Next year, Voices for Racial Justice will be celebrating 25 years of working with our community to grow the organizing capacity to lead for change. Over those years we have adapted and shifted, and emerged differently as the work and conditions of our communities have demanded change.
This willingness and ability to adapt in response to what the community around us needs to thrive is our greatest strength as an organization. By listening, we learn. In learning, we grow.
When the Organizing Apprenticeship Project – as Voices was then known – heard from alumni of our organizing training that they did not have the tools and language to lead for racial justice, especially in a predominantly white organizing community, we adjusted. That change challenged the organization to shift itself, but what emerged was a stronger training program that better supported racial justice organizing.
At the same time, we introduced tools like the Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity that explicitly named the structural racism that is deeply embedded in our communities and highlighted the policy solutions for addressing it. We brought together community partners like the Education Equity Organizing Collaborative that pushed at the local and state levels for more consistent and impactful commitment to racial equity in schools.
Three years ago, OAP unveiled its new name: Voices for Racial Justice. We knew that shift was our name catching up with the work we were doing. But it also came at a time of changes in staff and leadership, which brought new voices to our work.
Since then, we have committed more deeply to working with community partners to claim research justice, collaboratively developing the kind of research that comes directly from communities experiencing structural and institutional oppression. Our youth organizing training has emerged, and brought a lens of culturally grounded organizing and healing justice. We have learned, led by youth, that organizing that is depleting of communities, that does not generate healing from the trauma of racism, is not truly sustainable.
And so we continue to grow. Through an eight month strategic planning process, we have come to see that the work of Voices is rooted in supporting a healthy ecosystem of racial justice organizing in Minnesota. We see the power of organizing – including the self-determination and voice that comes with naming what the community wants and working together to achieve that vision. We all want that organizing to be successful in changing the policies and conditions that support structural racism.
We also want organizing to be healing in itself. We want the soil that supports the growth of strong and healthy organizing to be free of toxins and full of the nutrients that feed our communities. Over the next five years, Voices is committed to nurturing that soil through shared learning that supports organizing, culturally grounded tools that communities truly own, and offering spaces that are generative and healing in which to develop solutions and organize.
In everything we do, we are asking ourselves: “How does this nurture the soil of racial justice organizing?”
Over the next year, we will be expanding and sharing with our network what this shift looks like for Voices. We will invite you to grow it with us. We will ask you to join us in digging in the dirt, and to love what emerges.