I’m buoyed by the strength and tenacity of our movement and the leadership of people directly affected by centuries of injustice and who bear the greatest costs of the current harm inflicted by our government and corporations alike. 

We are demanding more than incremental policies and many candidates for president are responding with big, bold and transformative ideas. As I wrote in Democracy Journal, social movements have always been necessary to drive significant and enduring change: organizing large numbers of people, setting a bold agenda, driving new narratives, and bringing about structural shifts in institutions, rules, or policies. 

In this moment, we are seeing how disruptive power, combined with electoral power, can channel political will in democratic and justice-promoting ways. Community Change has been part of this shift, changing the narrative of what is possible and interjecting the voices and agendas of low-income communities of color on the national stage. We are building power from the ground up, leaning into the larger fight for our democracy and economy, for example, our work with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement Action (FIRM Action) putting forward a vision of unity and freedom as the heart of immigration policy. 

Community Change Action is calling on presidential contenders to deliver on that vision. We co-hosted the first forum on immigration and immigrant rights in the presidential cycle. And in the midst of this effort to shape the agenda for 2020, we pushed for immediate change, with the U.S. House passing HR 6, the first pro-immigrant bill to pass the chamber in a decade.

In May, I had the honor of giving the commencement address to the graduating class of MacMurray College in my home state of Illinois. As part of my remarks, I shared the famous teaching that the self, who we are, is not a noun. It is a verb. I believe the self is BOTH a noun and a verb. Who we are, our names, our identities—all nouns. But to be is an active thing. 

We are called to write our own stories. And together, our story can be transformational. This is a critical and historic moment in American history, and I’m grateful to co-write with you our next chapter in creating broad, sweeping change to advance social justice in our country.

On The Move

This quarter, we have seen how the power of people can secure safety net programs, expand child care support, and fight back against inhumane immigration policies; including the removal of the citizenship question from the national census. Across the country, states have always been the laboratories for American democracy. And we believe that by testing the multitude of policy possibilities in states that we learn what’s possible on the federal level and how to grow power from the ground up. 

Securing the Safety Net & Income Support in Maine & Colorado: 

As the gap between the wealthy few and the rest of America has widened, progressives have increasingly turned to income support policies that level the playing field, especially in local communities. At the forefront of that conversation is expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, a benefit for working people with low to moderate incomes. Our Safety Net partners, Maine People’s Alliance, New Mainers Alliance, Maine Community Integration, and New Mainers Public Health Initiative, have successfully expanded Maine’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by executing a strategy to attend public hearings, coordinating demonstrations, and engaging the local media. In addition, the Maine People’s Alliance mobilized 50 business owners from 28 Maine towns to share their support in videos on social media and procured a bipartisan op-ed in the Bangor Daily News by Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Eloise Vitelli (D) and House Assistant Minority Leader Trey Stewart (R).  

In Colorado, a Local Wage Option was signed into legislation that will allow cities and counties the authority to increase the minimum wage by $1.75 each year starting in January 2020. This historic victory makes Colorado the first state to repeal a statewide ban on raising wages at the local level.  After years of organizing and hard work by the “Work Here, Thrive Here” coalition, which includes Community Change partners Colorado People’s Alliance and United for a New Economy, community members are successfully impacting the discussion about the economic pressures of high rents and low wages in the Colorado state economy. 

Expanding Childcare in California & Washington DC:

As child care policy proposals gain steam with presidential candidates, we have also seen big investments in childcare and early learning due to the power of parents organizing. Community Change child care partner, Parent Voices led an important victory for child care in California with the inclusion of the Master Plan for Early Learning and Care bill in the two-year state budget. This addition will provide uninterrupted child care for low-income families across the state and adds $80 million dollars in child care funding in the California state budget. The governor’s announcement proceeded Parent Voices’ Stand for Children Day at the State Capitol in Sacramento on May 8th, an annual lobbying event that demonstrates the power of the parents and the community.

Across the country in Washington, D.C., the wins continue for child care. Mayor Muriel Bowser and city council members approved $16 million dollars as an investment for the Birth to Three for All Act, which focuses on the critical development of children in the first three years of life. The act provides fully-funded child care services for low-income families. Community Change child care partner SPACES in Action played a pivotal role, raising the voices of impacted families and calling for fair funding for the program. They attended budget meetings, offered community members leadership training that emphasizes advocacy and the city budget process, and placed a series of op-eds showcasing the reality of child care in DC.

We Count. The Demise of the Citizenship Question. 

In the face of continuous attacks by the Trump administration, our Community Change and Fair Immigration Reform Movement partners have coordinated thoughtful strategies to demonstrate that our immigrant communities count. After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s argument to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census, we celebrated for immigrant communities everywhere and recognized that it was yet another move in a long line of attacks against immigrants and their families. After they officially removed the question and sent the national census forms to print, FIRM released a statement that called on the immigrant rights movement to double our efforts to count our communities. This victory is a result of our partners’ strong and unified presence at rallies and press conferences, on task forces and press calls, in petitions and letters – to say WE WILL BE COUNTED, and we were heard!

Reminding us of the stakes of our fight, Community Change’s Sulma Arias, Interim Director of Immigrant Rights and FIRM Spokesperson, wrote that we all have a duty to stand by immigrant families in a piece published in the Latino Rebels. She wrote about the psychological toll that immigrant families bear in America and how each one of us has to take a stand to protect all families. Last week, immigrant advocates continued to raise their voices by joining the Lights of Liberty, more than 600 vigils on five continents to protest detention centers and anti-immigrant policies. Our FIRM and Community Change partners including Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Make The Road, Maine’s People Alliance, and One America participated in the moving rallies.

Lifting Up Our Voices

Meet Ramon Ramirez, 2019- 2020 Taconic Fellow

Meet Ramon Ramirez, a leader in the immigrant rights movement with more than four decades mobilization experience. Ramon previously served as president of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Oregon’s farm workers’ union and one of the largest Latinx organizations in the state. His commitment to the building power from the ground up makes him the perfect candidate for the Taconic Fellow Program which supports efforts of extraordinary individuals and leaders working on social justice, leading groundbreaking work that advances Community Change’s mission to build the power and capacity of low-income people, particularly low-income people of color. Ramon’s year-long fellowship project will dock with Path to Power’s first pillar: Building Black and Immigrant Power. Drawing from his deep history of coalition building, Ramon will study, document, and glean lessons from a number of local cross-movement organizing efforts throughout the country.

Meet Seft Hunter, Director Of Black Led Organizing and Power Building

You may know Seft Hunter from his previous role as Executive Director of our partner organization, Communities Creating Opportunities (CCO) in Kansas City. As a black, gay immigrant to this country, Seft has had a diverse career that spans service in the military, working as a researcher and as a movement leader fighting to improve the lives of people of color in Missouri and Kansas. As Director of Black Led Organizing and Power Building, Seft will lead our work to advance Black organizing infrastructure through both new and tested approaches; contribute to the development of a governing agenda that can challenge and eradicate structures of oppression; and integrate sophisticated organizing, civic engagement, policy, and communication strategies. Seft’s history with Community Change’s “Black Freedom Collective” and his relationships with several Community Change cohorts (including the Child Care and Safety Net) will enable us to powerfully enact our bold and ambitious plans. Seft is based in Kansas City. 

In Case You Missed It

2019 Community Change Champions

Together in 2018 and 2019, we showed what’s possible with groundbreaking investments in child care, billions of dollars for affordable housing, a Farm Bill that keeps food stamps intact, and historic voter turnout in communities of color. These victories demonstrate that we persist and give us hope to try new approaches, question old assumptions, and build our movement for change. Join us on September 19th for the Community Change Champion Awards as we celebrate the work that often goes unheralded, and the people and organizations that keep our vision for a just world alive. We will honor Garlin Gilchrist II as Champion in Community Organizing, Lisa Hamilton as Champion in Philanthropic Leadership, the United Teachers Los Angeles as Champion in Labor Partnership, and Shanae’ M. Holman as Emerging Change Champion.

Healing Justice Podcast Features Women’s Fellowship

Community Change’s Women’s Fellowship was featured on the Healing Justice podcast, a platform that engages conversations at the intersection of collective healing and social change. On the featured episode, Community Change organizer and leader of the Women’s Fellows Program, Aida Cuadrado Bozzoand Women’s Fellow Jonel Beauvais talk about the trauma of incarceration and Jonel’s return to her Native American community (Akwesasne people in Mohawk territory), the resilience of women of color, leadership, and the community’s role in ritualizing return. Listen on RadioPublic, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher.

New Mini-Documentary Featuring Power 50: Between Starshine And Clay

As part of our Path to Power, Community Change pledges to elevate leadership development and one program that does just that is Power 50. The 9-month intensive program supports women who are our partners in the field, focuses their vision for their work, and fortifies relationships in our national network of like-minded movement builders. These women are an example of what strategic imagination grounded in purpose looks like. In our latest mini-doc Between Starshine and Clay, produced and directed by Community Change content creator Cristina Rayas, we get a glimpse into a “unicorn space” that deepens the leadership development of women of color.

Communication Fellow Shares Experience Parenting In Poverty In New York Times

Communications Fellow Bobbi Dempsey was published in the New York Times in a powerful essay about parenting in poverty and the seemingly endless array of indignities and flavors of shame that come with living in poverty.

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