Each year, Liberty Hill recognizes members of our extended community as “Leaders to Watch.” In January 2011, we interviewed our 2011 Leaders to Watch about their goals and concerns, then checked in with them throughout the year. In late December, we caught up by phone and email for their year-end reflections.
Here are reports from Tammy Bang Luu of Bus Riders Union/Labor Community Strategy Center (LCSC) Ari Gutierrez and Eddie Martinez of Latino Equality Alliance, Gloria Walton of Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), Isella Ramirez of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and Xiomara Corpeño of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
We caught up with Tammy by phone as she took a break from leading a three-day year-end staff retreat for LCSC.
“When we look at 2011, we have to look outside ourselves. We have to look globally at what are we part of in terms of the movement. This was a banner year! There was the unprecedented change of the Arab Spring: governments being toppled, millions of people getting into streets. I was in Barcelona at the end of May and saw the protests of the Indignados Movement—this is where Occupy movement got its juice, between 6.5. to 8 million people—calling for political and economic change. Then there was the Pelican Bay hunger strike, and Occupy.
It’s been a year full of movements that have really shifted narratives. Whether or not they impact the real political landscape still remains to be seen. We’re always looking for hope and these moments give us real hope. This pushes us here in L.A. to build deeper and go broader.
I’m blown away by the work of the Strategy Center over the last year in three areas. Two of our mass campaigns made real history. The Community Rights Campaign won new policies from the LAPD and the L.A. School Police to help keep students in school, as well as a City Council motion to amend the daytime curfew law. The Bus Riders Union won its six-year campaign for the bus-only lanes on Wilshire Boulevard. The third area, and one that makes me most hopeful, is that our base is growing!
I’m looking back on the five years we’ve been building this campaign against the School to Prison Pipeline, taking on policies that push kids out of school, like the criminalization of truancy. Now we have directives that officers should ask students if they have a reason for being late, should focus on getting students into class, and that being late for school is not, in itself, a justification for the use of handcuffs, physical restraints or searches. Judge Nash’s Truancy Task Force is rethinking fines and looking at alternatives. We would really like to thank our allies in the Dignity in Schools Campaign – L.A. Chapter for helping building this movement in LA.
The Bus Riders Union has had an incredible year. We not only won the bus-only lane, we also, with a coalition of allies just got a ruling from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), finding unprecedented levels of racially discriminatory impacts in its civil rights audit of Los Angeles Metro.
The bus-only lane win to me is really exciting in the sense that coming out of the global fight for climate justice. Francisca Porchas [LCSC’s National Coordinator, Transit Riders for Public Transportation] was in Durban where the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change just met. We’re talking about the state of the planet. The bus-only lanes are one of the first times in public policy we’ve prioritized public transportation over the auto – which will clean up L.A.’s lethal air and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
On a personal level, in my new role as associate director this year, it’s been learning about what it takes to run an organization, thinking of my role in building the foundation of infrastructure. This year, I have also participated in the Rockwood Leadership Institute’s "Leading from Inside Out" program, focusing on what it means to be an effective leader and what it means to lead from purpose. My biggest area of growth is thinking about what it really takes to sustain movements and institutions, to try to think about the skill, the art and the craft of it."
Ari and Eddie sent us a report about highlights of their year as co-chairs of LEA and Liberty Hill Leaders to Watch.
"As a co-founders of the Latino Equality Alliance (LEA), our experience as a designated "Leaders to Watch" by The Liberty Hill Foundation has been a great opportunity to provide a greater voice for the Latina/o LGBT community. At first, the recognition and focus on us personally for the work we do on behalf of our community was a surprise and a slight distraction since we had been comfortable behind-the-scenes leaders. But at LEA's Leadership Summit in January 2011, feedback from our board members was positive and they noted that we were “becoming celebrities” for the cause. Of course, that is not our style but we appreciated the encouragement and recommitted to our role as messengers for our Latina/o LGBT community.
This recognition by Liberty Hill has proven to be a stepping stone to developing not only a greater voice and visibility for our organization and the community work we do, but also has challenged us to better define and articulate our organizational message and our presentation style. The added public speaking coaching we received through Liberty Hill was helpful in helping us burnish our skills so that we would articulate the most important messages and present them in the most compelling ways. Gratefully, during our year as “Leaders to Watch” we were able to maximize our turn in the spotlight on several occasions.
Early in 2011, The Latino Equality Alliance was voted Organization of the Year by the Stonewall Democrats. In light of LEA’s mission to increase support for Latino LGBT people and issues among Latino and LGBT communities, this was an important recognition because it provided new context for our work and we were able to reach an influential LGBT audience – a clear “win’ in promoting our message for racial equality. As leaders, we know the work is accomplished only with the support of our fellow Board members, stakeholders and community so we were pleaseed, in a dramatic moment during our acceptance speech, to acknowledge the high number of Latina/o LGBT leaders that were in the audience.
For National Spirit Day, a day when we remember the lives lost to LGBT bullying, LEA hosted and Eddie led a community vigil at Bell High School that acknowledged our shared struggles and remembered everyone that has been a victim of bullying. We were proud to engage the more than 250 young people who participated in the event. Teens, parents and community members spoke about their struggles with bullying and their gratitude for the chance to experience comunity support.
On the national stage, Ari, on behalf of the Latino Equality Alliance, represented the Liberty Hill cohort on the planning committee for the first national LGBT people of color gathering funded by the LGBT Funders’ Racial Equity Initiative. Ari was selected by her planning committee peers to deliver the closing remarks for the BOLD Gathering,held in December 2011 in Minneapolis. In keeping with her Leader to Watch role, Ari challenged fellow leaders to work in support of each other, to take on the responsibility and the authority in representing our LGBT people of color communities and to be much bolder in what we envision for our communities and issues and act in bolder ways to create the change we want to see in our communities."
Isella reported in from the "EJ frontlines" about the year's work in environmental justice for EYCEJ.
"It seems like only yesterday I got the call from Liberty Hill announcing their desire to recognize me as one of the Grassroots Leader to Watch for 2011. It has been a great year with several small victories that lead me to believe a big victory is approaching.
This year, I focused on the skill and leadership development of EYCEJ’s Steering Committee and our internal communication. The Steering Committee now is able to facilitate their own meetings, as well as create agendas, take minutes and organize ideas to form action plans. Staff is using a meeting report from that allows all staff members to report back on meetings with agencies in an intentional and pragmatic way. I am currently preparing to give a public talk at my Alma Matter, Vassar College, and I'm looking forward to exercising all the communications tools bestowed upon me by East Yard's coach from Liberty Hill's Wally Marks Leadership Institute for Change, Chris Gabriele.
Among the highlights of 2011 at East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice:
- We launched a grassroots campaignand leadership institute in Long Beach called Generation Verde in the summer and winter.
- We facilitated community involvement in a traffic calming/pedestrian safety study in the Union Pacific neighborhood of East L.A. for our Complete Streets campaign
- We created a member survey for all new members to take that informs EYCEJ what type of involvement level or interest area best fits the new member.
And most importantly, I was happy to celebrate 2011's December holidays with my four-year-old niece, Citlalih, who is doing very well in her battle with cancer."
"Faced with the largest numbers of deportations ever in the history of our country and the 2012 Presidential Campaign starting early in 2011, we rolled up our sleeves and continued to press the President Obama and Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security to keep families together and to intervene in the absence of just and humane immigration policies. In California, we continued to fight and win local and statewide policies to further support immigrant families, like the California Dream Act and the Car Impound Law.
Nationally, one of CHIRLA's proudest moments has been fighting back Alabama's anti-immigrant law, HB 56. Because of our long experience working directly with immigrant communities, CHIRLA was asked to work with immigrant communities in Alabama, training over 1,000 people on Know Your Rights using our DVD. I spent two weeks in Alabama helping leaders develop their skills and have continued to give technical support over the phone as needed. Everyday people have self-organized in different parts of Alabama in order to repeal HB 56. African American, White and Latino community leaders have put together community forum, protests, and legal clinics; farmers have spoken out even while the state-wide farmer's association has remained silent. It is an honor for me to be able be a part of the great victories in California, but also contribute to the immigrants rights movement nationwide.
We supported the California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, which passed in the State Assembly and is poised to pass in the State Senate in 2012. Two members of the CHIRLA Household Worker Committee were selected to represent CHIRLA at the national level in the Coordinating Committee of the National Domestic Workers Association. 250 Members and Leaders of CHIRLA’s Household Worker Committee played an active role in the 2011 campaign to pass this Bill, including educating lawmakers to pass a Resolution in support of Household Workers in Summer 2010, creating language for the bill and mobilizing for its passage. During the grant period, CHIRLA Household Worker members have visited Sacramento 36 times, visited local legislative offices 11 times, participated in 24 planning sessions, testified 3 times and served as spokespeople for the media 87 times..
CHIRLA and the California Dream Network’s Light the Torch for the California Dream Act Campaign mobilized thousands of youth to generate 12,000 calls the Governor; 12,405 online signatures; and 73 actions across the state. CHIRLA participated in more than100 media interviews about the California Dream Act and, since the bill passed, has educated over 2,000 students, parents and counselors about what it means for them."
Gloria emailed us during a year-end vacation from her first year as Executive Director of SCOPE, which coincided in part with her time as a Leader to Watch.
"Conventional wisdom says, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' In a humorous yet truthful sense, I learned that it takes a movement to support an Executive Director and its organization. If I had to choose one phrase to sum up my first year as the Executive Director of SCOPE, it would be ‘THANK YOU!’
Thank you to Liberty Hill for providing a Leader to Watch platform. Thank you to everyone I reached out to for help and guidance, all of whom without hesitation invested time and energy with me: Anthony Thigpenn, Torie Osborn, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Michele Prichard, Kafi Blumenfield, Stewart Kwoh, Congresswoman Bass, Latonya Slack. Being an Executive Director is a position that I am not quite convinced anyone can really be prepared for: raising an organizational budget, fiscal oversight and management, board and organizational development (strategic planning), program management, staff management, AND being an internal and external leader. It definitely takes a certain type of person and character, all of which means nothing, without the movement of people and organization to provide support. I am a trained community organizer and one of the first things I learned is that relationships are the cornerstone. Being an E.D. simply reinforces that notion. In 2012, I will continue to walk with energetic integrity, love, self discipline, idealistic vision, intention and will power for my Self, my family, Community.
The following illustrates the breadth and scope of SCOPE’s accomplishments in 2011. During the past year, SCOPE members:
- Contacted 11,630 voters in June and identified 8,853 supporters of a Department of Water & Power investment in energy efficiency and contacted 11,335 voters in November and identified 8,854 supportive voters on raising taxes on the very rich to bring balance and fairness to California's tax system.
- Coordinated the mobilization of more than 50 organizations and 600 people at a rally at City Hall and 1,500 at the downtown federal building rally about the local impact of HR1 (federal budget cuts).
- Held 25 leadership development events that more than 600 members attended, including a Jobs Forum that featured Congresswoman Karen Bass as the speaker and a worker and community panel that reflected key local issues and meaningful solutions for Los Angeles.
- Completed a multi-year campaign that resulted in the passage of the Green Retrofit and Workforce ordinance. Steps included (1) securing $26 million to date to implement the retrofit project (2) overseing the implementation of the green jobs pilot program to retrofit 22 city; there are plans to retrofit an additional 55 buildings (3) developing a partnership with LAANE to push for a new energy efficiency program at the DWP that creates jobs accessible to low-income communities of color.
- Strengthened the capacity of 13 social justice groups across the nation to build and enhance their civic engagement programs. Provided technical assistance and training to five national social justice groups. Trained SCOPE members in Internet and word-processing skills through the organizations' Computer Grassroots Training Institute.
- With Liberty Hill, convened three meetings with more 30 Black organizers in Los Angeles to discuss ways to strengthen black organizing infrastructure and how to create and cultivate a new generation of Black leadership and organizers, as well as how to support and strengthen the capacity of existing leadership."