I want to do some time traveling with you. Clear your mind for a bit and think back to the way you were feeling around the start of last year. We were coming out of eight years under then-President Barack Obama. We witnessed an election of a certain reality tv star (aka Mr. Twitter Fingers) whose campaign platform was solely white supremacy, fear, and hate mongering. We watched a certain former secretary of state blame her loss on marginalized folk and, the system, and a politician who didn’t address overt sexism and only remembered Black lives when he was initially protested. Many of us, even on inauguration day, were still saying “This can’t be happening.” How did you feel? What actions did you take? Were there heated discussions about who didn’t vote? Were you scared for your family? Did you think of your ancestors? Did you pray? What was your first reaction? Did it feel like this was the end?
I, like many of you, was stuck scratching my head as I watched a reality television star being sworn in as commander in chief. I kept thinking, “Where do we go from here?” For the last 12 months, our communities have been scrambling. Scrambling for healthcare, employment, housing and many other basic needs of the people. For folks who are newly awakening to the daily reality of marginalized people in this country, you might think this new administration is somewhat of a setback to all the progress that was made under President Obama. To believe this, is to ignore the years of resistance by our ancestors and erase their struggle. Our ancestors who did the groundwork to get us here today. It also implies that our most vulnerable communities ever had equitable or even equal opportunities.
Our ancestors were supreme strategists and innovators. Even in times of malnourishment, the splitting up of our families, fires, disease, enslavement and tyranny–they found a way to keep hope alive in the subjugation that was the actuality of their time here on earth. The hope alive in our hearts is the tune we carry everyday that our ancestors sang. Our Enlace team is made up of folks who are Black, latinx, queer, trans, immigrants, first generation, indigenous, women and femmes. So when we come together, we come together channeling the strength of many, many generations that have been and those who have yet to come. This is the wind at our back as we do liberation work. We create our own opportunities and strike when the timing is right.
Over the last year, Enlace has had some amazing victories. We were ahead of the curve working hard to lead the way in the Prison Divest movement. With the support of trusted community organizations and individuals coming forth providing their testimony, we got the city of Portland, Oregon to divest from private prisons and became the first city in the nation to permanently divest from prison profiteers like Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Chase and other problematic companies like Caterpillar that destroy the lives and land of indigenous peoples around the world. To date, Enlace has lead the work to divest $4.5 billion dollars from private prisons. We launched a national program, We Rise, training over 40 women, transgender and/or gender nonconforming folks of color in our frameworks. As a staff, we took steps to better embody team wellness and attended a generative somaticstraining to support team health.
In New York on January 2017 the Worker Center Federation, in collaboration with Enlace, launched the first Freedom Cities campaign to address the needs of a broad, diverse movement and the different challenges we all face. In August of 2017, we participated in the Night Out for Safety and Liberation which allowed space for community to redefine and reimagine what public safety really means for our communities.
To achieve true justice and liberation, our movements have to be mutiracial, multi class, multi gender and intersectional. The first step is connecting with those who are aligned with our principles. We are a movement of many leaders. In the last year, Enlace convened our Affiliates Board, made up of old and new worker and immigrant organizations across the country to serve as partners, as this year marks 20 years of Enlace’s movement building. We are truly honored to be working in community with these dynamic organizations of the front-lines for justice. (Info about organizations below.)
“Can we be brave enough to not repeat the same mistakes of the past?”
“What is the legacy we want to leave future generations?”
I don’t believe it’s enough to just get our communities talking to each other, we have to be willing to struggle with each other. As we do this work each day, we bring all of our histories, cultures and traditions of our families near and far with us in our hearts. It’s time to channel the strength of our heritage.It’s time to summon the courage and hope of our youth. It’s time to embody the grace and wisdom of our elders. To get free, we are gonna need you all and we cannot afford to lose you. We have seen what can happen when people look the other way at injustice. Now is the time to be bold, be fearless and organize or be organized. I have hope that as we transform together, we look back to this time and remember:
“Every time you were convinced you couldn’t go on, you did.”
Enlace affiliate board organizations:
CLEAN Carwash: Community Labor Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) is committed to improving the lives of working class families throughout California including the greater Los Angeles area. CLEAN is a diverse coalition of immigrant rights, legal, and labor organizations.
Families For Freedom: Founded in September 2002, Families for Freedom is a New York-based multi-ethnic human rights organization by and for families facing and fighting deportation. We are immigrant prisoners (detainees), former immigrant prisoners, their loved ones, or individuals at risk of deportation. FFF has evolved into an organizing center against deportation.
OPAL Environmental Justice: Building power for Environmental Justice and Civil Rights in our communities. OPAL stands for Organizing People, Activating Leaders. Founded in 2006 by and for people of color and low income, OPAL is the grassroots-driven hub at the center of Oregon’s movement for Environmental Justice. We develop community members’ leadership skills, and motivate them to take action. Together, we lead campaigns, impact public processes, and win victories in policy and procedure to achieve a safe and healthy environment where we live, work, learn, play, and pray. We have an 11-year history of making change at all levels of decision-making, from neighborhood-scale improvements to Federal policy shifts
SEIU Local 49: SEIU Local 49’s mission is to improve the quality of life for our members, their families, and dependents by achieving a higher standard of living, by elevating their social conditions, and by striving to create a more just society.Representing 13,000 workers in Oregon & SW Washington
Tenants and Workers United: Tenants and Workers United builds power of low-income communities of color – primarily immigrants – to create changes that positively impact the quality of our lives in Northern Virginia. We organize and support people to be agents of change in their own lives by addressing the issues they care about. TWU first organized in the mid-1980s in response to the scheduled mass evictions of thousands of low-income renters in the Arlandria neighborhood of Alexandria. Wrongly assuming that residents would simply leave their homes to make way for gentrification, developers sought legal and illegal means to force people out. But the tenants stayed, they studied, and they organized. Together, we won a class-action lawsuit, staving off the evictions and giving us an incentive to keep organizing.
FLIC: The Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) is a statewide coalition of more than 65 member organizations and over 100 allies, founded in 1998 and formally incorporated in 2004 .We are led by our membership – grassroots and community organizations, farm workers, youth, advocates, lawyers, unions and others. More than an organization, FLIC has become a hub for a bold, agile and strategic multi-racial, intergenerational social movement. We work together for the fair treatment of all people, including immigrants.
IDEPSCA: Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA)’s mission is to contribute towards the transformation of creating a more humane and democratic world through the use of popular education. Specifically, our goal is to organize and educate low-income community members who want to resolve problems in their own communities.Our roots trace back to 1984 when a group of students and parents met in Central Park in the City of Pasadena to confront racism, educational inequalities, and the lack of affordable housing. Stories of joy, struggle, and hope became mirrors for our educational and organizing processes.
Laundry Workers Center: Laundry Workers Center is a not-for-profit, member-led organization that provides community-based leadership development to improve the living and working conditions of low wage laundry, warehouse, and food service workers in New York City and New Jersey.Our approach connects community and workplace justice organizing to support families, grow political consciousness, and build grassroots power that is socio-economically sustainable. Laundry Workers Center empowers low-income minority and immigrant communities via transformative organizing, educational training, civic participation and policy advocacy initiatives.Our members are primarily low-income immigrant workers who believe in social and economic justice. LWC campaigns are all member-led.
KIWA: Founded March 1, 1992, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) is one of the first and most well-established worker centers in the United States. KIWA organizes low-wage immigrant workers, tenants, and their families to promote workplace justice, housing rights, immigrants’ rights, democratic and sustainable community development, civic participation, gender justice, and cultural resistance. Our vision is guided by the needs of immigrant workers and by an understanding that workers face injustice both inside and outside their workplaces. A multi-ethnic organization based in Koreatown, KIWA is one of the only groups organizing both Korean and Latino workers. KIWA seeks to strengthen progressive, immigrant worker leadership as part of a broad-based movement for social change.