Listening to the Small Voice Speaking the Truth: Grassroots Organizing and the Legacy of Our Movement
With the goal of taking my activism to a new level through community organizing, I relocated to San Francisco, where eventually I got involved in the struggle against redevelopment in Japantown (Nihonmachi).
At that time, Nihonmachi -- like other San Francisco low-income neighborhoods -- was targeted by the city government for urban renewal. Acting in partnership with corporate interests, including conglomerates from Japan, the city's Redevelopment Agency uprooted small businesses and demolished low-rent housing and replaced them with corporate office buildings and "market-rate" housing with the vision of transforming San Francisco into "the Wall Street of the West."
Like other young activists initially moving into a community, I did not immediately recognize the full humanity of the neighborhood residents and their huge reservoir of wisdom. Like other new activists, I saw the ordinary people in my neighborhood abstractly as "the masses" to be educated through a one-way flow of information. Like other young activists coming out of the intense atmosphere of the anti-war movement, I felt that little was happening among ordinary people in Nihonmachi, despite the worsening conditions surrounding them.
It would take me time and training to "listen for whispers and the eloquence of silence."