New Realities

April 2020 Newsletter

Movement Building During the Crisis


Although COVID-19 has changed the way we live, it hasn’t changed nearly enough. Over the past month, so many of us have recalibrated our day-to-day, trying to find a new “work/life jenga,” as Stacey Abrams describes it. But we can’t let the disruption of our lives distract us from the transformation our society so desperately needs.

On a call near the very beginning of this new way of life, one of our board members commented that “social distancing” would really be class distancing. I’m reminded every Thursday morning–as we get the tally of how many millions more people join the ranks of the newly unemployed–that this crisis is exposing and exacerbating our country’s devastating inequalities. It is compounding the literal distance between those of us who can shelter in our homes and the people like Leilani Jordan who are dying of COVID-19 as they work in grocery stores for low wages.

Movement building makes my heart sing. Since I first stepped up to a podium ten years ago and declared that I was undocumented and unafraid, I have been organizing people to tap into their power, working to change the way this country treats immigrants, and challenging the notion of what is politically possible. 

If this crisis has a silver lining, could it be the chance to create a different economic and political common sense?

I read Grace Lee Boggs and Naomi Klein, listen to the stories of people struggling to make ends meet, and see the creativity of organizers galvanized at this moment, and I’m pulled toward hope. Hope that we can reject what was, fight harder for our ideas, and create the conditions for transformational change. But my fear is that we will slide back into our old repertoire, waiting for things to go back to politics as usual. Over the past month, we have been tinkering around the edges of tired policy proposals. The people in this country need bold, disruptive, audacious responses that meet the scale of this generation-defining crisis. 

In a moment when Black and brown people in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and New York are dying at an appalling rate, now is the time to finally make a downpayment on our country’s racial debt. As immigrants demonstrate once again their essential place in our economy and society and families, now is the time to include everyone–regardless of status–in our policymaking. During the most important election cycle in my life, now is the time to pull down the barriers to full participation. Policy alone cannot deliver structural change–that requires people, standing in their own power and shifting this country’s consciousness from the ground up.

On April 7, voters in Wisconsin put their lives at risk to exercise their rights. In so doing, they demonstrated–once again–the fragile state of our democracy and the impossible choices that in-person voting requires people to make in the time of a pandemic. We know how to fix this before November, but we must act quickly and decisively.

Will we wake up to this moment? Our communities need nothing short of transformation.

In Solidarity,
Lorella Praeli
Community Change Action

How A Pandemic Affects Our Work


Learning from the Resiliency of our Grassroots Partners

The pandemic has reshaped the contours of our society. It has required us to adapt our organizing practices and created opportunities for us to build greater power in communities. As we build power from the ground up, Community Change is creating spaces to listen to partners’ concerns, share best practices to pivot strategy, and provide solutions in this fast-moving environment. 

For a national virtual meeting of Community Change/Action’s grassroots partners in late March, over 140 participants shared how their community members are experiencing the pandemic, and how they are fusing technology and organizing during physical distancing. They also shared snapshots of their resiliency and quick-thinking; whether building websites to inform and mobilize their community, sharing their stories at the intersection of housing and incarceration directly with elected officials, encouraging citizens to use their voices in ongoing elections, or sharing with the world what it means to organize during COVID-19

We have been listening to the needs of directly affected people to guide our responses, including: 

Grassroots Partner Maine People’s Alliance Coordinates Neighbors during COVID-19

Communities are responding to the growing COVID crisis with innovation and thoughtfulness as they rally together and advocate for a bold, caring, inclusive response to the pandemic. One partner doing just that is Maine People’s Alliance (MPA). They recently launched Mainers Together, a community assistance program to help families stay economically and emotionally solvent. Since the launch of the program, over 700 volunteers have signed up to provide aid to their neighbors in need: dropping off groceries, helping people secure pellets and wood for heat, and connecting with seniors who need help with tasks small and large. Volunteer leaders are connecting regularly on Zoom to exchange ideas, coordinate best practices, learn how to do grassroots fundraising, and share compelling stories. MPA organizers are making sure everyone in their community has access by translating the program into French, Portuguese, Somali, and Spanish, and by creating outreach plans for people at the intersection of immigration status, business, faith, and education.

The Census Continues: How Immigration Partners are Making Sure #WeCount  

Before COVID-19, this was going to be a pivotal year in politics. Now participation in the Census and the elections will be even more important–and challenging. Some immigrant communities were already hesitant to participate in the census, but this pandemic has made outreach even harder with the Census Bureau announcing delays in many operations and field activities that would assist in more accurately counting the U.S. population, particularly hard to reach groups. The census is used to determine funding for key federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Section 8 Housing, school lunch programs, and Title 1 school funding. It’s a cornerstone of the democratic process, apportioning political representation according to population. Despite these setbacks, Community Change and the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) are committed to an accurate count that includes communities of color, low-income people, mixed-status and undocumented families, and other hard to count groups. 

FIRM local member organizations and Community Change are using the following tactics to increase awareness and participation: 

  • We’ve collected over 100 videos that feature leaders in our communities talking about the importance of filling out the 2020 Census. And we won’t stop there! We are currently running Facebook ads in 13 states to solicit additional submissions that are intentionally targeting young people, people of color, and Latinx media outlets. So far we have reached more than 5 million people. 
  • We’re organizing regular webinars and online convenings for local organizers to share census resources and discuss organizing plans across the immigrant rights field. 
  • We’re making noise on social media. On March 31, we launched a national digital day of action. The message is simple: stay home, sanitize, and self respond to the census! 
  • Last, we’re providing resources to help our partners make the shift to online and physically distant outreach, and we’re compiling best practices from partners on the tactics that work. 

Lifting Up Our Voices

Ana Rodriguez: Organizer, Leader, and Woman of Color

Ana Rodriguez leads immigrant justice organizing as a Community Organizer with Colorado People’s Alliance, a member of FIRM and a leader on economic justice issues in the state. As an undocumented Latina, Ana has spent her educational and professional career fighting to advance policies and protections for immigrant communities and communities of color. She recently organized a mass demonstration (COVID-19 style) to advocate for the release of immigrants in detention centers by targeting ICE and elected official’s offices. The day of action included grassroots groups, communities, and individuals demonstrating online and in-person (with physical distancing precautions), calling attention to the need to free those in local jails and ICE detention centers. Explore the hashtag #FreeThemAll to join Ana and other organizers fighting for the safety of people in detention and incarceration.

Ana’s creative response to these new challenges is just one example of her ongoing work to support and organize community leaders who share a vision for a world that values immigrants and helps them thrive. We are thrilled that she is part of Community Change’s second Power 50 cohort. This 9-month program provides women of color who are already steeped in basic leadership, organizing, and management skills, with the deep grounding, tools, practices, political analysis, and relationships they need to stay the course of their convictions and grow as leaders in the movement for racial and gender justice.

Advocacy Online: Hashtags to Follow from Community Change’s Social Media Manager Anaf Wako

Anaf Wako is our in-house social media guru. This month, she outlined four hashtags we should all follow during the pandemic: 

#GetUsPPE – As healthcare workers worldwide do their jobs without adequate personal protective equipment, this hashtag is a window to their individual stories while applauding the heroes of the pandemic. 

#WhatWeNeed – This hashtag is an open call to expand economic security and care for all–regardless of immigration status–and emphasizes that everyday people need more than what the CARES Act provides. Community Change/Action and our partners are using this hashtag to add to the discussion. 

#Purple4Ciham – Launched to raise awareness about an Eritrean-American young woman who was imprisoned for 8 years without trial in Eritrea, this hashtag has become a rallying point for people fighting unjust imprisonment.

#PeopleAreOurEconomy – This hashtag reminds us that there are real people behind the unemployment numbers we see every week, that families are feeling loss, and that we have a shared fate.

In Case You Missed It

Read an Organizer’s Version of “Three Truths and A Lie”

Community Change President Dorian Warren teamed up with former Community Change President Deepak Bhargava to explore why liberal and progressive forces must work together during the current crisis to create a more equitable world for Black, brown, and low-income people. Their article in The Nation identifies why supporters of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden all have legitimate concerns and–hard truths–about American politics.

Getting Out the Vote Despite the Chaos of Primary Day in Wisconsin

Community Change Action’s Content Creator Cristina Rayas produces a real account of election day in Wisconsin in the video Wisconsin Voters Protest Unsafe Elections. It explores the impact of the pandemic, the setup of the election, the chaos of polling locations being consolidated, and what Community Change Action and our partner Voces de la Frontera Action did to turn out voters from our communities anyway.

Facebook Live: Explaining the Economic Implications of COVID-19

On April 9th, Community Change Action Vice President Dorian Warren and The Roosevelt Institute’s Mike Konczal went live on Facebook for a closer understanding of the staggering unemployment numbers— after all, PEOPLE are our economy. We all must center the realities of our families, friends, and neighbors who now, more than ever, need a bold, caring response from our leaders. Follow us on Facebook so that you don’t miss the next time we go live.

No Limits to Making A Difference

The CARES Act, signed into law on March 22, provides incentives to boost charitable giving in these times. The suspension of adjusted gross income (AGI) limits for individuals – with some restrictions – is intended to promote an increase of giving to nonprofit organizations. This means that you can donate more to impacted communities across America who are at risk. Donate today to Community Change to continue to fight for a society where everyone can thrive.