Radio — Individual injustice, collective struggle: Examples from migrant justice organizing

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, we look at migrant justice organizing in Canada as an inspiring example of how struggles against injustices in the lives of individuals can be integrated into — and, indeed, can be the basic building blocks for — broader struggles for systemic change. Deepan Budlakoti talks about his own struggle against an injustice imposed by the Canadian state, and Syed Hussan talks about a number of other examples and about the question more broadly based on his experience as an organizer with No One Is Illegal – Toronto.

One of the features of the dominant culture in North America today is that it convinces us to see ourselves and each other purely in individual terms. Where a previous generation might have turned to collective solutions — the welfare state, for example, or other more radical collective visions — we have less and less space to see through the lie that my needs are mine, your needs are yours, and the only way to meet them is on our own. At the level of political organizing as well, it’s not always clear what relationship there is or should be between supporting an individual in facing an injustice or a need for resources in their own life, and collective efforts to change the institutions and social relations that create those injustices and needs in the first place. Some organizations only meet needs and avoid questions of collective change; some try to work for change without really engaging with the ways injustice, need, and struggle exist in individual lives. But another way to approach this suposed tension is to think of organizing as work to connect my needs and my moments of individual resistance to yours, and to this person here, and to that person over there, to create something larger and more powerful than any of us on our own but that remains grounded in our lived experience.

Today’s show is about exploring ways of navigating that relationship between individual and collective struggles in a specific area. Deepan Budlakoti of Ottawa is an individual who was born in Canada, who has always lived in Canada, but whom the Canadian state arbitrarily decided to start treating as a non-citizen. Despite living where he has always lived, he is currently stateless, which places all kinds of barriers in the way of living a normal life, and he is actively fighting to get Canada to re-recognize his citizenship. He talks about his struggle, particularly developments since his first appearance on the show about six months ago, including his current fundraising campaign to raise money for a legal challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Syed Hussan is an organizer with the migrant justice group No One Is Illegal – Toronto, and he talks in more general terms about how his group works to build collective movements by starting from opposing the ways that injustice, oppression, and need affect the lives of individual migrants.

To learn more about the Justice for Deepan campaign, click here. Until May 9th, you can also donate towards the legal fees for Budlakoti’s Charter challenge case. To learn more about No One Is Illegal – Toronto, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada through in-depth interviews that concentrate not on current events or the crisis of the moment, but on giving people involved in a broad range of social change work a chance to take a longer view as they talk about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. To learn more about the show in general, click here.

You can also learn more about ways to listen or go to the show’s page on rabble.ca. To learn more about suggesting grassroots groups and organizations for future shows, click here. For details on the show’s theme music, click here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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