Being part of a small workers’ collective is a challenging and rewarding process. And while TESA has always been small, we’ve always managed to find a way to have a big impact, and people are often surprised to learn our size. At our largest, we’ve been four people. But today, we’re thrilled to announce that we’ve grown our team to five with the addition of two new people.
Darya Marchenkova and Misty Dawn Spicer started last week, and already they are helping to shape TESA and re-define our future. They both are phenomenal communication specialists and are taking over our efforts to share with the world TESA’s work, mission, and philosophy. They’ll be responsible for building new partnerships, spreading the word about popular education and the other movements we are involved in, and so much more.
Misty Dawn is co-founder of the Los Angeles Co-op Lab and co-podcaster for Dismantle. MD has worked with great organizations such as: East L.A. Community Corporation, Black Worker Center, SCOPE, ROC-LA, St. Johnâ€™s Trans* and GNC Health Clinic, The Bridge Program, The UCLA Labor Center, Building Allies Together, The Urban Environmental Policy Institute, L.A. Waterkeeper, Q Youth Foundation and Right to the City. They went back to school after over 15 years in the restaurant industry, earning a B.A. in Urban Communities and Environment in 2014 and an M.A. in Urban Sustainability in 2015 from Antioch University Los Angeles. MD practices a plant based decolonial diet, yoga for all bodies, radical creativity, and human revolution.
Darya Marchenkova has been working within community organizations fighting for human dignity in the United States for the past eight years. She was the communications coordinator at the Vermont Workers’ Center and an active member of the organization’s political education committee. Darya was also a member of the team at Webskillet Cooperative, a worker-owned web development and communications cooperative. She has worked with the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso, Texas, the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, and the National Economic & Social Rights Initiative. Darya is a Russian immigrant to the United States who recently moved to Montreal, Quebec.
We have so much more we could say, but instead we’re excited to have Misty Dawn and Darya introduce themselves. They filled out three interview questions that should give you a sense of their missions, work, and the amazing skills and visions they’re bringing to TESA. Please help us welcome them!
How do you view the relationship between education and social action?
Darya: I think about the times in my life when I had the veil pulled back from over my eyes, so to speak â€“ when I realized truths about our society, economy, and political system and how they were very different from the typical stories I’d been told about our world. Those were really some of the most life-altering experiences I’ve had, and they set me on a course of wanting to be committed to organizing and creating social change. I think education is one of the most essential parts of building powerful organizations and social movements. It helps us connect to the deeper purpose of our work, stay committed when the going gets tough, and be strategic in our actions.
Misty Dawn: The root of the word â€˜educationâ€™ means â€˜to leadâ€™ in Latin. I see education on one hand as the main flow of information that tells our cultural story. This main flow shapes individual lived experiences, and it also reinforces dominant power structures. If we arenâ€™t an active part of telling our stories that are shared through â€˜educationâ€™, our relationship to it can be marginalizing. Our stories become devalued and powerless when told by others, especially over time.
Social action on the other hand, gives value to our cultural story as we actually experience it. Social action shapes the current historical moment, giving power to our lived experiences. It puts us at the center rather than the margin, and opens a pathway for our stories as only we can share them.
This necessary relationship between education and social action reshapes how we learn history. When the relationship is nurtured, our value within culture grows. We can stand more dignified, and even gain say in how the future is shaped.
What tools are in your toolbox for education and social action?
Misty Dawn: I carry a spectrum of intersectional tools Iâ€™m bringing to TESA including (but not limited to):
- 2 food justice knives
- 3 gender justice hammers
- An environmental justice solar drill
- A social justice research spear
- A radically creative paint brush
- Community organizing nails
- 1 decolonial hand saw
- 1 workers rights tool belt
- A cooperative recycled wood box, and a
- A compassion fatigue solar charger
Darya: I’m joining the TESA team to support communications, so that means sharing our story about what makes popular education important and why TESA does it so well. I’ve been involved in community organizing for the past 8 years or so, and I’ve had the opportunity to learn from a lot of inspiring people who’ve thought deeply about education and social action. I’m bringing all those lessons with me to help TESA build upon its story and reach more people. Iâ€™m also coming with several years of experience doing digital, traditional, and more participatory models of communications.
If you could go on sabbatical for three months, what would you do?
Darya: I was just at the Ellis Island Museum and I took an audio tour through all the rooms: like where they conducted medical testing or put people before an early form of immigration court before deporting them. I was thinking about how many people from across the country visit that museum each day and how much museums shape our collective understanding of an issue like immigration. How many Ellis Island visitors, for example, could walk away thinking that detaining migrant children is a thing of the past and not happening in the United States today? So maybe I would take 3 months to create an alternative audio tour of Ellis Island that would illuminate all that history and talk about what’s going on now.
Misty Dawn:Â Personal time to collect, reflect and write: Iâ€™d travel with my partner to Bija Vidyapeeth to work the fields, doing a little research on the benefits of seed saving for a couple of weeks. Weâ€™d hike part of the Himalaya for a couple more weeks and reflect. Then, weâ€™d travel to the Philippines and visit the island her mother was from and hike the Hinatuan Enchanted River for more reflection post island visit. Weâ€™d definitely also meet with comrades for dinner, games and conversation, recording and creating all along the way.