I am writing to announce that after 5 years as Executive Director and 11 years on staff, I am transitioning out of Freedom to Thrive (formerly Enlace) at the end of this month.
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to win campaigns with people in the US, Mexico, South Korea, Japan, and Central America. I can’t believe that I have been a part of incredible victories, like seafood workers organizing in Mexico, university students demanding prison divestment in New York & California, and pressuring the big banks to cut ties with the prison industry.
As the executive director I have seen so much growth in the organization during these past years. Our achievements include: Over $5 billion divested from the prison industry through the Prison Divestment Campaign, opened an office in New York, stabilized the organization’s finances and introduced a benefits & wellness package for employees, and convened powerful multiracial movements like the New York Worker Center Federation, Freedom Campus, & Freedom Cities
What I have cherished the most is that Freedom to Thrive has always been an organization that does not shy away from evolution, but rather embraces it. Our founder, Peter Cervantes-Gautschi, innovated cross-border corporate campaigns to defend low-wage workers for over a decade. With the sunset of international campaigning came the launch of the Prison Divestment Campaign, that would shift our focus to the US and to the intersection of the criminal and immigration systems for the following ten years.
In times like these where people are driven by hate and distrust of one another, we need to speak out and demand real safety for our communities. The Freedom to Thrive team is driven by transformative justice, committed to principled struggle, and willing to have difficult conversations. Our movement does not need more complacency, or more of the same strategies and approaches. What we need is this type of evolution, or like our founder Peter said: “What we did great today, we need to do even better tomorrow.”
We need bold visionaries and committed people who will do the hard work of realizing our vision. And those leaders are at Freedom to Thrive. We have innovative organizers and trainers like Babatunde Azubuike who leads training programs Umoja and We Rise in Portland, and Basma Eid who led the Delfino Leadership Institute, a multi-lingual, multi-sector capacity-building program in NYC, and is now leading campaigns on the ground in New York. Last year we hired Meron Tebeje, who has managed communications in support of our work, and Stephanie Duncker continues to be the operational glue behind the scenes.
Last year, Melonie Griffiths and Catherine Barnett joined our leadership team, as Deputy Director and Development Director, respectively. With my departure, Melonie and Catherine will be stepping into leadership for an interim period. Melonie has a strong background in labor organizing, training, and national network campaigning. She also has been trained in Generative Somatics and Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD). Catherine has worked extensively in the areas of community development, entrepreneurial training and labor organizing.
The new decade is here and with it the next evolution of Freedom to Thrive. We have shifted from a Latinx-led organization into a Black-led organization. Last year we closed programs like our national organizational affiliate network to make space for new innovative programs.
While the team is planning for the new decade, we will continue current work:
* Leadership development trainings, focused on Black youth, womxn, trans & gender non-conforming leaders of color, and grassroots organizational capacity.
* Divestment and reinvestment campaigns to carry on our fight for a world free from borders, cages, and ever-morphing surveillance at the intersection of crimmigration.
* Pro-Black organizing through an abolitionist framework that prioritizes healing justice.
Be on the lookout for what’s next in the coming months!
Finally, I have no words to describe what this organization has meant to me over this past decade.
Thank you and I love you all,