Our Voices

It’s Time to Show Up For an Open Internet

Gabriella Anaïs Deal-Márquez

By Gabriella Anaïs Deal-Márquez

I am grateful to the elders in my family line that have taught me the power of telling our stories.  As a daughter of artist activists I was raised knowing that the resistance in your art and storytelling matters, and that there is great responsibility in telling stories that contest violence and injustice. I know this is right, but I also know that  as activists, artists, organizers, culture makers, we can’t share our narratives and collective visions for our future without open, accessible platforms.

This past December the FCC voted to disband net neutrality.  What does this mean?  It means we would no longer have an open internet.  Net Neutrality are rules that would make the internet easily accessible for everyone to use as an open platform to communicate. Net Neutrality rules protections prevent internet service providers from creating a hierarchy of access based on how much you pay for their services.  

Prior to the December 14th vote to repeal net neutrality and end the open internet as we know it, 4 companies already had a monopoly on the vast majority of U.S. communications.  Those corporations are AT&T, Verizon, Charter, and Comcast.  An open internet ensures that all online content is treated equally.  Without net neutrality this is non-existent.  The implications of all this are much greater than just slow streaming for your Sunday binge-watching on Netflix.

So…why does this vote matter so much?

1. It’s an attack on the internet as a platform for activism and organizing. 

Getting rid of net neutrality is a civil rights issue.  The elimination of it is an affront to freedom of speech.  With the repeal of net neutrality, internet providers can block and censor any content they wish.  This means that if posts are deemed to be too political, news and reporting is considered too controversial—you get the picture—we can be prevented from accessing them.

This is a move to try to pull out a key platform in building narrative and action in our movements.  Alicia Garza, Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter puts it clearly: “If it weren’t for net neutrality, fewer people would know that a movement for Black lives, dignity and freedom is growing.  That makes net neutrality a key civil rights issue of our time:  the power to communicate must belong to us all.”

2. It’s a racial justice issue and an attack on the working class.

Online communication is necessary for day to day participation in our society.  Not only do we use it to communicate with each other,  but we need it to apply for jobs, have access to government services, pay bills, just to give a few examples. There’s a huge digital divide that exists between rural and urban communities and across racial and class lines.  Taking away net neutrality means taking broadband away from working class people, many of whom are people of color.

3. It privileges corporations over people.

The FCC vote to repeal net neutrality, was a vote in support of the interests of corporations even though the vast majority of public comments (tens of thousands) were in support of retaining the net neutrality rules that were already in place.  In fact the NRA gifted FCC Chairman Ajit Pai an award and gun for eliminating net neutrality and for standing up “under pressure with grace, and dignity, and principled discipline.”  The vote to end net neutrality protects corporations and ensures that they are able to profit off of the American public at exorbitant rates.

Our partner Steven Renderos, Organizing Director at Center for Media Justice speaks at a press conference on Tuesday, February 27th in Washington D.C. in support of net neutrality hosted by Senator Ed Markey. The press conference was part of the day of action put on by Team Internet a coalition between Fight for the Future, Demand Progress, and Free Press. Photo Credit: National Hispanic Media Coalition.

The end of an open internet will impact all of us.  As many of us mobilize our communities on issues of racial and economic justice, we need an open internet as a space to organize, connect and show up for one another. So shouldn’t we show up and speak out to ensure we do not lose net neutrality?

Earlier this week, lawmakers introduced a resolution under the Congressional Review Act  (CRA) which would undo the FCC’s net neutrality repeal. We need to urge our representatives today to support the CRA and defend the open internet that we need and depend on.

The timeline is tight to be able to restore net neutrality before protections end on April 23rd. Now is the time to be reaching out to your representatives and share a thank you to those who have been supportive of the CRA, and urge those who haven’t taken a stance to be on the right side of history.  See battleforthenet.com for information on where your representatives stand.  Join us and others around the country fighting to save an open internet and protecting the net neutrality rules.  We have a right to an open internet, a platform that allows us to share stories of activists, artists, organizers, and culture makers. Join me today in urging our representatives in Congress to fight for our rights and to defend an open internet.


Humans of Worthington

Vilai Khanya

By Fayise Abrahim, Organizing & Training Director

In 2017 Voices for Racial Justice brought our organizing cohort model to Worthington, MN. In the last year we’ve seen those in our training strive to build together by hosting community gatherings, actions, dialogues, healing spaces and much more. Our place based circles are intentionally intergenerational, cross-cultural, and build in collaboration with the expertise of local elders and guest facilitators. We will be highlighting the work of our circles in upcoming blog posts. Three of our 10 circle members in Worthington, MN were featured on Humans of Worthington, a project started by a young Latina immigrant photographer and current student aspiring to connect her love for social media platforms with finding more representation of folks in her community. Andrea Magana captures photos of folks local to her hometown and their stories which she then shares on Instagram.

Andrea was part of the initial efforts amongst youth in Worthington who were pushing their community to address the need for social justice. Years ago Andrea made visits to Voices for Racial Justice office as part of the Be the Change leadership group of youth. The work of youth in Worthington deeply influenced and impacted Voices’ work in rural Minnesota as we began to bring our trainings outside of the metro, which over time led to a circle model for training in rural Minnesota.

Jessica Lee Velasco

In her own words Andrea shares with us, “Racial justice is the systematic fair treatment of people of all races…it’s knowing that my younger siblings won’t be discriminated against, limited, or discouraged because of the color of their skin…racial justice is knowing that I don’t need to prove myself in the academic or employment arena because I speak a second language or because my skin isn’t white… Racial justice is knowing that I’m not a token friend or token employee… It’s imperative that we strive to have racial justice.”

Aida Simon

We are grateful for young folks like Andrea whose work and vision have continued to shape the ongoing racial justice work happening in Worthington. We lift up her project to highlight the power of youth re-claiming the stories of their people as a way of building community. Andrea shares, “It’s amazing to spotlight the people who don’t usually get the recognition they deserve…Worthington is a place that I will always come back to because my family is there and because my community is there.” We are sharing three photos courtesy of Andrea, featuring three members of our 2017-2018 Worthington Voices for Racial Justice Circle. Find her project on Instagram @humans_of_worthington.


The City of Minneapolis Establishes a Division of Race and Equity

Brett Grant

On December 6, I represented Voices for Racial Justice, providing public testimony before the Minneapolis City Council in support of a proposed ordinance to create a Division of Race and Equity within the City Coordinator’s Office. The proposed ordinance was approved.

Public testimony was heard during the regular meeting of the Committee of the Whole, the Committee responsible for setting and approving policy changes related to the City’s vision, goals, and strategic directions. In addition to Voices for Racial Justice, City Council members heard from the Minneapolis Urban League, the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability and Jewish Community Action.

The ordinance was brought to the Committee of the Whole by City Councilmember Elizabeth Glidden. Its intent is to integrate, on a citywide basis, a racial equity framework that will advance racial equity in all the City does. “Such intent,” it reads, “is an express manifestation of the City’s commitment to apply and embed racial equity principles throughout the City’s broad range of operations, programs, services and policies.”

The public hearing attracted a packed room of community members from all over Minneapolis who were hungry to see a real commitment to race and equity by city officials. Footage of the hearing can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oO770J4_aKo

Those who provided public testimony, in addition to expressing support for the ordinance, challenged Councilmembers to make sure that there is a robust community engagement effort as well as adequate funding for the Division of Race and Equity in moving forward with the racial equity goals of the ordinance.

As an organization that works to advance racial equity in Minnesota, I shared that we at Voices for Racial Justice recognize that achieving racial equity is only possible when local communities are able to shape the policies and services which shape racial equity.

To support the work of the City in moving forward with the Division of Race and Equity, Voices is prepared to share the following tools: Our Authentic Community Engagement tool, which grew out of work with the Minnesota Department of Health; and the Racial Equity Impact Assessment, which is a tool that helps policymakers make thoughtful decisions about policies and their impacts on communities of color and indigenous communities.

The Voices team looks forward to continuing work with City leaders to make racial equity a reality in Minneapolis.

Brett Grant is Research and Policy Director at Voices for Racial Justice. Contact him for more information.