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2020 Elections Prep: Transformation in Action

Dear Partners and Community: 

A week ago, the staff of Hidden Leaf decided to reach out to all of you—our brilliant partners doing amazing work in these unprecedented times—to provide a platform for some of the tools, actions, and pearls of wisdom you’ve been creating around the upcoming elections. The rhetoric just a short week ago was unfortunately familiar: constant mudslinging from the highest ranks of office; threats to undermine the very systems of democracy; the decaying of such systems to make stark the racial injustice it bears on Black, Indigeous, Brown and queer communities; the impunity of systems that uphold the state, even when the state is responsible for the murder of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman doing nothing more than sitting at home one night watching a movie with her beloved. 

Now we are having to stomach a rushed process to appoint a supreme court justice who couldn’t be more opposite to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose death we still mourn. We somehow made it through the gross representation of democracy manifested in the first “presidential” debate. Some of us tuned in with dismay while others tuned out the abusive behavior on display. And today the media is fully seized by a president wrangling with COVID-19 as we are weeks away from a heated election. Suffice it to say, our world is rapidly changing—often minute by minute. So what we thought we wanted to say and share last week has already shifted.  

But here’s what is consistent. You. You remind us that as the waves build, as the ground shakes, and as the forests burn, we must stay steadfast. We must keep our eyes on the vision of a true democracy—one that works for all, because up until this very moment in history, that hasn’t been true. And we must stay focused on your momentum, the ways in which you show us that no matter what, this season represents one of the most dogged fights of our lives, and we cannot be distracted. We see you in a moment of practice in action. In a phrase we’ve borrowed from friends at Organizing Upgrade, “this is not a drill.” Much is devolving and shedding around us. And we see you taking up the essential pieces we need toward the evolution of freedom, dignity, and justice. We at Hidden Leaf Foundation remain in solidarity with you as you plot the course and we hope to be a megaphone for your vital work.

We share these tools and resources below to inspire and democratize the information you all are building among your constituents and in your communities. We hope this is of use to you and that you will help spread the word. And we remain deeply grateful for your work.  Thank you for amplifying the electorate and our right to vote in these all too important elections! 

With gratitude, 

Supriya Lopez Pillai


 

The incredible people at Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) remind us that in these troubling times, it is important to set our sights not merely on surviving but on thriving. Last week I asked a wise leader how to stand firm in the face of difficult dynamics—ones that hold subtle tones of racism, “power over,” or the insidious gender oppression that often shows up as mansplaining. She said, “Know who you are and remember you are made from kindness and generosity. We have joy and celebration in our bones!” This resonated as I had a chance to connect with CJA’s leadership and they shared their Story Snapshots: Living the Just Transition, a multimedia site launched pre-COVID with stories about how frontline communities are living into a just transition. This site is a necessary space of respite and inspiration. Please visit!

In relation to the multiple crises we are living through, the critical importance of the election, and the need to implement major policy shifts to support a Just Transition, we also want to share CJA’s A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy, the cornerstone policy and organizing tool of the United Frontline Table, released in June 2020, which holds 80 policy positions that protect and defend workers, frontline communities, and ecosystems. 


 

Peoples Action

In September, People’s Action launched a powerful 6-part podcast series called To See Each Other which challenges the idea of writing off rural, largely white areas of the US as nothing but “Trump country.” Across the arc of the series, George Goehl, a longtime community organizer and the director of People’s Action, travels to Michigan, Iowa, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Indiana to reveal how small town folks are working together in unexpected ways in fights for everything from clean water and racial justice to immigration rights and renewable energy. Through a focus on each particular geography, episode by episode, a universal truth emerges: In every complicated set of politics, when we see each other, when we refuse to give up on each other, we can build a better future. You can watch this beautiful video trailer and subscribe here. 

Rolling Stone also ran this piece about People’s Action and the power of deep canvassing conversations. Since running the piece, the organization has had over a thousand new volunteers sign up. So many of you are passionate organizers and I imagine you can relate to what People’s Action shares here: “Consistently, something profound happens between the two people having a deep canvass conversation. A new space opens up for the canvassed person to reflect and reexamine their views on issues.” This is profoundly transformative—the painstaking but necessary work needed to make the dynamic shifts we need right now.  


 

PowerCali_logo_final

Our partners at Power California have long been instrumental to a tidal change in electoral processes by fighting for the voting rights of youth ages 16 years and up. “Young people across the country are mobilizing, marching, and speaking out on critical issues as never before, from the Youth Climate Strike and March for Our Lives to immigrant rights and mass incarceration. They are taking action and advocating for solutions to the urgent issues of our time. It’s time they have a voice—and a vote.” We want to share Power California’s Social Media toolkit across the Hidden Leaf community with the hopes you’ll share it more broadly. As a longtime supporter of youth organizing, I know this is one of the most bold and powerful moves, and it couldn’t come at a more apt time.  

Please also check out this op-ed written by Power California’s ED, Luis Sanchez, on the power of young people, the vote and long term civic engagement. A few takeaways that will hopefully fill your cup as they have ours: 

  • Nearly 40% of California youth of color have taken part in a march, rally or protest in the past year, especially Black (49%) and Latino (42%) youth. And 80% consider themselves members, followers or supporters of progressive causes, including Black Lives Matter.
  • Young people of color are determined to demonstrate their power at the ballot box, with 64% saying they plan to vote. Overall, 80% of young people think it’s more important to vote in this election compared to the previous presidential election. The poll also showed that the pandemic and recent protests over police brutality have shaped their political outlook, with more than 60% saying that voting is a powerful way to make positive change.

When people say young people and particularly young people of color are disaffected or even part of the problem, statistics show otherwise. Youth organizers not only care deeply about their communities but are willing to show up and are engaged in the necessary “good trouble” of deep civic engagement. The youth know what’s up and it is our job to follow. 


 

I just wanted to take a moment to highlight the very good and important work of a relatively new grantee partner to Hidden Leaf, New Florida Majority.  As we all know, Florida is an important battleground and swing state.  The leadership of New FM has been very vocal nationally about how we cannot take for granted the growing Latino and other people of color electorate in the state.  (The majority of Floridians under 70, according to recent census estimates, are people of color).  With increased voter suppression tactics, New FM reported in September that they registered the largest number of people to vote in the organization’s history.  Check out ‘Latino Vote: Dispatches from the Battleground,’ a documentary on PBS about the Latino vote in this critical time, featuring New FM among other organizations in other key swing states. 


 

CHIRLA

Like so many of you, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles (CHIRLA) has had to endure accelerated and increased attacks on their organization, membership and base. Yet, they continue to show us how to ground in our vision despite the outcome, how to ground in who we are to face the challenges. CHIRLA’s Immigrant Political Power Project targets new citizens, Latinos, and English learners to build enough voting power to sway state politics. On average, CHIRLA speaks with these voters 4-7 times before election day—in their language, over the phone, and in person—and trains allies, members, and community partners to also talk with them about the political landscape and electoral strategy. Teams work to build a constant culture of voting among their neighbors, sharing specific ballot recommendations and voter info. This electoral program is for immigrants by immigrants. 


 

NDWA                       MUA

Women, especially women of color, have fought tirelessly to be fully included in this society, and that includes fighting for the right to vote. National Domestic Workers Alliance and their affiliates, like Hidden Leaf partner Mujeres Unidas y Activas, proudly carry that legacy and want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to vote freely, safely, and securely. They have created a Voter Education Hub that will connect you to the information you need to safely vote this Election Day. Tools include voter registration support, including ensuring that if you think you’ve registered you can confirm that you actually are. And the site allows you to track the status of your vote by mail ballot.