Alix Shabazz is a Grassroots Organizer and Program Coordinator of the Neighborhood Organizing Institute. She specializes in strategic campaign development and culturally relevant curriculum development. Her 10-year background of organizing efforts addressing poverty, homelessness, domestic violence and mass incarceration with organizations like Take Back the Land Madison, Freedom Inc, and the Young, Gifted, and Black Coalition has given her a plethora of knowledge on how to build people power to effect change. Alix Shabazz is currently the Program Coordinator of the Neighborhood Organizing Institute, where she has focused on building culturally relevant curricula for youth and adults and is most energized by creating learning communities that are conducive to all learning styles and foster personal transformation.
Get to know Alix better
How did you come to work at your current organization?
Lussier Community Education Center posted a facebook ad advertising a part-time community organizing position. I applied and was offered the position.
Why is the work that you do important to the Madison community? Why is it important for you?
My work is important because organized communities are healthier and safer communities. When community members have relationships with each other, it is easier to come together to problem solve during a community crisis. All neighborhoods face crises at some point, but low-income communities of color are forced to survive without adequate resources-putting them in a continuous state of crisis. Social issues like food insecurity and housing insecurity breed mistrust and violence, decreasing a community’s ability to come together to collectively develop solutions. When we as a city invest in grassroots leaders and their ability to facilitate relationship building between neighbors, we will see an increase in the capacity of our marginalized neighborhoods to develop and implement transformative community norms and practices that will shift a neighborhood from surviving to thriving.
What is your vision for Madison?
My vision for Madison is one where all neighborhoods are afforded the right to self-determine. I envision a Madison where all Madison Neighborhoods are organized into collectively developed forms of infrastructure that allow for democratic decision making around culturally relevant community norms, practices, solutions to community crisis, and programming that shifts a neighborhood from surviving to thriving.
When you look back over your whole life – What experiences have shaped you as a woman? and Why?
The experiences in my life that have shaped me as a Queer, Black Woman are all centered around trauma, violence, and repression. I grew up in a household that was dominated by a man who needed to make others around him feel powerless in order to feel powerful. I grew up living in a constant state of fear and powerlessness. Naturally, I mistakenly learned that in order to not be controlled by fear any longer—in order to no longer feel powerless, I had to make others fear me. So, I became a young woman who roared when she was afraid. I began to mirror my father’s attempts to regain power through violence and aggression. As I continued to grow as an organizer I noticed that many things I touched in the community and in my personal life were left singed with my projected anger, hurt, and still—fear. My efforts to regain power for myself and my community members were obstructed by my inability to heal from my childhood trauma. My previous organizing campaigns did not have a chance at gaining real communal power because I was in the way of myself. I had to realize that no one could give me power. I always had it in me. I had to take my power back from the little voice in my head that said that I was “less than” and unworthy of freedom. There was a moment when I finally understood the power that I had as an organizer, which was the ability to create the world that I wanted to live in. That moment transformed me and has shaped me into the Womyn and organizer that I am today.
What are some of your practices of resilience? Who did you learn this from and how are these helpful in times of challenge?
My practices of resilience are centered around self-care. It’s important as an organizer to be on a journey of healing and self-transformation, and that includes having effective self-care practices that keep you centered. I do a wide range of things to keep me centered. Some of them include playing the Wii game and cleaning my home. I also like to do my hair and binge watch reality tv shows. Other self-care practices I use are more spiritual in nature. I like to sit at my alter and talk to my ancestors/God and I channel specific energy from the moon and the sun through crystals.
What are some of the things you enjoy the most in life? What keeps you inspired, re-charged and brings you joy?
As someone who does leadership development for grassroots organizers, I am often in the company of people who care about the community when there is a community crises. It is common for me to hear from these leaders what “people” should do or what “black people” need to do–very generalized statements that put the responsibility of making the community thrive onto everyone else. So when I hear a community member say what they can do during a community crises, that brings me incredible joy. Because that means that have switched from being just someone who cares about the community to being an organizer. Being with my family also brings me joy. They re-energize me and keep me hopeful for the future. I love spending time with my Grandma and hearing her stories and her cussing out my little cousins! My little cousins keep me inspired. Every time I spend time with them I am amazed by how free they are! I sometimes find myself a little jealous of the things they are able to do that my generation had to fight for. But, seeing them be free the way they are, gives me incredible hope for the future and let’s me know that WE WILL WIN!
When you think of your life journey unfolding, Who do you see yourself becoming?
I see myself becoming a spokesperson for leadership development and personal transformation as a means of addressing social issues in Madison’s low-income Neighborhoods. I envision myself far enough along on my journey of healing and gaining personal power that I inspire hundreds of leaders in low-income communities to join me on that journey to affect real change in Madison. I see myself as the Program Director of the Neighborhood Organizing Institute, meaning I have successfully created a program model that allows the program to be sustained through diverse funding sources and community giving. Amplify has already supported that dream by increasing the visibility of our work and of my expertise in leadership development. I plan on continuing to build our media infrastructure and developing a fundraising plan that will allow us to better support the organizers.