The Recovery Squad




Texas: A Crisis State or America on the Regular

I imagined that things in America had to be looking up in 2021. I steadily calculated the positives: vaccines for COVID-19, more economic assistance from Congress on the horizon, a new, sane President, and leaning into my groove of another year of working from home. I did not imagine that life in Sugar Land, Texas (a suburb of Houston) was hanging by a thread that would snap in the cold. 

I was one of the 12 million Texans plagued with water quality issues and over 4 million Texans who did not have electricity or heat during one of the coldest winter storms in 50 years. Texans showed up for each other, taking to social media with hacks to keep warm in a freezing house and cook soup over a candle. 

But the gruesome truth is that our state failed us. Over 22 people died in the cold last week, and those of us who couldn’t fly to Cancun faced impossible choices: 

  • Do you freeze in your home with no electricity or find a warming shelter that comes with the risk of getting COVID-19? 
  • How long can you help a neighbor fix the gushing water from an ice-exploded water pipe before you start to feel the effects of hypothermia? 
  • Do you risk driving on icy roads to a fifth grocery store or go without milk for your baby? 
  • How do you pay the $10,000+ electric bill when you were already counting the days until your next paycheck? 
  • When your daycare program closes for winter storm damage, how do you work and manage child care over the next few weeks?

My family and millions of Texans have had to wrestle with these questions because our country lacks a true economic safety net. As I reflect on some of our choices, I realize that the freak-of-nature winter storm didn’t break us. It brought national attention to an American foundation that was already filled with cracks and half-fixed potholes bigger than the ones on Westheimer road in Houston: housing insecurity, lack of adequate child care, underfunded communities of color, and the precipice of living paycheck to paycheck. 

What we experienced in Texas was the status quo of millions of Americans who are just one storm away from disaster. But we have a cheat code to unlock a different future: the collective power of people. When directly impacted people organize, they build the power to transform this reality–to the benefit of us all. As part of Community Change, I am in the fight for housing justice, quality affordable child care, economic relief and a just recovery, and the work to hold elected leaders accountable if they choose Spring Break over public service. 

Karla McLean
Donor Communications and Marketing Manager
Community Change


Just Relief and Just Recovery

Community Change Action and our partners are fighting to win immediate relief in the COVID  relief and recovery economic package moving through Congress–and we’re using this fight to create a narrative bridge to systemic reforms. We’ve been building for this governing moment through our work on issues like child care, housing, and safety net programs. We’ve brought our local partners into the work of imagining new systems, such as a bold and inclusive replacement for the broken safety net. As in every campaign, we are building Black, brown, and immigrant power to not only win this policy fight, but also to strengthen the movement for economic, racial, and immigrant justice. And we are making sure leaders in Congress and the Administration remember the electorate who put them in power–and the promises we expect to be kept.

Child care is essential to a just recovery, and the movement for child care justice is poised to seize this moment. As Mary Ignatius of Parent Voices explained it: economic recovery runs “through the door of a child care program.” President Biden’s American Rescue Plan proposes $40 billion in relief for the child care sector, a testament to the power of our collective work to date. Now, Community Change is preparing for a long fight that draws on outside pressure and deep engagement with policymakers to keep child care at the top of the agenda. We are working in a coalition to win administrative and legislative changes that will transform the child care sector, including a significant permanent increase in funding. 

Housing justice is another key priority–and one that’s top of mind in the public debate. Since we released our New Deal on Housing Justice on January 25, the policy playbook has garnered over 110 media hits with an aggregate readership of 894 million people. Our favorites include this op-ed in USA Today authored by our President Dorian Warren and former Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, both co-chairs of the advisory committee for this project. This Washington Post story quotes Sec. Castro and highlights many of the Playbook recommendations. And Lynn Ross, our former Senior Fellow who led our 2020 Housing Playbook project that produced the New Deal on Housing Justice, lays out the opportunity to emerge from the pandemic with housing as a human right in this Al Jazeera piece.

We Are Home

The immigrant justice movement is all in. In the words of undocumented artists Samantha Ramirez-Herrera and Aline Mellorough in their powerful video: “We know that we have come this far, and we will go further because we are home.” The Mexican artists Fher Olvera from MANÁ and Alejandro Fernández echo their call to action in two Spanish-language videos.

At the end of January, six lawmakers stepped up. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Chuy García (D-IL), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Judy Chu (D-CA), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) formally introduced the Roadmap to Freedom resolution in the 117th Congress. The Roadmap to Freedom is Fair Immigration Reform Movement Action’s affirmative vision for transforming our immigration system, including a pathway to citizenship, ending family separation and a cruel enforcement system, and improving access to migration to the United States. Last Wednesday, FIRM Action hosted a town hall discussion with Reps. Jayapal, García, and Clarke about how the resolution will create a system that values and respects immigrants. FIRM Action partner groups across the country are asking their representatives to show their support for the Roadmap to Freedom’s principles. 

As Lorella laid out on MSNBC’s “All in with Chris Hayes,” the bill is a paradigm shift from past proposals as it rejects the failed strategy of legalization coupled with increased enforcement.The We Are Home campaign, which launched in January, is bringing together the immigrant justice movement to win bold immigration policy changes from Congress and the new administration to ensure that “we the people” includes immigrants. Community Change is driving this strategy, starting with the outside pressure that our FIRM Action partners have built across the country and bringing together national allies to co-chair the campaign: National Domestic Workers Alliance, Service Employees International Union (SEIU); United Farm Workers (UFW), and United We Dream. Check out our priorities on the campaign website and coverage in outlets like The Hill, Newsweek, the Associated Press, and the Los Angeles Times.

Change the Narrative, Change the Policy

The stories we tell shape the boundaries of what is politically possible. This is the idea at the heart of Community Change’s Communications Fellows program, which supports and strengthens grassroots storytellers from across the movement to shape the narrative based on their experiences of poverty, racism, and other issues. Wendi K. Thomas built on her experience as a Community Change Communications fellow to launch MLK50, a nonprofit news outlet in Memphis that focuses on the intersection of poverty, power, and policy. 

This year, Community Change launched a new project that pairs this model of storytelling from the ground up with empirical research to support state and local campaigns. Our Housing Justice Narrative Fellowship embeds fellows with partners in six states: California, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington. Community Change created this fellowship for leaders and organizers to apply the research findings of our Housing Justice Narrative Initiative to advance local, state, and federal housing campaigns, and as a tool to organize and expand our base of supporters. Cohort members will be part of a learning community and continue to receive training and support to experiment with the narrative tools that advance their campaigns, to share those learnings with each other, and to provide training to fellow organizers and advocates on effectively using the Housing Justice Narrative research.


Black History is America’s Story

Celeste Williams writes in MLK50, a project of Community Change Communications Fellow Wendi Thomas, about Black History Month, the denial of Black people’s contributions to American history, and how the celebratory month now interacts with the Black Lives Matter movement. Read the article to learn why we stop and remember Black History this month.

What would you do with a $1400 Stimulus Check?

USA Today asked Americans how they’d spend $1,400 stimulus checks and the answers range from paying for hospital procedures to buying groceries for this week. Featured in the pieces are four of our grassroots partners that share their unique perspectives: Misty McDade and Meghan Hullinger from Our Future West Virginia, and Tia Ferguson and Katie Krupp from Ohio Organizing Collaborative.

Introducing the Roadmap to Freedom

When the #RoadmapToFreedom resolution on immigration reform was introduced into the 117th Congress, we celebrated through a star-studded LIVE show and IRL action in DC. Check out the video recap, outlining what our movement is determined to make a reality for #AllofUs.

Demonstrating Our Power in this New Administration

Have four minutes? Check out the highlights from our January conversation with grassroots leaders on how we are stepping into a new Congress and a new administration. Our movement has set the agenda — on COVID-19 relief and recovery, on immigration reform, on child care justice — and now we have to keep pushing to make it real.

The Daily Show Takes on Child Care

Is Trevor Noah reading our talking points? Check out his reflections on why child care and economic justice for women are so important (which is why Community Change has been building the movement for child care justice for more than five years). Now is the moment to make our vision — and Trevor’s — a reality.