This week’s organizer spotlight features Aaron Kucharski, an organizer based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
1) What are you working on now—the change you are feeling the most urgency around making in the world through your organizing?
In my own personal organizing I am working to move a bill through the SC statehouse that would put Narcan in every high school across the state. In my own community I am working with my local Recovery Advocacy Project team (RAP – GrandStrand!) to do direct outreach with people who are experiencing housing insecurities or struggling with substance use by organizing with local businesses, non profits, cafes, and markets to be sure that Narcan, food, clothes and resources are available to anyone who needs them.
The change I am feeling the most urgency around where I live in Myrtle Beach is making sure people who are struggling have that human connection to go about making a change if and when they are ready to accept help or resources.
Working to embrace “meeting people where they are at” seems to be key for me in my organizing.
2) If you could give a new organizer one piece of guidance, what would it be?
My guidance usually is around patience and enrolling others in what you are doing. It is hard to see progress sometimes and we have to cut ourselves a little slack when it comes to small victories, or when things aren’t going as smoothly or as fast as we would like them to go.
I always talk to organizers about “space and pace”, and what I mean when I say that is as long as we are working to create the space necessary for the changes we want to see (by building relationships or assessing strategies, etc) and we are doing it at a pace that is realistic and healthy for our own wellbeing as organizers, then we are in good shape.
Too often we try to force change or cut corners because we get impatient, and it can backfire if we aren’t doing the work to let people into the process.
The thing about community organizing is things can change real quick sometimes. It is like a puzzle where you have to go do those corner and edge pieces first and make sure that’s solid before finding those scattered inner pieces of the puzzle. Those “pieces” are people and you never know who you are going to meet next that will spark some life into your organizing when things seemingly are stalled out. So, be patient and keep talking to people about what you are organizing, and I promise those key pieces come into play if you are persistent.
3) When times are tough, what is your go-to for getting “back on the bike?”
I have been in recovery from drugs and alcohol since September 6th of 2003, and a big reason I have found sustained recovery is because I have done a lot of work in figuring out what brings me some serenity. For me I need waves, meditation, hiking, golf, sunshine, and time with my girlfriend or trips to see family. I think a lot of organizers, including myself, have an obsessive part of our brains that oftentimes keeps whatever we are organizing towards front and center. That can be a good and bad thing.
For me, I absolutely have things I do on a daily basis to prevent any sort of advocacy or organizing fatigue, and I think it is important for each organizer to have those moments in each day to take care of themselves.
4) What’s your favorite Wild moment?
I have two favorite moments from Wild. The first is when Nneka was able to share about the organizing on campus she had done and really building out a campaign as opposed to just doing actions. That presentation for me was pivotal in how we are working with the Recovery Advocacy Project teams across the country.
The other moment from Wild that I am appreciative of was when I was able to share with the group a letter that my grandfather had written to me when I was born that went over my family history. This particular session in Wild was at the same time that Russia was invading Ukraine and my great grandfather fled Ukraine generations ago (because Russia was after him for selling horses to Ukrainian troops) and came to America as a result of that ongoing conflict. The words that followed from the Wild participants after I read the letter are really special to me, and I thank you for that.
5) What’s a fun fact about you?
I stole Matt Damon’s mug because I wanted to get the best of the man who played Jason Bourne.