May 15, 2018

Funders for Justice Announces 2nd Cohort of Field Advisors

FFJ is proud to announce our 2nd cohort of FFJ Advisors – 12 powerhouse leaders from cities across the US. These leaders organize in multiple racial and gender justice movements to end criminalization of communities of color, including: organizing in Native nations, Latinx migrant justice, transgender rights, youth and multi-generational organizing, South Asian migrant and worker justice, power-building in the South, bail reform, Black organizing and power-building, community-determined safetyand a world without prisons, an end to the public health crisis of incarceration, and an end to sexual assault and gender-based violence. FFJ looks forward to deepening our own understanding of these movements, and to stepping up our commitment to mobilize resources to support transformative social change. FFJ Field Advisors are selected in recognition of their expertise and leadership in movements for racial and gender justice, anti-criminalization movements, and efforts to inform more impactful grantmaking for community power-building.

The Funders for Justice Advisors for 2018-2019 are:

In their role as advisors, they will guide FFJ’s work in lifting up community safety and justice models, join FFJ for national panels and workshops, and share their visions for change and what’s needed from philanthropy in this moment. We hope you will look to them as thought leaders and partners in your own work as well. Funders for Justice is a national organizing platform of grantmakers, donor networks, and funder affinity groups increasing resources to grassroots organizations at the intersection of racial justice, gender justice, community safety, and policing. If you would like to get involved with NFG’s ongoing conversations about these issues, email us at fundersforjustice@nfg.org 


 

Fahd Ahmed

DRUM - Desis Rising Up and Moving

Fahd Ahmed came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant from Pakistan in 1991. He has been a grassroots organizer on the issues of racial profiling, immigrant justice, police accountability, national security, surveillance, workers’ rights, and educational justice over the last 18 years. Fahd has been involved with DRUM - Desis Rising Up & Moving in various capacities since 2000, when he had family members facing deportation, and entrapment as part of the War on Drugs. Within DRUM, Fahd co-led the work with Muslim, Arab, and South Asian immigrant detainees before, and immediately after 9/11, by coordinating the detainee visitation program. As the Legal and Policy Director at DRUM (2011-2014), Fahd ran the End Racial Profiling Campaign and brought together the coalitions working on Muslim surveillance, and stop and frisk, to work together to pass the landmark Community Safety Act.

For the last 3 years, Fahd has been the Executive Director of DRUM. Fahd was a recipient of the Haywood Burns Fellowship from the National Lawyers Guild, and served as an Ella Baker intern at the Center for Constitutional Rights. In addition to DRUM, Fahd worked as a legal consultant with the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana on documenting and reforming policies of juvenile detention center in Louisiana. Fahd also worked as a lecturer and researcher on Islamophobia, national security, and social movements at the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative at the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. He was also a Human Rights and National Security Reform Fellow with the Rockwood Leadership Institute, and a Fellow with the American Muslim Civil Leadership Institute.


 

Jenny Arwade

Communities United 

Jenny Arwade is Co-Executive Director of Chicago-based Communities United (CU), a racial justice organization which brings together young people and adult allies to advance social change and systems transformation. CU’s approach is centered on the creation of intentional healing and justice spaces, transformative civic engagement and leadership development approaches, and the development of broad-based alliances. Jenny has 16 years of organizing experience during which time she has sumepported young people and adult allies in creating the nation’s most comprehensive statewide school discipline reform, advancing strategies through an invest/divest framework to shift resources from police in schools and incarceration into school and community supports, and more. Jenny is a graduate of Princeton University, serves as Vice Chair of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation, and is a field representative on the Board of Advisors for the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing.


 

Tarana Burke

#MeToo Founder and Girls for Gender Equity 

Tarana has worked in social justice and Black arts and culture for more than twenty-five years. Her long and varied professional career started in Selma, AL where, over the span of a decade, she worked with: the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement helping to develop hundreds of youth leaders across the country; at the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute serving as a curatorial consultant and special projects director helping to organize the annual commemoration and celebration of the Selma Voting Rights Struggle known as the Bridge Crossing Jubilee; and as Executive Director of the Black Belt Arts and Cultural Center where she created and oversaw cultural community programs designed for underserved youth. Tarana’s work in Selma earned her a consulting position with the production of the 2014, Oscar nominated film, SELMA directed by the incomparable Ava DuVernay whom she met while serving as Managing Director of Art Sanctuary, a Black arts organization based in Philadelphia.

Tarana is passionate about social justice and has made a lifelong commitment to serving the causes of people of color and marginalized groups with a particular focus on young women and girls. She has done organizing work from the deep South the the East Coast dealing with issues ranging from economic justice to police brutality. Her passion for justice has taken her around the country and the world where she has been invited to speak and present at various conferences and gatherings in multiple states and countries, including: Senegal, Cuba, Mali, and Tunisia as a UN Delegate for the World Summit on Information Systems. In 2003 she turned her focus to young women of color and co-founded Jendayi Aza an African-centered Rites of Passage program for girls. That program eventually evolved into the creation of her non-profit Just Be, Inc. Since its inception, Just Be has served hundreds of girls around the country through unique programming and workshops. Through the work of Just Be, Tarana started the ‘me too.’ Movement, a campaign using the idea of “empowerment through empathy” to help young women of color who are survivors of sexual abuse, assault and exploitation. The campaign is designed to, among other things, train women who are survivors to work in communities of color and fringe communities where there is less access to resources.

Tarana continues her work in service of young women of color as Senior Director of Girls for Gender Equity, a youth leadership development organization working to actualize racial and gender justice in partnership with the young people we serve. Often sought out for social commentary, Tarana has been published and quoted in Colorlines, Mic, BK Nation, Glamour, Ebony, Essence, The Source and The Root among others. Tarana also runs the blog SheSlays.com - a personal style diary. She currently resides in New York City and has daughter who is made of magic.


 

Charlene Carruthers

BYP100 

Charlene A. Carruthers is a Black, queer feminist community organizer and writer with over 10 years of experience in racial justice, feminist and youth leadership development movement work. She currently serves as the national director of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), an activist development movement work. She currently serves as the national director of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), an activist member-led organization of Black 18-35 year olds dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. Her passion for developing young leaders to build capacity within marginalized communities has led her to work on immigrant rights, economic justice and civil rights campaigns nationwide.

She has led grassroots and digital strategy campaigns for national organizations including the Center for Community Change, the Women's Media Center, ColorOfChange.org and National People's Action, as well as being a member of a historic delegation of young activists in Palestine in 2015 to build solidarity between Black and Palestinian liberation movements.

Charlene is the winner of the "New Organizing Institute 2015 Organizer of the Year Award" and has served as a featured speaker at various institutions including Wellesley College, Northwestern University and her alma mater Illinois Wesleyan University. Charlene also received a Master of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. Charlene was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago where she currently resides and continues to lead and partake in social justice movements. Her work has been covered several publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Reader, The Nation, Ebony and Essence Magazines. She has appeared on CNN, Democracy Now!, BBC and MSNBC. Charlene has also written for theRoot.com, Colorlines and the Boston Review. She was recently recognized as one of the top 10 most influential African Americans in The Root 100. Her inspirations include a range of Black women, including Ella Baker, Cathy Cohen, and Barbara Ransby. In her free time, Charlene loves to cook and believes the best way to learn about people is through their food.


 

Marisa Franco

Mijente 

Marisa Franco is a Phoenix-based organizer, writer and strategist. She is the Director and co-Founder of Mijente, a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx organizing and movement building. In her more than 15 years of work, Marisa has helped lead key campaigns rooted in low-income and communities of color, characterized by their innovation and effectiveness. Most recently she led the #Not1More Deportation campaign and co-authored How We Make Change is Changing. She is a trusted collaborator with grassroots leaders across the country spanning immigrant rights, racial justice, feminist, LGBTQ and labor movements.


 

Morning Star Gali

Native Justice Now 

Morning Star Gali, a member of the Ajumawi band of Pit River located in Northeastern California, is a Leading Edge Fellow focusing on the disproportionate impact of the criminal and juvenile justice systems on Native Americans. She has worked as the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Pit River Tribe, and with several Indigenous-led grassroots organizations in the Bay Area. She continues to lead large-scale actions while helping organize Native cultural, spiritual, scholarly, and political gatherings throughout California. Since 2008 she has been a host on KPFA’s “Bay Native Circle” and is the proud mother of four children.


 

Stephanie Guilloud

Project South 

Stephanie Guilloud is originally from Houston, Texas with roots in Alabama. Stephanie is an organizer with 17 years of experience and leadership in global justice work and community organizing. At Project South, Stephanie works closely with Southeast regional organizing projects, the Southern Movement Assembly, and membership programs. Stephanie worked as the National Co-Chair of the Peoples Movement Assembly Working Group of the US Social Forum from 2008-2013. She served on the board of Southerners On New Ground (SONG), a multiracial queer organization, from 2005-2014. Stephanie is the editor of two anthologies: Through the Eyes of the Judged; Autobiographical Sketches from Incarcerated Young Men and Voices from the WTO; First-person Narratives from the People who Shut Down the World Trade Organization. 


 

Kris Hayashi

Transgender Law Center 

Kris Hayashi has over 20 years of movement building, leadership and organizing experience. As a public transgender person of color, Kris has been a leader in movements for justice and rights for transgender and gender nonconforming communities for over 13 years.

Kris became Executive Director at Transgender Law Center, one of the largest organizations in the country advancing the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming people, in February 2015. Prior to that, he had served over a year in the role of Deputy Director at the organization. Kris took on his first Executive Director position at the age of 23 at Youth United for Community Action in California (YUCA). YUCA is a grassroots community organization created, led, and run by young people of color, to provide a safe space for young people to empower themselves and work on environmental and social justice issues to establish positive systemic change through grassroots community organizing.

Kris took on his second Executive Director position five years later at the age of 28 at the Audre Lorde Project (ALP) in New York City. ALP is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, trans and gender nonconforming people of color center for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area. Kris served as Executive Director at ALP for over ten years. During his tenure at ALP, ALP launched one of the first organizing and advocacy projects in the country led by trans and gender nonconforming people of color, the annual NYC Trans Day of Action now in its 11th year, and won a monumental campaign getting NYC’s welfare agency to adopt community developed policies on serving trans and gender nonconforming people.


 

Mary Hooks

Southerners On New Ground 

Mary Hooks joined the SONG team as a field organizer for the state of Alabama in March 2011. Her passion for helping people is reflected in her years of community service and mentoring. Mary’s background is in Human Resources and holds a Master of Business Administration with a focus in Human Resources Management and recently obtained her Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification.

Though Mary is new to organizing, her personal story has prepared her for such a time as this. The chapters of her life begin with a life of poverty, being parentless, and shy. Eventually the story unfolds of a rebellious teenager who converts to a devoted Christian in Pentecostal church, who comes out as a lesbian and left without the support of her foster or church family and stricken with tons of Christian guilt. The climax of this story occurs when, in undergrad at a private Lutheran college, Mary begins to redefine her self and discovered a radical desire to be a catalyst for change in the world.

Since then Mary has relocated to the hot shades of Atlanta, GA, and has found her niche in organizing with SONG, throwing dope parties and singing with the Juicebox Jubilees, a queer choir, created to provide a safe space for folks to gather their voices together, sip a little wine, and sing songs that uplift, inspire, and liberate. As she continues to navigate through movement work, she hopes that the folks she connects with are inspired to write their stories of self-determination, liberation, and love.


 

Mark-Anthony Johnson

Frontline Wellness Project 

Mark-Anthony Johnson is an organizer, licensed acupuncturist, and a 2017 Soros Justice Fellow. He is the Founder of Frontline Wellness Network, a California statewide network of health care providers working to end the public health crisis of incarceration. Mark-Anthony formerly served as the Director of Health and Wellness at Dignity and Power Now, a grassroots organization based in Los Angeles that fights for the dignity and power of incarcerated people, their families, and communities.


 

Zach Norris

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights 

Zachary Norris is the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and a former director of our Books Not Bars campaign. Prior to rejoining the organization, Zachary co-founded and co-directed Justice for Families, a national alliance of family-driven organizations working to end our nation’s youth incarceration epidemic.

During the seven years he led the campaign, Books Not Bars built California’s first statewide network for families of incarcerated youth, led the effort to close five youth prisons in the state, passed legislation to enable families to stay in contact with their loved ones, and defeated Prop 6—a destructive and ineffective criminal justice ballot measure.

In addition to being a Harvard graduate and NYU-educated attorney, Zachary is also a graduate of the Labor Community Strategy Center’s National School for Strategic Organizing in Los Angeles, California and was a 2011 Soros Justice Fellow. He is a former board member at Witness for Peace and Just Cause Oakland and is currently serving on the Justice for Families board. Zachary was a recipient of the American Constitution Society's David Carliner Public Interest Award in 2015, and is a member of the 2016 class of the Levi Strauss Foundation's Pioneers of Justice. Zachary is a loving husband and dedicated father of two bright daughters, whom he is raising in his hometown of Oakland, California.


 

Marbre Stahly-Butts

Law for Black Lives 

Marbre Stahly-Butts, Co-Director of Law for Black Lives, works closely with organizers and communities across the country to advance and actualize radical policy. She currently serves on the Leadership Team of the Movement For Black Lives Policy Table and helped develop the Vision for Black Lives Policy Platform. Since graduating from Yale Law School four years Marbre has supported local and national organizations from across the country in their policy development and advocacy. 

She joined the Center for Popular Democracy as a Soros Justice Fellow in Fall 2013. Her Soros Justice work focused on organizing and working with families affected by aggressive policing and criminal justice policies in New York City in order to develop meaningful bottom up policy reforms. After the end of her Soros fellowship Marbre served as Deputy Director of Racial Justice at Center for Popular Democracy for two years. While in law school, Marbre focused on the intersection of criminal justice and civil rights and gained legal experience with the Bronx Defenders, the Equal Justice Initiative and the Prison Policy Initiative. Before law school Marbre received her Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and worked in Zimbabwe organizing communities impacted by violence and then in South Africa teaching at Nelson Mandela’s alma mater. Marbre graduated from Columbia University, with a BA in African-American History and Human Rights.

Find More By:

News type: 
May 9, 2019

Building Power in the Sunshine State: Lessons from FJE’s Florida Learning Tour

In April 2019, NFG's Funders for a Just Economy and Florida Philanthropic Network brought together funders from across the country and community organizing leaders in Florida to explore how diverse communities in the state are building power and political infrastructure for workers’ rights, migrant justice, women’s rights, and more.

Sienna BaskinSienna Baskin, Director of the Anti-Trafficking Fund at NEO Philanthropy, shares her experience from the learning tour. You can follow Sienna at @SiennaBaskin and NEO at@NEOPhilanthropy

Would you be able to come from the frozen Northeast to a resort in Ft. Myers without relishing the feeling of your toes in sandals or the warm bay breezes? I know these were my first impressions as I landed for the Funders for a Just Economy Florida Funder Tour. But as we left the sunshine to enter a darkened conference room, our eyes adjusted to read the first slide: “Racial Capitalism and Resistance in the Sunshine State.” As funders, many of us tourists and outsiders, we were invited in to learn the real story of Florida.

During this introduction to the tour, we learned that the inequities Floridians are suffering were sown in the earliest days of European colonization, and the roots of revolt stretch just as far back. By the 1800’s, Native Seminole communities were a haven for escaped slaves, and some of the largest anti-slavery uprisings were launched from these enclaves. Post-reconstruction, this blossoming of freedom was repressed with an especially brutal reign of the KKK – Florida had the highest number of lynchings per capita of any southern state. Florida also passed the first “Right to Work” law in the nation, disenfranchising African American communities to maintain the status quo, and built the tourism sector with leased convict labor. Considering these challenges, Cuban, Spanish and Italian workers built strong unions and mounted many strikes at cigar-rolling factories. In 1968 it was out of a failed sanitation strike in St. Petersburg that one of the fastest growing multiracial unions in the south — SEIU Florida Public Service Union – was born. And just this week, Florida passed one of the harshest anti-immigrant bills in the country, banning sanctuary cities and requiring local government agencies to cooperate with ICE.

Learning tour participants sit at tables to listen to local community organizers in a colorful room surrounded by posters.

Photos by Arista Collective

This sense of a violent swing from liberation to repression and back again permeated our time in Florida. We met many of the brilliant leaders riding these waves. They had much to teach us. Like the country at large, Florida is almost perfectly balanced between progressive possibility and conservative ideology. Every election is won or lost by 1%, but a Republican stronghold has held onto power. This means organizers must find ways to engage conservatives around shared values, build an alternate narrative powerful enough to contest for governing power and move the apolitical (30% of voters are unaffiliated), or create new systems of accountability and power outside of government.

We heard examples of all of these strategies. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition recently won a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to people with criminal records by connecting with returning citizens, their families, and the wider community around a sense of justice, not by arguing politics. Alliance for Safety and Justice organizes crime victims around criminal justice reform by talking about failures in public safety. The Statewide Alignment Group, an alliance of 7 organizations including Florida Immigration Coalition, Central Florida Jobs with Justice, and Faith in Florida, are building a new electorate through leadership development, community-based popular education, and ballot initiatives, with Medicaid expansion, automatic voter registration and $15 minimum wage in their sights. The Miami Workers Center organizes victims of domestic violence and domestic workers to fight the feminization of poverty with a shared agenda. All aspire to a new definition of civic engagement, where working people are authors of the laws that affect them, an audacious goal in a state that has long repressed workers. This requires not being “prisoners of the moment” as Alphonso Mayfield of the SEIU called it, but seeing where even failure leads to future change, if there is deep collaboration and engagement over years.

Nelly Rodriguez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers speaks to learning tour participants sitting at a table with her.We also visited Immokalee, a town of migrant workers, small bodegas and vast tomato and citrus farms. Around bright oilcloth-covered tables we heard about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' famous human rights program, built to change the slavery-like conditions on industrial farms. By holding the brands at the top of the supply chain accountable for enforcing worker protections and threatening the loss of sales for farm owners if they did not sign up, workers were able to institute higher pay and standards than even the law requires. Surrounded by hand-painted signs from their marches against Wendy’s, Taco Bell and other corporate giants, we saw the potential of this program, born of necessity in one of the most oppressive regions and industries in the country for low-wage workers.

Unfortunately, philanthropy is not always walking with these activists. While Florida is perceived as a wealthy state, we learned that there are almost no social justice funders in Florida, especially for workers or immigrant rights. Many holders of wealth hail from outside of Florida, and think of the state as their vacation or retirement spot, not where they should be giving back. And national funders aren’t always investing in the most impactful ways. Money pours into Florida for disaster response or to swing the state during election years, focused on numbers, not depth or long-term engagement. These kinds of resources may lead to the problem of “burnt turf,” when voters don’t trust that organizers are really working in their best interest. For long term grassroots investment, Florida often falls through the cracks.

Two people on the learning tour sit in a bus looking out onto farm fields.

Photos by Arista Collective

The Contigo Fund showed us one example of how to do things differently. After the massacre of 49 LGBTQ Latinx young people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a combined effort through crowdfunding and traditional philanthropy raised 30 million for the families and survivors, and 3 million more was raised for longer term efforts. The Contigo Fund carried out an assessment to learn how the community identified the conditions they were facing, the gaps in resources, and their hopes and dreams for change. The resulting grants promoted 37 new LGBTQ leaders of color into positions of power, launched new programs for LGBTQ communities in existing organizations, and helped found 11 new organizations led by LGBTQ people of color in central Florida.

Tarell McCraney, writer of the Academy Award-winning “Moonlight,” called Miami “a beautiful nightmare.”  My sense, after soaking in Florida sunsets and hearing from these activists, is that this moniker could apply to the entire state. Florida has suffered many traumas: historical, environmental, collective and individual. It is top in the nation for poverty-wage jobs, has the highest rate of ICE arrests in the country, and was home to half of all US murders of trans people in 2018. But it also has enormous potential, potential Florida activists and organizers can feel. Some of the most brilliant organizing strategies in the country are emerging from this state, out of the urgency of the moment and the creativity of activists overcoming high barriers. These are the strategies we need to turn this whole country around. Marcia Olivo of the Miami Workers Center shared her belief that out of healing can come collective action, and without this action, healing is incomplete. Philanthropy has an opportunity to help move this, and all the other exciting ideas in Florida, to a place of flourishing.

More about the tour: Tour Agenda | Speaker Bios | Attendees List

We are so grateful to the organizations that worked with us on this tour: Alliance for Safety and Justice, Alianza for Progress, Central Florida Jobs with Justice, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Community Justice ProjectContigo Fund, Dream Defenders, Faith in Florida, Fair Food Standards Council, Family Action Network Movement, Farmworkers Association of Florida, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Florida New Majority, Florida Philanthropic Network, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Miami Workers Center, Organize Florida, QLatinx, SEIU Public Services Union of Florida, VIDA Legal Assistance, WeCount!

May 1, 2019

FFJ Advisor Discussion Series: Jenny Arwade

Photo of JennyJenny Arwade, Co-Executive Director of Communities United and FFJ Field Advisor, tells us about current Chicago happenings and the role of healing justice in “building the power necessary to change the conditions in our communities, dismantle structural racism, and address long term healing through transformative change”.

What are some key fights happening in Chicago that you think folks across the country should be watching?

In Chicago, we are coming off of a historic Mayoral run-off election, with voters electing the city’s first Black, Lesbian woman as Mayor. We now have Black women at the helm of our city, county, and occupying a key position in our state as Lieutenant Governor. All eyes are watching to see if this will help our city lead to progressive change, or if the status quo will merely be reinforced through new leadership. What we do know is that all three women have a stated an ongoing commitment to criminal justice and juvenile justice reform, and addressing the cycle of violence through positive investments in communities.

There are several key things to watch for: Under this new leadership, will we start seeing progress towards community justice reinvestment? — a paradigm shift in which public resources are invested in meeting the employment, housing, educational and health needs in communities of color that have been hardest hit by disinvestment, mass incarceration, and immigration enforcement, rather than perpetuating systems that reinforce trauma, violence, and the separation of families. Can we move from a place of winning critical policy changes, and losing others, to having truly transformational change to preserve Chicago as a city that continues to be home to the poor and working class, and where a holistic racial equity agenda is advanced by both communities and our elected leaders?

This may all sound aspirational – but that is the key challenge ahead of us. We need to not only believe it is possible, but recognize that it will only be possible with visionary demands, coming from communities most directly impacted. While having people that represent the identities of our communities is an important aspect of the paradigm shifts we are working towards, we know from history that it is not just who represents us, but the movement for change that is built from the ground up that will make the difference.

Why does Communities United use a Healing Justice Frame? How is Healing Justice central and vital to your work and the work of Communities United?

“We are the solution we need”

Communities United’s Healing Justice frame is centered around the need to decolonize health and wellness. While there is growing attention to the medical benefits of mindfulness, yoga, and other practices that are deeply rooted in the ancestry of people of color, they are also becoming billion dollar industries that in many cases continue to fuel corporate profit, and underscore elitism, cultural appropriation, and a lack of access for communities most directly impacted by trauma.

CU’s approach is grounded in the notion that we all have the capacity to be our own healers, and support the healing and wellness of those around us – that we ARE the solution we need. Breaking it down very simply, our approach to healing justice focuses on the sharing of our stories and our wounds, building a community of support, moving to collective action, and being conscious of our own movement and breath as we build together. We believe that every act of self-love and individual recovery is an act of heroic living. By building a critical mass of individuals who are redefining what investments in communities need to look like, we are building heroic communities. This leads to building the type of power needed to hold public systems accountable and advance change that is truly transformational.

What do you want funders to better understand about the healing justice frame?

We believe that a healing justice frame creates a pathway for systems change and community change that is transformational. Through our work with mental health professionals, we have broad agreement both that the scope and impact of trauma is so expansive that clinical supports will never be enough, and that there are often no systems available that reflect the cultural dynamics and histories of communities of color. We also have agreement that the critical role of community in supporting the healing process is not widely recognized or valued through traditional systems, even though it can have the most powerful impacts. Healing needs to be broadly accessible, and the reason community plays a vital role is that it is rooted in relationship – our relationship to ourselves, each other, and our understanding of the world around us. We all have the power to be our own healers, and to help each other on the healing process.

Partnerships are also critical in this work. CU partners with organizations that have values and approaches that are aligned with our healing justice frame, such as organizations focused on supporting individuals suffering from addiction along their path to recovery using approaches that include traditional healing practices, and more. These partnerships are critical to bringing the breadth of community wisdom and values-aligned health institutions together to advance our healing justice work.

We are currently working to build movement with our Healing and Justice Transformation framework across communities. Our hope is that the more we all share and make resources accessible, the more this work can grow and become part of the fabric of how communities and institutions are engaging in this work. As we work to decolonize health and wellness, we believe there is a crucial role for mental health professionals, especially those that come from our communities, but that healing and wellness is a movement approach.

How do you understand the political moment that we’re in? What do you think we need to do differently right now?

Healing justice is about building the power necessary to change the conditions in our communities, dismantle structural racism, and address long term healing through transformative change. If we believe that “we are the solution we need,” then we need to trust communities to define our own needs, what makes us well, and not try to fit anything into a box. In this political moment, as in all political moments, we have to look back to our roots. Healing justice is not a new shiny object, but an approach grounded in our ancestry and past movements, and propelled by the vision of our next generation of leaders.