Youth on the Move: How Funders Can Support the Growing Movement of Young People of Color in 2015

Funders Collaborative for Youth Organizing, Jan 9, 2015

As we begin 2015, we at the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO) have been re-inspired by the undeniable potential for young people of color to play a transformative role in advancing social justice.  Young people of color are demonstrating a readiness to organize that has not been seen in many years.  For funders and others who care about youth leadership and social and racial justice, it is an important time to support the actions taking place across the country to help them coalesce into a sustained movement.  For funders who care about young people, education, health and host of other issues, now is the time to invest not just in direct youth services, but also in the leadership of young people to address the roots of inequality.  Doing this will require an understanding of current youth organizing forms, strategic use of existing resources, and the identification of new resources and strategies to support the youth organizing field.

The conditions facing young people of color are dire: from violence at the hands of police to deportations to the closure of public schools.  In 2014 we saw young people rising to challenge these injustices in ways we could not have predicted.  This included massive protests against police brutality in Ferguson, New York, and beyond; continued pressure from undocumented young people for real immigration reform; a host of victories addressing racial disparities in school discipline; and young people leading the People's Climate March in New York.  Taken together, these events signify that a new generation of organizations and leaders for racial and social justice are taking hold.

This is a clear moment when young people of color are ready to organize.  It is essential that there are structures to support their ongoing engagement and the growth of their power (research has shown that young people of color are eager to engage in solving issues in their communities, but that the challenge has been the lack of opportunity to do so).  The effective support of youth organizing requires an understanding of the diversity of the youth organizing forms that have developed and the different kinds of support needed by each.  Of particular importance is how to support both the new organizational forms that have developed out of this moment and require new kinds of support, as well as the established youth organizing groups that play fundamental roles in sustaining this movement.  There is also a need and opportunity to bring together these different youth organizing forms to learn from each other and create shared strategy.  Based on our experience tracking the field of youth organizing, the following are some of our thoughts on how funders can support the leadership that young people are taking in this moment.

New Strategies for Supporting New Organizational Forms
One of the most exciting things in this moment has been the development of new youth organizing forms that grew in response to particular crisis.  Just as organizational forms are changing, philanthropy will need to change to keep up.  As supporting organizations such as the Wildfire Project have pointed out, these groups that have grown out of "movement moments" are using a momentum based organizing strategy that differs from traditional community organizing approaches.  Funders will need to understand these differences and help these organizations identify appropriate supports.  In addition, many of the new organizations are not 501c3s and some will never be.  This is true of new organizations growing in places like Ferguson as well as many United We Dream affiliates.  While these organizations do not have non-profit status, they are playing crucial roles and need support.  An interesting example of an innovative structure to support new leaders is the fellowship program developed by Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis, which provides stipends and training to young leaders.  Funders will have to find new ways to support these organizations as well helping them access training on alternative organizational structures.

Being Ready for the Next Crisis
Funders must also improve how we fund organizations on the ground in crisis moments, as we are without a doubt destined for more events like those in Ferguson, MO, New York, and Sanford, FL.  Funders want to be helpful in these moments, but the slow pace of grant cycles and lack of knowledge about who represents authentic leadership on the ground have often been barriers to rapid support.  National and local organizers are developing models for how to coordinate activities in these moments as evidenced by groups like the Ferguson Action Team.  Funders will also need to think about how we can be better coordinated to support rapid response in the next crisis.

Supporting Existing Youth Organizing Groups
While there is much excitement about new organizations in this moment, it is crucial to recognize that existing youth organizing groups are continuing to play crucial roles.  For example, Make the Road New York and its Youth Power Project has played a vital role in protests in New York. Their organizer Jose Lopez was part of the group of young leaders who met with President Obama in December and was recently appointed to the President's Commission on 21st Century Policing.  Jose began organizing with Make the Road at the age of 13 is an example of the kind of leaders developed by youth organizing groups.  In addition, three networks largely consisting of youth organizing groups, Alliance for Education Justice, Community Justice Network for Youth, and the Journey 4 Justice Alliance, worked together to organize a National Youth Action Against State Violence in December with coordinated actions across the country connecting police brutality, juvenile justice, and educational justice.  As established organizations with deep roots in their local communities, these organizations are able to engage large numbers of young people who have been motivated to become active by recent events and sustain their engagement for the long haul.  These organizations are often engaging younger young people (middle and high school age) than other organizations.  Engaging young people during adolescent years can support their long-term engagement in social justice.  While the field of youth organizing has grown and matured in recent years and these groups play vital roles in movement moments, funding for this work has declined.  These groups will need additional resources to support the many more young people who are ready to be engaged.

From Protest to Political Power
With the power of young people rising it will be critical to create a variety of opportunities for them to utilize that power.  As one of the fastest growing parts of our society, young people of color represent an increasingly important part of our electorate, but youth have often been an afterthought in elections, and opportunities for them to play meaningful roles have been slim.  While youth organizing groups have traditionally been more engaged in issue-based organizing rather than elections, a set of groups have integrated nonpartisan voter engagement into their organizing work with great success, and there is potential for more groups to do the same with proper resources and training.  Supporting youth organizing groups that want to include voter engagement in their work could be a powerful way to support this movement to build meaningful political power.  FCYO will soon release a report on youth organizing and voter engagement to spur this conversation.

FCYO Field Building Work
FCYO is now preparing to launch a set of new projects to help build a stronger and more stable youth organizing field that is capable of addressing the challenges and opportunities of the current moment.  Our new Youth Community Organizing Resource Exchange (Youth CORE, to be announced soon) will create regular opportunities for youth organizing groups from across the country to come together, learn from each other, and develop shared strategy.  This will include an upcoming national strategy meeting for groups addressing criminalization of youth of color to discuss how to sustain the momentum of the current moment as well as a large national convening in the fall of 2015 and regular webinars throughout the year.  Some of the greatest potential for building meaningful power lies in connecting the different youth organizing forms that have arisen in recent years.  In addition, FCYO is developing a new series of learning sessions for funders to deepen knowledge about youth organizing, learn about trends in the field, and discuss strategy for increasing resources for this work.  An announcement with dates for upcoming webinars are in person briefings will be coming soon.

Closing: A Pivotal Moment
The demographic shift taking place in the United States creates an opportunity for young people of color to shape the future and create a more just and equitable society, but demography is not destiny and justice and equality are not assured.  We are seeing a backlash against young people of color in forms including police brutality, mass incarceration, and voter suppression.  Young people are demonstrating their willingness to take on these challenges.  The questions are can they turn this moment into a sustained movement and can we help gather the resources needed to do so?  While a great deal of funding goes to addressing the symptoms of racial inequality, very little goes to support the leadership of young people of color themselves to address root causes and create lasting systemic change.  Now is the time to support the bold leadership of young people.

June 26, 2020

Strike Watch: Workers refuse to relent for Black lives, as COVID-19 workplace dangers expand

If there is an image that encapsulates the continued expansion of worker-led direct action in the last few weeks, it is Angela Davis on Juneteenth. With her fist raised high and face mask tight, Dr. Davis stood strong out of a roof of a car moving through a massive strike linking dockworkers and community to shutter the Port of Oakland for 8-plus hours. Led by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) shipping and transport workers, 29 ports were shut down as tens of thousands came together, and drew connections by featuring speakers such as fired Amazon warehouse worker Chris Smalls between the racial violence of police and that of powerful corporations.

Payday Report tracked more than 500 strikes from the first protest for George Floyd at the end of May to a nationwide day of action on Juneteenth. In Minneapolis in the days after the murder of George Floyd, workers showed solidarity in ways ranging from unionized bus drivers refusing to transport police to direct action by teachers to remove police from schools. Journalists also have confronted racism in their institutions, such as the 300-plus sickout at the New York Times to challenge Arkansas Tom Cotton’s op-ed calling for military action against protestors. Workers, small businesses and community collaborated on a Washington State-wide day of action where dozens of businesses shut down and employees skipped work to support of Black Lives Matter and confront white supremacy. 

Unions are also taking strong stances on the efforts to divest and defund from police (see our NFG resource for funders here) and invest in real community need and safety, including a wide ranging set of locals in the Bay Area supporting this call directly. Locals like UNITE HERE Local 11 in Los Angeles have confronted recent police killings such as the murder of 18-year old Andres Guardado (whose father is a union member) by the LA Sherriff Department (LASD) in Compton. The local joined street protests and signing on to BLM and abolitionist-led calls for a #PeoplesBudgetLA and a Care First budget defunding the LASD.

Using one’s workplace power to support anti-racism has also morphed among professional class workers “at home.” Dozens of scientific institutions, from journals to university departments, also #ShutDownSTEM to force reflection on entrenched racism in the US and support for Black lives.  #Sharethemic days where white women-identified influencers ceded space to Black women anti-racist leaders like #metoo founder Tarana Burke also offered new ways to consider not only walking out, but handing over resources, space and power.

Like the ongoing strikes responding to COVID-19, workers are exposing the hypocrisy of the endless barrage of corporate statements professing #BLM while taking actions that are quite literally killing their Black and brown workers. Under the cover of slick marketing, trillion-dollar companies like Amazon and Whole Foods are cutting back low-wage worker hazard pay and other protections (won by protests), even as COVID-19 cases spike in their worksites, and even seeing BLM masks banned on the job.

Global Essential Organizing in the Age of COVID-19

As COVID-19 cases (and unemployment claims) continue their ascent in the US, and other regions of the world see dangerous resurgences, mostly Black-, Latinx- and API- (including and especially migrant)-led worker organizing for basic protections has not let up either. The latest waves of strikes organized by Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ) among dozens of apple picking and packing sites in Washington state’s Yakima Valley saw a significant victory with a signed collective agreement for safety and hazard pay among dozens of different apple picking workers earlier this month.

Mosty-migrant meatpacking workers globally – from Germany’s hinterlands to Hyrum, Utah – continue to demonstrate n the face of outbreaks in plants. Unionized nurses represented by National Nurses United and different SEIU affiliates are striking nationwide against the large US corporate hospital chain HCA Healthcare for still failing to provide Personal Protective Equipment (while cutting staff) starting Friday, June 26. Disney workers, meanwhile, attempt to stave off a disaster at their multi-billion dollar company seeks to re-open its theme parks in July.

Months of essential worker strikes are becoming entwined in an even broader sea of actions for Black lives and calling, in many cases, for police and prison abolition. Angela Davis reflected in an interview on the same day as the Juneteenth strike: “Activists who are truly committed to changing the world should recognize that the work that we often do that receives no public recognition can eventually matter.” The power reflected in ongoing strikes has been built at the grassroots through base building and other work for numerous years. Dr. Davis’ words are in many ways a call to action for philanthropy: how will funders fully recognize and support the immediate and long-term building necessary for worker-led organizing and power? And as major institutions like universities look inward, will foundations reflect on their own perpetuation of racism and corporate power - from external investments to internal practices?

FJE’s Strike Watch is a regular blog and media series dedicated to providing insight on the ways in which grassroots movements build worker power through direct action. Our ultimate goal: inform philanthropic action to support worker-led power building and organizing and help bridge conversations among funders, community and research partners. We are grateful and acknowledge the many journalists and organizations that produce the content we link to regularly, and to all our participants in first-hand interviews. Questions on the content or ideas for future content? Reach out to robert@nfg.org

Photo Credit: Yalonda M. James / The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Photo Credit: Yalonda M. James / The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

June 25, 2020

$50million for M4BL - See You There

Dear Donors, Funders, and Resource Mobilizers: 

The Movement for Black Lives mounted a significant SixNineteen Juneteenth weekend of actions in a matter of weeks. Virtually, over 185,000 people viewed M4BL-TV to celebrate, mourn, and learn. Over 650 in person and online actions took place in cities and communities across the nation, and globally. For context on the strategy behind this weekend of action we recommend the first episode of the People's Action Podcast The Next MoveMaking Meaning with Maurice Mitchell

We are deeply moved by Black Leadership and now we are getting closer to a world where defunding police and building new visions of community safety, infrastructure, and recovery are not just possible, but are inevitable.  This month alone, we’ve seen:

·  A veto-proof majority in the Minneapolis City Council pledged to take steps to eliminate the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a community alternative.

·  The mayor of Los Angeles announced that the city’s police budget would be cut by $100-150 million to reinvest it in programs to create better conditions for Black residents,

·  The public perception of policing and racism has shifted dramatically, with 54 percent of Americans supporting the uprisings.

·  And dozens more victories listed here.

We asked you to meet the courage of M4BL’s Juneteenth action by moving resources with integrity and speed. We asked you all to resource our movements working to Defend Black Lives by breaking the rules: give more than 5% from your endowments, trust Black leadership, and remove habitual philanthropic red tape. We responded to M4BL’s call to philanthropy and stated that $50M is the floor, and it is more than possible if we are prepared to fund the Movement for Black Lives like we want them to win. Your commitments so far is the proof point - you were listening! We are grateful for the ways you have shown your solidarity so far. 

Our first goal was to raise half of it by the end of June - $25M. We need your support and solidarity over these next seven days and beyond.  

In 14 days we have raised $18M in commitments, pledges and cash on hand. We have $7M to raise in 7 days and a week to make our first goal.  Solidaire Network and Resource Generation have both pledged to organize their members, and we’ve had contributions come in from the $10,000 to $5M range. Some of you have even pledged for 10 years, demonstrating your commitment not just to the moment but to the long term movement that’s needed to win. 

As a reminder, here are the four ways we need you to show up for Black lives: 

  1. FIRST: COMMIT. If you haven’t done so yet, complete this survey with your own pledge today.
  2. SECOND: ORGANIZE. We need you to organize your institutions, boards, friends, family, funder affinity groups -- the communities you can and have organized to move resources.
  3. THIRD: GIVE. We ask that you make a generous one-time donation and a sustainable recurring donation to M4BL and its ecosystem here.
  4. FOURTH: FOLLOW THROUGH. Get ready to share with us what you are prepared to do, and what philanthropic “rules” you are prepared to break to Defend Black Lives today.

In struggle, 

Funders for Justice and our donor-organizing partners for the Movement for Black Lives 

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