Student Blog: Empowering Workers through Community

Poster with a drawing of a yellow flower and the words

Posted in News Organizing Internship

Dakyung Ham worked with ROC DC as part of KI’s Summer 2021 Organizing Internship program.

Apply to our Fall 2021 organizing internship program here.

From the cheerful conversations in the group chats to the passionate rehearsal of the group’s chant at the end of each membership meeting, the most memorable part of my experiencing interning with Restaurant Opportunities Center DC (ROC DC) is the positive energy of the ROC DC community.

Throughout the spring semester and this summer, I participated in organizing campaigns and programs advocating for workers’ rights in DC. The ROC DC organizer team immediately welcomed me into their work in empowering restaurant workers, and, as the ROC DC members shared about their experiences during the pandemic, I gained significant insight regarding the connections between various social issues, including workers’ safety, housing security, and relief for excluded workers.

In each aspect of the process of planning meetings and projects, I was often reminded of ROC DC’s value of constant growth and improvement. To continuously learn how to best advocate for the workers and maintain the active energy in the community, the organizers would consistently invite open feedback from the participants and provide opportunities for the members to have more roles as well as lead the campaigns. The team also always encouraged my input, and I was able to become increasingly comfortable in offering and incorporating suggestions to their approaches. In doing so, I was able to support the growth of their practices of facilitation and mediation to strengthen the community’s teamwork and solidarity. 

I particularly enjoyed observing how ROC DC further emphasizes unity by applying the value of cultural inclusivity in their community meetings and group chats. To make their resources and virtual spaces accessible, the ROC DC team consistently works to have interpretation and translations available for the participants. By reducing communication barriers, these efforts allow the members to more easily lead projects and meetings together. To contribute to ROC DC’s values of improvement and inclusivity, I created a research proposal with strategies, in addition to an outline for a training, beneficial for expanding the organization’s accessibility.

At the closing of the team meeting every week, we each took turns in sharing our “gratitudes.” Reflecting on the relationships I made as well as the knowledge and skills I developed, I am grateful to have been directly involved in the ROC DC team and to have experienced the community’s constant energy in working together toward worker justice.