The Personal Is Political
JoAnn Hardesty was organizing long before she knew it was a career. She represented District 19 in the Oregon House before she ever thought of herself as an organizer. However, with or without the label, Hardesty has been organizing most of her life. “I remember that from a young age I was angry about injustice. I remember constantly questioning my parents? But why, that’s not fair! I realize how much patience my mom had when I was much older! I’m sure that she prayed a lot for me.”
Hardesty developed a fierce sense of justice as a child of the civl rights movement. “My idea of justice hasn’t changed, justice is an ideal that African Americans have never enjoyed in this country but we continue to strive for. Justice would demand that the social determinants of health would be the same regardless of your ethnic or racial background. Justice would mean that your ZIP code won’t determine your outcomes in life.
Hardesty’s first ZIP code was in Baltimore, Maryland, where the mothers in the community were M-O-Ms with all capital letters. “What I mean is they looked out for all the children,” she explained. “If you were somewhere you weren’t suppose to be, the neighborhood moms would tell your mom before you could make it home. At the time it was annoying but as I became an adult I realized how priceless that was.” Not only did it provide physical and emotional security for Hardesty, it also prepared her to resist internalizing the racist and sexist judgements that plague our society. As she continued, “It prepared me for the sexism, racism and other ism’s I experience regularly in Oregon…I have a strong sense of self and justice and I thank my family and community for preparing me for this ongoing challenge in our society.”
Her first job with the official organizer label was at Oregon Action, but she believes “I’ve been organizing all my life I just didn’t have a name for it!” As she clarified, “I didn’t consider myself an organizer for a long-time. I was committed to working with people to help them use their voice. I didn’t know there was a profession for it. It was just something I did.”