2022 Program Topic:
Voting Rights/Elections/Civic Engagement
Friday November 18
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.
Since Reconstruction, the public school has been a central site of struggle for racial justice, from segregation and redlining to curriculum and the school-to-prison pipeline. Any movement strategy and action that leaves out schools is missing a key element of victory, and ceding ground to the forces of reaction.
How do we break down silos to better integrate the fight for public education into larger movements for racial justice? In this session we’ll hear from practitioners who have organized across disparate issues to bring neighborhoods and cities together, and collectively chart new paths forward for grassroots activism centered in BIPOC communities.
Hear from student, parent and educator leaders of the H.E.A.L. Together (Honest Education, Action & Leadership) national school district organizing initiative who will share lessons learned from organizing against the ultra-right’s manufactured anti-CRT and expanding culture wars. Panel discussion followed by small group breakouts.
The importance of building youth political power.
Connecting struggles against anti-CRT attacks to ultra-right’s new expanded focus on gender and how it is part of a broader effort to dismantle public education.
Lessons in multiracial and multigenerational organizing “beyond the choir” to build a bigger “we”.
Conducting a broad community listening project to change the story about the role of public schools and build strong organization.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) represents an opportunity and an imperative for local governments to intentionally engage with and invest in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities and populations who, because of deliberate governmental and institutional policy decisions, are regularly harmed by and disenfranchised from government budgeting processes. ARPA funds can be truly transformational, both as a process to build community power, and because of investments that address community defined priorities. But cities need help to make this a reality. Institutional and cultural polices and engrained practices limit what is thought to be possible, even with an intention to push beyond what has normally been done. In this workshop and based on our experiences in Massachusetts, we will describe, discuss, and collectively identify solutions that: increase power for BIPOC and other disenfranchised populations to decide how public resources get spent (not just provide input), and normalize actions that demonstrate how government can collaborate with residents who have been historically excluded.
Workshop participants will gain ideas, skills, and examples to go back to their communities to:
- Describe ARPA and its opportunity for transformational change, particularly in communities of color
- Amplify key messages related to ARPA and the requirement to embed equity in the process
- Identify examples from the field and brainstorm considerations moving forward
- Apply tools and methods to disrupt traditional decision-making processes in government budgeting processes by advocating for community-led processes
- Practice power and actor mapping with participant’s community in mind
Saturday November 19
From the global pandemic to racist police violence to wealth inequality and the consequences of climate change, the struggle for an inclusive democracy is in danger. The work of building inclusive democracy requires the efforts of artists and musicians as much as it needs organizers, teachers, and community and local government leaders. Art and culture-makers have always been uniquely able to bridge divides, applying their creative skill to the hopes and fears that animate and unite us, using their spotlight to hold power accountable, and inviting fans and consumers of their work into new spaces that foster inclusion and belonging.
For the past two years, Western States Center has been actively engaging with the question of what happens when we bring together diverse cohorts of artists and musicians to break isolation and discuss some of the most relevant issues of our time: racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, white nationalism, and authoritarian threats to democracy. This Facing Race panel discussion brings together a few of the voices from those cohorts: artists and musicians who have embraced the work of inclusive democracy in their art, fan and industry engagement. Workshop participants will join a conversation with these culture change-makers, including singer/songwriters from our Inclusive Democracy Culture Lab, about the power and relevance of art and music in justice and anti-bigotry movements today, the challenges they face, and the critical roles for artists and musicians in the coming days.
The PBC community workshops are central to the engagement approach, and include tools and resources to make this learning and sharing experience highly didactic, inclusive, and accessible. PBC is a multidisciplinary project combining skills, assets, and methods from popular education, civic engagement, community organizing, arts, and design. Throughout the breakout sessions we intend to utilize the PBC toolkit to support community workshops. The toolkit includes assets to interactively participate and visually document the different parts of the workshop:
Reflection and visioning - This part facilitates a conversation about experiences and ideation, focuses on sharing personal experiences and collective visions, and is guided by the question: what do our communities need to be safe and thriving? Reflection and envisioning as part of the methodology is foundational, allowing people to connect and expand their imaginations. This will be mostly reflected in the panel discussion and as we begin building a budget.
Participatory budget game - This part is intended to support a collective discussion about budget priorities and shared decision-making. Understanding and comparing budget data is a very powerful aspect of the engagement process. After developing their visionary community budget, participants compare it to a city’s actual budget. This moment ignites action and activates next steps.
Activation and connection - During this part of the workshop, the group is prompted to synthesize key themes and debrief with one another to actualize their work into action.
Tensions between the US and China have been on the rise for years, and sharply escalated through the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to escalated anti-Asian and Sinophobic sentiments, impacting Asian American communities domestically. As Professor Russell Jeung, cofounder of Stop AAPI Hate, has said, “When America China-bashes, then Chinese get bashed, and so do those who look Chinese. American foreign policy in Asia is American domestic policy for Asians.”
In 2022, we have found that rhetoric that scapegoats China for problems in the US has been become increasingly important to Republican Party strategy, and has also been incorporated into Democratic Party strategy in efforts to win over white swing voters.
What is the connection between racism and foreign policy? How do we address this question within Democratic Party politics? What role must communities play in opposing scapegoating during elections?
This workshop will seek to explore these questions through the case study of Asian American Midwest Progressives’ response to US Senate Candidate Tim Ryan’s “One Word” advertisement. The ad ran in March and April of 2022, and featured the candidate naming China as the main reason why American workers are suffering, putting AAPI communities in Ohio at risk. AAMP’s Ohio chapter mobilized to oppose this xenophobic rhetoric and demand the ad be taken down. We invite those interested in anti-racist electoral work to join this workshop to strategize possible responses to scapegoating in election campaigns and draw connections between foreign policy and impacts on communities of color.