and was told to go to the WNPJ office on State St. and volunteer. She did database work as a volunteer, and when the WNPJ office manager suddenly quit, Bonnie Block (then director) hired her part time. During Judy’s time with WNPJ she has taken on the role of office manager, director, network coordinator (2001-2016), and volunteer!
At the height of the Iraq war WNPJ had about 170 member groups, 30 different towns across WI protesting weekly against the war, and was working on a statewide referendum to see if people in Wisconsin supported the war, and the results showed that the citizens of Wisconsin did not support the war in Iraq. There was international coverage as a result of the referendum because Wisconsin was the first place in the country that broke with Bush and said that they didn’t want this war and to bring our troops home.
After a while, things changed and the focus shifted towards corporate accountability, the anti nuke campaign, and Judy decided it was time for her to take a step back from WNPJ and spend more time with her grandkids. Judy got involved with WNPJ again in 2020 after being asked to help with the website and email.
Q: What do you believe are the biggest gifts elders have to offer our collective peace and justice efforts? What about young people?
A: Looking at other societies as well as ours, you can see that elders are respected due to their wisdom and perspective, as they have seen better and worse times than the current. However, this big picture also needs a sense of urgency which is what young people provide with their energy and new ideas for change to spur on the movements.
Q: Why do you think there are these age gaps in activism and have they always existed?
A: Age gaps form due to human nature. Generations organize around events of their times and when the event is over or the problem has been resolved, it can be difficult for organizations to continue working on new issues. There is a disconnect between younger activists and older groups both culturally and practically, as there are obvious cultural differences in each generation, but there is also a different way that people get involved in social movements. With the rise of the internet and COVID-19 disconnecting people, activism now can occur online and globally, making the more traditional meetings of the past not appealing to some younger individuals due to the change in news and media to soundbites of information in comparison to traditional newspapers or radio, adding to the disconnect between generations.
Q: How can we bridge these generational gaps and what would the benefits of this be?
A: Connecting younger and older groups is very important to building collective power, as younger groups have lots of energy and drive but need connections and funding which older, more established groups can provide. Having an incentive to connect and not compete helps further the goals of all groups as it bridges gaps and brings people together to share tactics and discuss methods for success.
Q: What were some of your favorite times at WNPJ?
A: Diversity training with Barb Munson of the Oneida Nation, as it enabled her to recognize how much work still needs to be done by the board in the journey to become anti-racist, learning the most important aspects of growth as an individual in order to help the movement for peace to also become more inclusive and intersectional.
Q: What do you think about the Just Transition Framework?
A: It is a wonderful way to show how we want to move forward as a network and is important to center as a model for how groups similar to WNPJ have used the grounding principles of the framework. It will help WNPJ understand its role as a network for our member organizations so we can work together to create long lasting change.