The morning plenary session at the National Sexual Assault Conference erupted in a group chant that sent chills up my spine. "Si se puede!" led by speaker Dolores Huerta. The power of 1400 voices rising together, believing that ending sexual violence is possible, made the struggles, frustrations, and doubts throughout the year worthwhile.
I think that's something wonderful about participating in this conference. There is a sense of community among activists and allies that can rejuvenate me in my work for the coming year. Whenever I go to a group learning experience I make an effort to balance my learning. It's tempting to only go the sessions on topics I'm currently working on. You can always learn something new on a topic, even if you consider yourself an expert. Another person can bring their own experiences and perspectives to the topic. This challenges me to think about my topic in a new way!
At the same time, I try to make half of my learning experiences relate to topics that I know little about. This has helped me to keep the ideas rolling and rekindle the flame for this work. My grandma once told me that the day you stop learning, you die. If you don't think you're learning anymore, you've really just learned that what you're doing isn't working.
This conference has a blend of folks who have been coming for years and brand new participants. I think it is vital to have that blend. The returning attendees are so excited to reconnect with friends and colleagues. The registration table is home base for hugs. I can also remember how excited I was to attend my first conference. My voice came to the table, my learning was valued, and my opinions were important.
If you have not had the opportunity to get to a state or national conference, I am telling you that it is worth it. It's worth taking the time to ask about funding provided by your state coalition or scholarships available to attend. We'll be in Pittsburgh next August when we cohost NSAC 2014 with PCAR. I hope to meet you there.