As we head into 2020, we are reflecting on what it means to weather the many storms our communities are facing. From climate disasters to massive ICE raids, here are a few simple yet fundamental lessons that continue to be reiterated for us:
- Relationships matter. In a period of extended political confusion and turmoil, our strength lies in the strength of our relationships. Which is why SVA continues to deepen our commitment to flanking and fortifying the efforts of frontlines communities to be well skilled and well connected to each other.
- Organizing matters. Not only do we need to be well connected to each other, we need to build our collective skills to take shared action. We continue to bring people together across communities, geographies, and identities with a commitment to each other and to solidarity. All of this order to craft a vision for winning and gain more clarity on what is required of each of us.
- Power matters. Our organizing work happens in the service of building independent people and political power for our communities. We know it’s crucial to demonstrate our strength in numbers. And the next level is to chip at the institutions which currently dominate our lives. We are investing in our communities to shift this reality; to determine our own destinies.
Strategic Priorities in 2020
The work of our fiscally sponsored projects also helped to shape a lot of our strategic planning in 2019; including the priorities which emerged from our annual All Member Gathering in June of 2019 with the theme: Rooted as the Trees: Freedom Strategies. The leaders of our fiscally sponsored projects, partners, and key stakeholders grounded in our collective history of resistance and began charting a path for building power in 2020 and beyond; prioritizing these areas of collaborative solidarity and work:
- Building and deepening a state-wide, migrant-led defense network of grassroots organizations and leaders eager to organize together;
- Strengthening a mass youth formation with a platform and intervention for 2020 and beyond;
- Developing strategies for anti-gentrification tenant organizing against displacement and for housing for all; and
- Resisting the Republic National Convention 2020 and re-shaping the narrative around housing, education, jobs, and policing.
In 2019, we supported nearly 20 fiscally sponsored projects organizing in their communities for power. Some of those highlights include:
NO NEW PIPELINE
In November, the Robeson County Affordable Housing Coalition (RCAHC) gathered more than 60 activists – Indigenous, Black, Latinx and white – gathered at Oxendine Elementary School in Maxton, NC to discuss the PNG and Duke Energy-funded pipeline due to cut through Robeson County. The activists gathered to “make the invisible visible” by discussing the human and environmental impact of the construction, which is currently underway. Four landowners – all Indigenous – shared the very real impact the construction had made on their lives. “Look around you,” said one landowner, after asking Robeson County residents to stand. “These are the people you will read about who have cancer [because of the LNG pipeline].”
One of the organizers had said during the meeting that the White House had cleared the transport of liquefied natural gas via rail to Wilmington. The gas would be compressed at the station in Robeson county. After the three hour meeting, activists assembled at Rev Bill Road to march to the new natural gas compression station under construction, chanting: “Cut the crap! Stop the LNG! Give our people what we need!”
MAY 1 TEACHER’S DAY OF ACTION
Community Alliance for Public Education (CAPE) organized and mobilized thousands of teachers from districts across North Carolina to take action on May 1 in Raleigh, NC. The demands of the educators included: 1. Provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national professional-to-student standards; 2. Provide $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5% raise for all ESPs (non-certified staff), teachers, administrators, and a 5% cost of living adjustment for retirees; 3. Expand Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families; 4. Reinstate state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017; 5. Restore advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013.
CAPE’s and the educators’ organizing efforts continue as the state is heading into over 200 days without a budget.
Comite de Accion Popular (CAP) led a valiant effort, in partnership with migrant-led organizations across North Carolina, to push back against HB370 AKA “show me your papers” law. CAP began organizing in late summer and by November had successfully pressured Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the proposed legislation. Their organizing efforts including daily protests in front of the governor’s mansion, advocacy at the legislature, and broad-base community engagement involving know your rights trainings and phone zaps.
MAKING STUDENT IDS COUNT
We supported a time-limited campaign to ensure that all college students across the state are able to use their student IDs in order to vote. On September 30, more than 70 campuses either had not submitted the appropriate documentation to validate their student IDs or had been denied and need to resubmit. Fayetteville State was among 15 of the schools that were denied.
We were able to hire 2 campus organizers that successfully ensured 250,000+ students would continue to have access to the ballot. The organizers focused on working with and pressuring campus administrators where needed in order to get applications submitted in a timely manner. Following the recent historic NC supreme court ruling on gerrymandering, we know the work continues to ensure enfranchisement for all. Voter suppression efforts continue to impact primarily youth, student, and communities of color.
SOUTHERN MOVEMENT INFRASTRUCTURE EXCHANGE
In partnership with Campaign for Southern Equality, we brought together 20 participants representing grassroots organizations, funders, and grassroots intermediaries to assess and dream about the state of southern movement infrastructure.
The convening took place at the historic Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee. The focus of the 2 day gathering was on building stronger alignment to shift resources and capacity to grassroots
organizations, organizers, and efforts. How do we play our roles really well from where we are? How do we shift from fundraising to resource mobilization? How do we remain grounded in the ultimate call from our people: to get free? What are the tools and resources we already hold and how do we continue to build them towards our liberation?
Loan Tran (SVA) and Veronica Garcia (CSE, WRAP, formerly GIFT) presented at the Unity Summit on some of the lessons we learned during our time together. The session was an opportunity for funders to consider how they can be more authentic partners in supporting movement building infrastructure in the South.
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