Although Sara Meyer was an active member of Gamaliel affiliate Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI), until recently, she was adamant that she did not want to attend Gamaliel’s National Leadership Training.
Meyer, a member-at-large of the QCI Board of Directors, attended an Ntosake training and a handful of shorter trainings, but struggled with Gamaliel’s agitational approach.
“I had a really hard time, because at that point I knew what it was like when somebody decided that you needed to be agitated…Honestly, I decided I was afraid to face some of that,” Meyer said. “As time went on, I thought, ‘Dammit, I’m going to face my fears. I may not do any more, but I’m gonna face my fears if they allow me to.’”
Meyer’s path to community organizing started when she attended college as a single mother in her 30s. Meyer studied psychology, sociology and social work, but when she considered a master’s degree, she couldn’t find a program that fit her interests.
“I didn’t want to be a social worker. I wanted to be an organizer! I couldn’t put a name to it [at the time],” Meyer said. “Of course back then I would’ve used the word ‘help,’ but I wanted to help people. I used to say I wanted to teach people how to fish, I don’t want to give them fishes.”
It wasn’t until Meyer met QCI director Amber Bordolo while volunteering at a local festival that she began to see organizing as her path forward. At the time, Meyer was involved with One Human Family, an organization dedicated to fighting discrimination and white supremacy in the Quad Cities area. When she and Bordolo hit it off, Meyer began working with QCI and eventually retired to have more time to dedicate to the organization.
Meyer is now involved with QCI’s efforts to have a hate crime ordinance adopted in the Quad Cities area. The work resonates with her as the product of a family that cared deeply about racial equity and the grandmother of biracial children.
“It was my experience with…what they [their parents] first of all had to talk to them about, and second of all, that terrible fear of ‘Is this child coming back home to us?’” Meyer said. “That just moved me so much, and it made me so angry. So the first time somebody said, ‘What really makes you angry?’ it was right there.”
Now, Meyer plans to build power in local organizations by organizing money. She’s hard at work developing strategies for organizations to supplement grant funds through simple projects that draw on members’ skills, such as handmade incentives for Giving Tuesday donations.
“It’s very simple and down to earth, basic things,” Meyer said. “It’s just teaching people how to think outside the box. It’s really simple things, and it’s certainly not going to suffice or totally support an organization, but it will help them start to find a voice.”