FlyPaper Recognizes Women’s History Month With WCW: SARAH Z. MAMO
My name’s Sarah Mamo, I use she/her/hers pronouns, I’m a poet. I just turned 20 last December, born and raised in Columbus, OH. I’m a third-year at OSU majoring in African-American and African Studies and Women’s Studies, and I’m a community organizer. I organize with three groups.
Still We Rise is an organization dedicated to furthering a Black feminist agenda on OSU’s campus and the surrounding community area for Black Trans and cis women and woman-aligned gender non-conforming individuals.
OSU Coalition for Black Lives (OSU4BL) is an organization open to students at the undergraduate, graduate, and pre-professional levels, faculty, staff, and community members invested in furthering the fight for Black liberation.
International Socialist Organization is a national socialist organization with chapters across the country. We are opposed to all oppression and fight for a world centered around human need, not corporate greed. International Socialist Organization is open to all, regardless of whether you’re affiliated with OSU.
What inspired you to pursue this work?
I became an organizer because I felt compelled to. My social consciousness can be traced to the murder of Trayvon Martin. As someone raised in a predominantly-white, middle to upper class town, I was incredulously sheltered to the violent reality of our world. So at the time, I was appalled that such an extrajudicial murder could occur. I shrugged Martin’s murder as an anomaly, thinking that this was an isolated incident. I was wrong.
The names of people of color killed by the violence of the police state began to pile up and eventually forced the conversation of race and intersectionality into the national dialogue. The forceful emergence of this dialogue forced me to reevaluate my view of the world. As Black Lives Matter (BLM) emerged, I realized that the world wasn’t what I thought it was, that the violence detailed through the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement, the feminist movement of the 70s, decolonization efforts, and violence throughout the history world in general was showing itself once again in this contemporary era.
Attending my first few BLM protests led me to rethink my role in all this, which led to me becoming a community organizer. My involvement in organizing was fueled by the responsibility I felt in unearthing these realities of violence and the desire to change our world by overthrowing capitalism, implementing socialist politics into my organizing and everyday life, and subsequently, dismantle the systems of oppression that support capitalism: white supremacy, cisheteropatriarchy, global imperialism, colonialism, and so on. I only began organizing last November before the hours-long occupation of our student union, #OSU2Mizzou.
Why is your work so important to your community?
Our work as organizers is important to the community because as organizers, our goal is to escalate situations of injustice and organize the community in resistance to this injustice. Further, we, in tandem with the community, work toward our vision of a better society. We work to inspire, heighten awareness, and strengthen our communal, horizontal ties by severing vertical ones. If we, as organizers, do our job right, we will not only shed light on one or a few oppressions, but all oppressions as a whole—we should be aiding in helping others understanding the complex interplay of oppression as individual oppressions relate to one another. Our work isn’t to lead the revolution ourselves, but to serve as a vanguard party in helping revolution occur. Further, I’d argue that organizers play a vital role in working with the community to envision an alternative society. We invoke creative thought and processes in realizing our potential to transfer society.
What one piece of advice would you give to young women of color?
First, follow your heart. It’s cheesy to say, but I’m serious. All of the work I do is done out of love—love for my community, those around me who are suffering, and a love for creating change and building meaningful relationships with those around me in the struggle. Secondly, believe in yourself and in your community. Individuality is important, but so is building power collectively. Don’t underestimate your power and most certainly don’t underestimate the power of The People when it comes to fighting for change. All change that we’ve come to understand has been done in communities. And thirdly, change is incremental. While it feels like what you’re doing isn’t making a difference, it is. Change doesn’t occur overnight. It’s important to keep this in mind. Small events and actions build up into bigger changes. Being a member of a marginalized community and simply surviving is revolutionary resistance in and of itself. Organizing your community is power in and of itself. Realizing this—your power within the collective—furthers this power. You are capable of more than you think. This is a lot to take in, and it’s easy to want to set shit off at every possible instance, but it’s also important to realize the power of community care. This work is exhausting, and it can easily drain you. Take breaks when you need to, because we need everyone to be at their fullest in order to be in for the long haul.
How do you stay grounded in your efforts?
It’s very easy to stay grounded when you understand the vastness of oppression. Understanding the connections of racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and xenophobia, among other oppressions, to capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism will open your eyes to how pervasive oppression really is. I interrogate and question everything, which keeps me grounded in the work I’m doing, as I realize the depth of the problem that we seek to solve and the solutions that we work to implement. Further, seeing how these oppressions affect those I love around me is what truly fuels my passion to organize. It’s difficult for me to sit by when those I love are suffering, and this drives me to continue to organize.
What are some of the most difficult obstacles you’ve faced in your work?
One of the most difficult parts is taking breaks. As I said previously, this work is draining, and I always hate having to take breaks from organizing when my mental and physical health calls for it. Although I know that these breaks are necessary, I also understand that these breaks prime me to organize even harder in my community once I’m out of it. Another difficult part, as I mentioned before, is not being able to see tangible change. It’s so easy to get frustrated when the change you want to see isn’t happening immediately, but I overcome this by understanding the complexity of the beast we’re dealing with. Capitalism, from its start, is centuries of years old. It infiltrates every aspect of our lives. To expect that we will overthrow capitalism immediately is unrealistic, but expecting that we will continue to make major strides in eradicating our society of capitalism isn’t.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Being able to see how we inspire each other is the most rewarding thing. Because this struggle is a difficult, strenuous one, it necessitates revolutionary love to be the foundation upon which we build. In a society where we are taught to hate difference, embracing difference is resistance. And seeing how inspirational it is when we radically love ourselves and one another is one of the most beautiful things we receive from this work.
What’s next for you?
Well, on April 4th, Still We Rise is having an open mic at OSU. It will be from 7-9 p.m. at the Hale Center in the MLK Lounge. The event is titled Poetry Slams and Rap Jams Episode 1: Your Identity, Your experience, Your Story, and it will be an open mic for Black Trans and cis women and woman-aligned gender non-conforming individuals to present poems and raps at. This will be open to the OSU community and the Columbus community for those who fit the demographic. The purpose of this is to validate art as a form of revolutionary expression of one’s story. There will be a Facebook event to come and anyone interested in performing should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Long-term, OSU4BL will be launching a prison divestment campaign on campus this autumn. We’ll be prefacing this campaign with a teach-in/discussion later this semester (logistics TBD). Anyone interested in getting involved should look for the OSU4BL Facebook page.