We are Voices for Racial Justice. On October 28, we are celebrating this name change, as well as the journey that got us here. And, of course, we are looking forward to the movement-building that continues through organizing and training, advocacy with (not for) engaged communities, and the research and policy tools that tell our story.
Why the change? For several years, the staff and board of OAP have thought about a name change. But these things are challenging. Although Organizing Apprenticeship Project no longer described all of the work that we do, and did not make clear our commitment to building racial justice, it has been around for 21 years. People know us as “OAP” and love what “OAP” means.
But the best organizations grow and evolve. We know that to build a shared network and movement for racial justice in Minnesota, we need to draw more people in. More equitable communities, where all people have the chance to learn, work, and live well, without running into barriers to those opportunities, are good for all of us. We also know that we must break down institutional and structural racism in order for those opportunities and equitable outcomes to be a reality.
The board and staff agreed that we wanted to more boldly claim our vision – racial justice. We also agreed that what we are building doesn’t live inside an organization, but stretches out to the communities of color, American Indian communities, and many allies who lead this work with us. All of our multiracial, multicultural voices are part of building racial justice. After many sessions of giant sticky notes, we arrived at our new name: Voices for Racial Justice.
Which isn’t such a new name after all. For two years, we have used the name Voices for Racial Justice as the OAP blog site. This grew out of our Voices for Voting Rights campaign to defeat the voter ID amendment in 2012. We have grown comfortable in our Voices – so an already familiar identity will be easy to slip on.
Not much else has changed. We will still lead with the importance of organizer and leadership training. We will still practice the authentic community engagement that guides our strategic convenings and all our work. We still lead campaigns for change, whether in education equity, health equity, voting rights, or criminal justice. We will continue to work with communities to develop the policy tools that help organizers tell a powerful story and hold leaders accountable to building racial equity
Actually, there is one more change, but also one that feels comfortable. I am honored to have been named Executive Director of Voices for Racial Justice. I feel grateful for the 21 years of leadership that Beth Newkirk has brought to this role, and the ongoing mentorship she offers me. I continue to love working with my bold and creative colleagues, and value the support of our board who have walked with me through an eight month interim role.
I welcome you to visit our new website www.voicesforracialjustice.org. And, of course, we welcome you to visit us at our same office on Franklin Avenue or call us at our same number. We are Voices for Racial Justice. We are here.