Governing for Racial Equity
Friday November 18
Our current economic system is unsustainable—for our neighborhoods, our cities, and our planet. What would it look like to live in a world that valued regeneration and cooperation? What would it take to transform the current economy into one rooted in racial, economic, gender, and environmental justice? Share and learn with organizers who are creating community land trusts, worker-owned businesses, financial cooperatives, and public banks to give Black and brown communities shared ownership and control of land, housing, jobs, and finance. Participants will identify systems of extraction in our current economy and examine how those systems operate at neighborhood and citywide levels, and beyond. This provides a foundation for breakout groups where participants envision what a new economy could and should look like in their community, and how to get there.
Our economy can be an equitable economy–that is, an economy organized around the principle of equity: fair and just inclusion into a society where all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Achieving an equitable economy requires redirecting the full powers of our federal government to redesign our economic systems to truly work for all–especially the 100 million people living in America who are systematically shut out of our country’s prosperity, the majority of whom are people of color. This interactive breakout session presents an actionable framework for centering the 100 million in our economic policy and practice.
The dominant economic narrative serves to both confound our understanding of the problems we collectively face and conceal the practical means for addressing them. What this moment requires is a more practical economic worldview, grounded in fact and premised on equity–a worldview that rekindles our economic imagination and serves as a guide for action, both public and private. Our aim is to break through the deliberate abstractions and obfuscating jargon of economic discourse by providing concrete, actionable analysis that recasts the purpose of our economy as providing for the needs of all, especially the 100 million.
ENERGY: What is it good for?
Absolutely everything! As the fight for racial, social, economic, and environmental justice reaches a boiling point, a critical element is absent: a balanced energy system that nourishes our bodies, supports mutual aid, and keeps the lights on.
Luckily, a growing movement that acknowledges energy as a liberatory tool is being led by communities across the country. From Alaska to Puerto Rico, neighborhoods facing similar struggles–from top-down corporate control and colonial bureaucracies, to waves of white supremacy—are discovering exciting ways to pull back the curtain on the ongoing oppression that blocks community resiliency, safety, and health. In an interactive session, attendees will explore a new narrative wherein energy is not simply a commodity, but a shared resource of our communities for equity and empowerment.
In this workshop, the New Social Contract project – a collaboration between Partners for Dignity and Rights and Race Forward – will present community organizing models that have advanced deep, democratic control of the institutions that shape our lives. The true democracy we must move toward is both racially and economically just – which will ensure that all people can fully participate. All over the country, communities and workers are shifting decision-making power to neighborhood residents, students and teachers, workers and working class communities, and introducing real accountability to make sure that these institutions uphold everyone’s fundamental human rights. We are honored to share three inspiring Black and immigrant community-led organizing models that point organizers and advocates towards opportunities to replicate, scale and institutionalize democracy that centers racial and economic justice, as cornerstones of a transformed economy, for the people over profits.
One component of racially and economically just democracy is co-governance – a mode of participation and decision-making in which government and communities work together through formal structures to make collective policy decisions, co-create programs to meet community needs, and make sure those policies and programs are implemented effectively. A prerequisite is established and thorough community-based organizing and engagement among those who have been historically marginalized.
Featuring Rukia Lumumba of People’s Advocacy Institute and Electoral Justice of the Movement for Black Lives; Rosie Grant of the Paterson Education Fund; and Shaw San Liu of the Chinese Progressive Association-San Francisco, moderated by Leah Obias of Race Forward, this workshop will:
Ground participants in a framework for democracy that centers racial and economic justice and weaves together the many insightful frameworks our movement partners have developed.
Share existing models that demonstrate how community members leverage their years of relationship-building and organizing to engage with government entities in order to influence both policy and culture. The speakers will address infrastructure and electoral organizing in Jackson, MS; restorative justice in schools in Paterson, NJ; and workers’ rights in San Francisco.
Share lessons and strategies for advancing racially and economically just democracy and co-governance that can be tested in attendees’ local communities.
Transportation is a topic that everyone has experience with, but community engagement for transportation projects is often not accessible to those outside of the sector. The language used to explain concepts tend to be too technical, and feedback gathered through these engagement efforts is not used in a meaningful way. This session explores how we can change how we do public engagement by incorporating more creative strategies targeted at communities we are trying to serve.
For Denver Moves Everyone, a strategic planning effort conducted by the City of Denver to guide transportation investments by 2050, Connex Consulting and Nelson\Nygaard have conducted a series of creative community engagement strategies aimed at building trust and getting feedback from Denver’s communities of color. We incorporated storytelling into Creative Input Sessions held with members of Denver’s historically and currently underinvested neighborhoods and reached other community members through hiring Community-Based Outreach Partners.
We hope to share the lessons learned from the Denver Moves Everyone community engagement efforts and guide session participants through thinking about how to incorporate storytelling and other creative methods in their work.
Audre Lorde wrote that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. Currently, we use an antiquated electoral system called winner-take-all or first-past-the-post, which originates from our British colonial history. Changing this system may seem impossible. But, in fact, communities across the country have experimented with many reforms. One promising electoral system, proportional representation, was implemented in New York City in the 1930s. It is credited with the election of the first woman and the first people of color elected to city council - including Ben Davis, a Black member of the Communist Party. Fast forward almost 100 years, activists of color are organizing to advance proportional representation at the local level in Dayton (OH), Portland (OR), and King County (WA). Perhaps your community is next?
The workshop provides a crash course for advocates to learn about electoral systems and racial justice. First, we will open with a gallery walk that highlights the history of our electoral system within the broader struggle for racial justice. Then, we will do a deep dive into how our current system protects voting rights (spoiler alert: it's weak sauce). We will then wrap up with an overview of proportional representation and an interactive exercise called "What's for Dinner" to demonstrate how electoral systems impact representation. Participants will leave with a better understanding on how electoral systems impact the movement for multiracial democracy and real tools to engage their organizations and communities.
BHCMC is the driving force in Monterey County on healing-informed governing for racial equity practices and is building toward operating as a true Black- and Brown-led organization. BHCMC will share its journey in building Black and Brown solidarity that is explicitly uprooting anti-Black racism.
This session will share the journey of individual transformation and the cultural shift that BHCMC has committed to in order to become a true anti-Black racism organization. Panelists will discuss the process of leading Healing-Informed Racial Equity work and the pause needed to internally reflect on the organization’s own internal anti-Black policies, practices, and tendencies. They will also share challenges that were faced in expanding geographically across Monterey County as well as expanding the community the organization is accountable to to include Black populations of Seaside, CA, also experiencing racial inequities. They will emphasize the connection between anti-Black racism work as critical to building intergenerational Black and Brown solidarity, a process that was accelerated after the uprisings of 2020. Panelists will discuss lessons learned from organizing a 14-mile march that connects the predominantly Latinx population of East Salinas to the predominantly Black community of Seaside as well as everyday lessons learned around organizing intergenerational Black and Brown communities. There will be an opportunity for a collective reflection on ways to explicitly address anti-Black racism in our work and build toward intergenerational Black and Brown solidarity.
This interactive session will share how frontline leaders are partnering with funders and local government practitioners to advance equitable community-led climate solutions for New Orleans. With funds from Partners for Places and the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Climate Action Equity Advisory Group, convened by the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, assessed racial inequities in energy, waste management, transportation, employment, and entrepreneurship that greatly disadvantage Black residents and Black neighborhoods and co-created recommended actions to equitably address climate change and meet the City’s 2030 greenhouse gas reduction goals. Speakers will share key recommendations from "Taking Steps Together on Equity & Climate Change: A Report By and For New Orleanians" and show how community leaders are now working together to implement one or more of the recommended actions.
This interactive session will highlight the knowledge gained and challenges faced by participants in engaging in this cross-sectional work, while also engaging attendees to share their experiences with community-led work and potential solutions to challenges faced.
Racial justice leaders have long understood the importance of data in advancing equity, but there are few accessible tools that allow them to see their communities through a geographic lens to build community power and equitable solutions. Geographic Tools to Advancing Racial Justice at the Community Level will guide community leaders through a systematic approach to assess disparate outcomes, identify solutions, and amplify community voices. At this session, we will provide community leaders with guidance about data and tools needed to assess and identify solutions, as well as equip participants with specific guidance on how to leverage these types of analyses to inform policy and co-governance. Opportunities will be provided for strategic dialogue and co-creation of important community-driven analyses that can be implemented by participants across geographies. We will demonstrate available tools and share how to use a geographic approach to address systemic issues. We will also show examples, showcase opportunities, and build an understanding and awareness of how using a place-based analyses can help to achieve racial justice.
What does it take to build a long-game strategy to organize policymakers, mobilizers, and narrative shapers, in the city ranked dead last for civic trust? In 2017, Chicago United for Equity started as a question, asking what was possible if trust could be kindled between organizers, policymakers, artists, and researchers who shared a commitment to community-led policymaking.
In the five years since, the CUE network has grown in both cultivating community-led policymaking outside of government, while simultaneously working to open up government from the inside. This session will start with the story of origin for CUE’s work, and the CUE Fellowship model that began in 2017. Participants will dive into two stories of change that have emerged inside and outside government: a community-led budgeting process launched in the midst of the uprisings, and a government-led process to engage community leaders in responding to the crisis of the pandemic.
In illustrating these case studies, participants will engage with models for cross-sector collaboration, lessons learned for the challenges along the way, and what foundations are necessary to sustain relationships across the inside/outside game.
Saturday November 19
What are the possibilities when communities of color work collectively across-race to deepen shared power, organize and develop future-forward democratizing practices and structures that offer a vision for true democracy and transformation with racial justice as the horizon?
In this session community leaders from local coalitions and networks will present a snapshot of the vision, values, culture and practices that are informing this push for community ownership of the institutions that determine their lives. Multi-sectoral efforts for racial justice necessitate the development of new democratic practices that place r transformation at the front and center, along with prioritizing of transparency, accountability, and deeper relationships – centering bold solutions for the long haul.
Speakers TBD but will include representatives from local coalitions and networks in the Puget Sound and Northern California who are building multiracial power for racial justice and transformation in their communities. The session will be supported by Fernando Mejia Ledesma, Co-executive Director of Puget Sound SAGE and Jesse Villalobos from Race Forward’s Place-Based Initiatives, who works to support local racial justice networks in deepening their collective power to bring bold vision into fruition.
SICH’s Plan centers Leading With Equity as a key pillar that also undergirds identified strategic actions across all other pillars. Through this Plan, USICH will collaborate with federal partners, people with lived expertise, and community partners to embed equity across data collection and evidence generation, cross-sector collaboration, homelessness prevention and emergency response, and the provision of housing and services. We know racial equity is a priority for this administration and with homelessness, we want to examine and challenge existing norms, policies, and practices that have and continue to perpetuate stark and persistent racial disparities to promote intentionality and accountability.
As part of the forthcoming dissemination and implementation strategy of the Plan with a diverse set of partners, USICH hopes for the opportunity to engage with Race Forward conference participants in a breakout session focused on strategic planning, speaking truth to power, and better understanding on-the-ground barriers and successes to disrupting profound racial and other disparities in homelessness and other mainstream systems.
After providing detail on USICH’s internal equity work as well as the creation of the Plan and its contents, USICH and federal partners seek to learn from conference perspectives about how to shift narratives, programs, and policies to recognize and commit to eliminating racial and other disparities through facilitated discussion and small group strategic planning. As part of this process of listening and learning, we commit to uplifting and embedding the lived expertise of conference participants across research, policy, and practice in our numerous strategies outlined in the Plan.
Co-Creating Safety in Community is an experiential workshop that explores the wisdom of community members in defining safety for themselves and their neighbors, and creating a vision and a mandate for public officials. Through a series of activities, participants will explore the concept of safety not just as the absence of crime, but as a space of physical and psychological safety where people can thrive. Participants will work with partners, small groups, and individually to explore how we define safety individually and collectively, how those definitions do or do not align with "public safety" structures in local government, and the ways that tax dollars are invested in the name of safety. Participants will leave with materials on their own definition of safety and ideas for bringing this conversation back to their community, and participants will have the option of receiving follow-up materials on the group's collective vision created during the workshop. This workshop is ideal for those who are involved with advocacy and organizing around transforming the criminal legal system, and the lived experiences of those who have been impacted by the system are welcome. However, you do not need any experience with the criminal legal system to participate.
Decriminalization of small quantities of psychoactive substances for personal use, referred to as “decrim,” is one mode of modern reform. Public health scholarship endorses the uptake of decrim practices as a vehicle for reducing the harms associated with drug use, however, a Euro-centric model of drug criminalization alone risks reproducing racial inequality in the U.S., given the inherent anti-Black systems of criminal legal control already in place. Understanding the role of drug criminalization on disrupting the social fabric of communities is essential to the development of new visions of drug policies and understanding how new policies may ameliorate or exacerbate racial oppression.
The first aspect of the session will be a discussion between the presenters on how systems of drug criminalization influence aspects of community well-being and community-driven drug treatment supports. Experiences of community-owned treatment and healing supports will be presented to think through the investment strategies embedded within structural arrangements of drug systems and policies.
In the second half of the session, an advocacy practitioner will discuss what these findings mean to contemporary drug policy solutions and present a case study of cannabis legalization in Maryland demonstrating how linking legalization to community reinvestment was critical to gaining support for recent legislation.
As the country progresses with drug policy developments, we hope the research and policy work in Maryland will help to shape drug decriminalization dialogue and future decriminalization campaigns that undergirds critical race consciousness for reparations of the War on Drugs.
Advancing racial equity is the unfinished business of public administration. In 2021, President Biden ushered in a historic shift by signing an Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. The milestone is part of our nation’s long journey to becoming a more equitable society.
Some federal civil servants started the journey of advancing equity prior to the start of the Biden Administration. As trailblazers, they did not wait until the time was right. Instead, they boldly pushed until the time was right while understanding the importance of remaining persistent.
This session features leaders who were ‘spark-plugs’ for equity as federal civil servants. Because equity is a choice before it becomes an act, discussants will clarify what drives their priorities and values. Experts will explain equity requires breaking out of the siloes that stifle individuals and organizations from advancing creative solutions.
The session is an opportunity for learning among peers that transcends level of government. Attendees will learn stewardship of the common good requires encouraging equity as well. Attendees will learn what discussants gained by changing how they managed projects that were under their purview. Attendees will be reminded significant racial equity progress in government can be achieved even in the absence of a federal mandate.
The first part of the workshop will provide examples of how the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) has operationalized environmental justice and community engagement. The presenters will share how developing community engagement teams that are cross-functional and multi-disciplinary allows for each team member to apply their understanding, perspective, and recommendations to foster meaningful connections with community partners.
The second part will explore EJ communities of the Puget Sound region. We will hear from community leaders about their lived-experience and actions they are taking to build healthy and vibrant communities. Attendees will engage in break-out discussions about what environmental justice means and share stories from their communities. We will also look at PSCAA's environmental justice mapping tool as a way to identify EJ communities and prioritize government resources.
The third part will explore a variety of community engagement activities that can help create awareness, access, empowerment, action, and improvement in EJ communities. Examples will include: community science approaches to air quality, teaching youth how to protect themselves from poor air quality, and the use of micro-mobility as a clean air option to transportation. Session leaders will convey how these activities are tools that can help students and community members connect the dots between climate change, air quality, and environmental justice — while also encouraging community members to be change agents for a more equitable and healthy future. Session attendees will participate in break-out groups to discuss and work through possible engagement activities in their respective communities.