Radical Elders (RE) will have a contingent marching at the March to End Fossil Fuels on September 17th in front of the United Nations. 

RE members who spoke with the Amsterdam News say they are excited to take part in the march––and looking forward to, for the first time, physically meeting some of their fellow organizational members.

Following several discussions and ideas about forming some sort of activist group for people over the age of 55, the RE established itself as a national organization and held its first official meeting virtually, on Oct. 27, 2021. 

Writer Maritza Arrastia, a Puerto Rican independence and socialism movement activist, is one of  RE’s founders. “When I was a young activist, I intended to be a lifelong activist,” she said. “And it seemed like there were so many radical elders, and that it would be great if [we] could come together, bring all of our experience, and try to be part of using the opportunity of the current period to maybe change everything.

“I think not only are we elders, but that the planet has been forcefully turned into a kind of elder planet by climate change. So, it seemed like getting active at this period in our lives was key and I wanted to be part of that.”

The initial Radical Elders meeting kicked off with a pre-recorded welcome from the activist-journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal. Then the groups’ discussion turned to the plight of today’s elders––and how they are treated as a group in the U.S.

Writer Alfredo Lopez, a former leader of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, told those in the meeting that the way elders are treated is in many ways a signal of how all people will soon be dealt with in our society. “As capitalism continues to collapse, it’s not only that we are threatened, but our knowledge is lost,” he said. “One of the reasons societies keep older people around is because we have knowledge, we have experience. All that gets lost, it gets lost in society; the perspectives that we bring to life, that’s obliterated. Because on the one hand, we’re dying more early than we could. We’re incapacitated more early, and, in many cases, for a substantial amount of our lives. We’re so freaked about having to survive, [that] we don’t think about being able to contribute.”

When society misses out on what elders can provide it’s not just a shame, it can be detrimental, said Zakiya Alake, a community activist from Boston. She said the importance of passing on historical knowledge, as an elder, is vital. 

Alake’s oldest son is 49 and she says she wants him to understand that “Social Security didn’t just magically appear because President Franklin Delano Roosevelt waved his pen. No, it was really [the] radical, militant, largely working-class action in the street that brought us the minimum safety-net programs that we have. And this is important because if we don’t inoculate them…talk about a vaccine! We’ve got to inoculate the successive generations with the spirit to fight for what they need: intelligently, with critical thinking and base-building skills.”

As part of the March to End Fossil Fuels, the Radical Elders––the majority of whom are older than 65––will see many of its members travel to New York and march for a mile and a half to demonstrate their anger with how the U.S. government is tackling climate instability. The goal is to push President Biden to permanently end the use of fossil fuels.

RE members want to have a large presence on September 17th to show they’re concerned about climate change. 

And RE members say they want to remain active and pass on important, activist information to others. The organization remains open to new members who want to be part of a group that is designed to be led by people from the global majority: Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.

“It’s funny, you know, I would get on to the Radical Elders webinars and interact with folks, and it’s not so much that I would hear very left-wing politics espoused,” Alake said. “But it’s in the work that we’re doing. 

“We’re saying, it’s not our official tagline, but many of us say, either ‘We’re not done yet,’ or ‘We ain’t finished yet.’ ‘We still have miles to go before we sleep.’”
For more information on  the Radical Elders, see their website https://radicalelders.net/ or email them at: info@radicalelders.net