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Spotlight: Keyan Bliss, Organizer

From the democracy movement to the movement for Black lives, Keyan Bliss has spent more than seven years engaged in the work of dismantling oppression and creating lasting, systemic change. Keyan is busy. He is an organizer with grassroots organizations mobilizing or change, including:

  • Anti Police-Terror Project, a coalition working to build sustainable, community-based models that seek to eradicate police terror in communities of color; and

  • Decarcerate Sacramento, a coalition working to end jail expansions, decrease jail populations, and shift county funds away from policing and incarceration.

Keyan is also the grassroots director for Move to Amend, a national democracy coalition working to amend the U.S. Constitution to make clear that corporations are not people and money is not speech.

We caught up with Keyan after a well-deserved (albeit too brief) vacation, and he got real with us about what the work is all about.

SJPC: What does "social justice" mean to you?

Keyan: For me, social justice means equity in both social principles and practices.

I believe justice at its core requires me (and institutions that would represent me) to recognize each person as an equal, entitled to basic fairness and coequal community.

Right now in the United States, the vast majority of people have been made to suffer profound oppressions for generations rooted in the foundations of our nation. In my vision of social justice, achieving equity requires solidarity with the people suffering inequitable treatment. Therefore, I consider it a moral responsibility to stand and act alongside people who are struggling against their oppressors.

SJPC: Why are you involved in social justice? Keyan: I've been engaging in social justice as far back as high school and throughout college, but was inspired to get involved during the Occupy Wall Street movement back in 2011.

A couple years later, I was introduced to Move to Amend, which taught me a lot about solidarity organizing, movement building, and anti-oppression work. At the time, it was the only democracy organization I had heard of that centralized anti-oppression work in its strategy. I believe its goal of ending corporate constitutional rights and money as protected speech to be a crucial first step towards leveling the playing field for all justice movements, particularly in my personal struggle with racial justice. Working with MTA introduced me to so many movements and revolutionaries working to create lasting systemic change within US society. It also continues to stand in solidarity with my movement work with local grassroots organizations like APTP and Decarcerate. I'm a firm believer that it will take the talents, experience and wisdom of all persons to make mutual governance and a system rooted in justice possible.

SJPC: How do you self-care to keep fighting for social justice?

Keyan: I'm constantly reminding myself and others how this fight is a marathon and not a sprint, so pacing is everything to me and it requires me to check my sense of urgency regularly to avoid burnout.

It's a work-in-progress to balance movement work with social living, but I've been doing better to set boundaries between my work and social life, as well as learning to put work down and say no to tasks when I'm feeling stretched too thin. I enjoy taking long drives by myself away from cities, spending time in nature and listening to audiobooks. When I can't get out of the city, I enjoy listening to music, watching TVs and movies that nurture my imagination, and playing open-world video games that let me create.

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