Facing Race: A National Conference in St. Louis, MO — November 20-22, 2024

Leah Obias

Director of Policy and Strategy | Race Forward
Pronouns: they/them
Leah Obias has worked as a community organizer, educator, and advocate. They have a deep background in community organizing, as well as experience working in local government, and 12 years of experience developing grassroots organizations of immigrant, working-class youth and domestic workers in New York City. Leah Obias is a queer, Filipinx community organizer and activist. As the Director of Policy and Strategy, they bring to Race Forward over 15 years of organizing, policy, and movement building experience in youth, immigrant, and low-wage worker spaces.

Presentations from Facing Race 2022

From a Seat at the Table to Democratic Control: Powerbuilding through Co-governance

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.

Moderator(s): Leah Obias Speakers: Rukia Lumumba, Rosie Grant, Shaw San Liu

Presentations from Facing Race 2020

Energy Justice is Racial Justice

This session will examine community organizing and advocacy strategies in Atlanta and Seattle to defend the right to energy in the face of utility shutoffs during wildfires and the pandemic, and advance a renewable energy future in the long term. Atlanta and Seattle are two of the cities taking part in the national effort called 100% Equitable and Renewable Cities Initiative that puts community-based organizations at the center of policy planning for renewable energy to confront the climate crisis.

Speakers: Leah Obias, Chandra Farley, Yolanda Matthews