This Resistance Q&A features the Progressive Action Global Exchange’s Senegal branch.
What is the story behind how your action hub began?
A large group of mainly expatriates got together in Dakar to watch the results on election night, and as the results started coming in the atmosphere quickly changed from jubilation to shock and dismay. There was a general feeling of anxiety about what would happen in the new administration and what we would be able to do.
A mutual friend put us in touch one of the founders of the global organizing network, Progressive Action Global Exchange, who was reaching out to other American expats to create a network of groups around the world who were in the same situation as we were – living abroad but still wanting to contribute to the larger resistance movement that was forming in the US. It was great to not only find a more formalized structure for our informal group of friends, but also to know that we were not alone in our situation.
We now meet biweekly in Dakar, Senegal, and count among our members not just Americans but people representing many different nationalities who believe in our mission and want to contribute to what has become a global movement.
What action has the group taken that you are most proud of?
Our most successful community event was an event in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. We discussed holding a march, but we were still a relatively new group and pretty small, so we didn’t think that we would have been able to organize a successful march given the resources we were working with. After considering this we decided to hold an open gathering in a public restaurant where anyone who was interested could come and meet others, have a drink, and work on some activities we planned. We had a poster-making stand and a photo-booth set up where people could express their support for women’s issues to post on social media, and discussion circles on important issues.
But the most important element was the simple fact of coming together in such an uncertain and tense time. Many people told me during and after the event that they had been feeling isolated being removed from the “action” in the US, and that seeing how many other people came out for the event and were motivated to act even from abroad was comforting and inspiring.
What advice do you have for other people living overseas who might want to start a group?
PAGE has been really helpful in giving our group structure, and they have a free guide available online for anyone who’s interested in starting their own group. There are so many listservs that have sprung up during the past few months that send out different action items, but the weekly emails from PAGE are specifically targeted at people living abroad, the best ways we can act and the issues that we’re most interested in.
The biggest challenge we face is needing to consider both the situation in the US and the situation in our country of residence, Senegal, and to adapt our actions to both. We must take into account the relationship between Senegal and America, and other context factors, including the fact that Americans have a large amount of social and economic privilege in Senegal, when planning public and community-oriented events.We wanted to hold an event in solidarity with the Women’s March but did not feel that a public march would be the most effective or appropriate response given this context, so we have been looking to other relevant ways we can hold events that involve the community.
In addition, a large part of the expatriate community in Dakar works for or is affiliated with the State Department and thus faces restrictions on what types of groups they can be associated with and what types of events they can participate in. We try to be respectful of all of these factors while planning actions that will still be effective, powerful, and inclusive.
Why do you feel it is important that Americans overseas Take Action? What impact do you think we can have?
Americans living overseas bring a global perspective to the issues that we are currently facing in the US. As members of Congress debate making health care less accessible for vulnerable populations for example, many of us see firsthand the effects in countries where quality health care is a privilege, not a right. We’re also motivated to take action on issues that perhaps do not impact Americans directly but have huge repercussions overseas, for example the Mexico City policy reinstated by Trump that will affect the lives of millions of women across the world and in our countries of residence.
By joining together to take on these issues in all the ways we can while living outside the US, we can make our voices heard and make an impact for the interests that matter to us.
How can people get in touch with you to join your group?
Send us an email at PAGE.email@example.com to be put in touch with the Senegal chapter! We send out our weekly actions and meeting notes, so even if you’re not in Senegal we still invite you to join the mailing list to stay updated on what we’re doing.