Strengthening Our Movement in Times of Resistance

By: Gina Acebo
March 2017

Recently, Akonadi Foundation convened our Arc Toward Justice Fund grantees to discuss how we can deepen the movement to achieve racial justice in Oakland and beyond during this time of re-imagining and resistance. The discussion that ensued was rich, inspiring, and meaningful, and the insights are worth sharing.

Launched in 2013, the Arc Toward Justice Fund focuses on grassroots organizing to foster equity for youth and young adults of color in Oakland. Together, the 16 racial justice organizations that currently are part of the fund are building collective power to shape the policies and systems that affect communities of color. Even before this moment, young people of color in Oakland, along with their families, were facing tremendous challenges, including displacement, over-criminalization, the school-to-prison pipeline, education inequity, and much more. Today, with a new administration whose policies are imposing devastating harms on communities of color, ripping families apart and threatening the values we hold dear,  we are more committed than ever to advancing a grassroots-led racial justice movement that can promote solutions to these challenges.

Within this context, organizations and leaders came together to share with us their thoughts of how to deepen racial justice movement building in Oakland. Among their ideas:

  • Staying the course with the work over the long-term, while also creating a mechanism to respond to shifting circumstances.
  • Strengthening solidarity between Black and Brown communities to create real sanctuary for people in danger of overcriminalization as well as detention and deportation.  
  • Constantly being present in the community, understanding that deep transformation of people and communities takes time and is not easily measured.
  • Focusing on who is missing from the movement, learning from the Black Panthers that ordinary people in communities can change the world and doing more to step outside the current structure and bring people in.
  • Working in coalition, pushing each other while centering respect and honesty.
  • Innovating in how we fund our work, exploring fee-for-service models and social enterprise and create new infrastructures.
  • Starting and finishing with people in community.

Despite the dominant frame that powerful systems and institutions promote–one that perceives and treats young people of color as criminals with little value in shaping our policies, practices, and cultural norms–the Arc Toward Justice Fund grantees assert that youth and young adults of color are full participants in our society. Young people hold knowledge and experiences that are invaluable in achieving racial equity, and youth serve as current and future leaders and social change agents whose leadership and contributions can benefit all of us. By deepening and strengthening the racial justice movement, in this moment and beyond, we can transform the climate in Oakland to one of compassion, respect, and dignity for youth and young adults of color.