Jonathan Stith: A BOLD Journey

Jonathan Stith: A BOLD Journey

We invited Jonathan Stith, BOLD’s newest staff member to reflect on his trajectory with BOLD and share his vision in this new role as BOLD’s first National Organizer. Check it out — and help us welcome Jonathan into this new role! 

Can you share a little bit about your new position, what inspired you to take on this role, and what you hope to accomplish?  

I am BOLD’s National Organizer. I’ll share a bit about me, because Ella Baker taught us that to know one’s people is to know them personally. Most of my background has been in organizing Black youth for education justice: first leading the Youth Education Alliance, a local organization in Washington, D.C., and then the Alliance for Educational Justice, a national network of similar organizations. I was part of the original cohort of the BOLD Directors Training in 2012 and again in 2013. By 2014, I was planning and plotting my third time, when, as I like to joke, Denise caught onto me and asked me to be a BOLD trainer. I was surprised. I just never, ever saw myself being a BOLD trainer, let alone the National Organizer. Looking back at my six plus years, it’s been quite a journey on this path. What has been most satisfying has always been seeing how the BOLD tribe grows. It’s mostly through word-of-mouth, some kind of Black somatic insurgency – where each one reaches one. Riffing off Toni Morrison (Rest In Power), like freedom, the function of transformation is to transform someone else.  

What has your role entailed so far and what are your hopes?

In this new position, I get to be a blend of political somatized trainer & transformative field organizer on a national level. While BOLD trainings have meant so much for my leadership and as many of us discover –  to my life – it is the “in-the-field” work that I am most inspired and excited about. Black organizing is a beautiful tradition and it is a living tradition, one that is changing and transforming. In an emergent,strategy kind of way, I get to be like a honey bee gathering from the flowers -the products of our people’s organizing – our best lessons and strategies, while cross-pollinating those with what BOLD offers Black organizations and movement. What I hope to accomplish is helping Black organizers find and carry their tradition and be a commitment to it.

In this current political context, what is it that makes BOLD’s work so vital?

While our every step towards freedom in our sojourn in this country is critical, some steps seem to leave a deeper impression than others. I believe we are in one of those moments when White nationalism is rearing its head and BOLD’s work to rebuild Black organizing infrastructure is rising to meet the needs of this moment. As Audre Lorde says, we are living and organizing in the mouth of a racist and suicidal dragon; we need to be centered, we need to be committed and we need to be organizing.

What do you want folks reading your piece to remember about using what they’ve learned @BOLD to navigate these times? 

Practice, practice, practice. Transformation is not possible if we don’t practice. Not all practice leads to transformation, but there has never been transformation without it.