“Saving the Cultural Legacy of the Mission”: Preventing Cultural Displacement in San Francisco’s Mission District

By Francis Yu and Jeremy Liu


The Para la Mission mural located on 19th Street and Mission Street, shortly after artist Mel Waters repaired damages from vandalism. (Francis Yu 2018)

A jarring splash of white paint defaced an iconic community mural after it was vandalized by an unknown suspect late in mid-July 2018. The mural, named Para la Mission, displays guitarist Carlos Santana, a native of the Mission District, centered within a backdrop of Latinx iconography. The Mission District of San Francisco — a historically Latinx neighborhood where, for decades, murals have served as a representation of a rich cultural legacy — has contended with the pressures of gentrification for almost two decades now. This vandalism is just one reflection of a dynamic, but sometimes contested, relationship between arts and cultural identity in a changing neighborhood.

Through arts and culture, communities can explore shared understandings of identity, values, beliefs and heritage. As cities all over the nation grapple with rapid change and development pressures, arts and culture can also provide an equitable approach to guiding growth. In other words, a cultural lens helps to answer the question, “How can cultural equity contribute to planning and development in a just, fair, and inclusive way?”’

Increasingly, community development organizations (in sectors such as affordable housing, economic and workforce development, health, etc) are collaborating with arts and cultural institutions and individual artists to more comprehensively address community issues, like displacement and health inequities. The field of creative placemaking — and the reframing of the field towards the values of placekeeping — amplifies how arts and culture help to preserving community identity and belonging as physical spaces are transformed. In San Francisco, Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), a long-standing economic development organization focusing on the needs of the Mission’s residents, and Galería de la Raza, a major cultural and arts anchor in the Mission, have been working as strategic partners to comprehensively address issues of cultural and physical displacement. Through a grant from The Kresge Foundation and with assistance from PolicyLink, they have identified a shared understanding that belonging is not just about physically living in a neighborhood, but is also about the cultural identity of a place. They have been working together to understand how arts and culture contribute to the work of equitable housing and economic development, have identified anti-displacement strategies around this understanding, and are in the process of shaping broader policy goals for their partnership.

Often considered ground zero for gentrification in San Francisco, rents in the Mission continue to rise and restaurants and services catering to more affluent populations have taken over local ‘mom and pops’ establishments servicing the neighborhood’s Latinx communities. These communities include Mexicans, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, El Salvadorians, and more — all foundational to the Mission’s cultural identity. Murals, such as the recently-defaced Para la Mission, adorn many of their walls, sometimes filling entire alleys with pieces from local arts organizations and artists. Yet, many of these community murals are disappearing, and in one case, painted over with a different mural reflecting the tastes of new ownership.

Near the end of 2016, MEDA started exploring strategies on how to protect the Mission’s culture and culture bearers, with initial conversations centering on creative placemaking. Ani Rivera, director of Galería de la Raza, offered a critical voice to that conversation and pointed to the framing of “placekeeping” as “respecting the legacy of the community.”

“We have the culture and we have the artists. How do we preserve that?” Rivera recalls asking in her initial discussions with MEDA. MEDA has preserved or created 1,173 affordable units through their Community Real Estate program, with a laudable goal of creating 2,000 units by 2020. These units have been vital to ensuring the sustained presence of long-time Mission residents and families in the neighborhood. But the relationship with Galería de la Raza has opened them up to other opportunities. The two partners decided to relocate Galería de la Raza into a new space in one of MEDA’s new affordable housing developments. Together, they have crafted a real estate strategy that takes advantage of the City of San Francisco’s Small Sites Program to prevent the displacement of the local artistic community. The program offers loans for nonprofits seeking to acquire four- to 25-unit buildings in order to keep them permanently affordable. By intentionally seeking out spaces where local artists reside, this secures that they will continue to have an influence on the culture and cultural expression of the neighborhood.

“Saving the buildings was more than just saving the units or creating below market rate opportunities, it was saving the cultural legacy of the Mission,” says Rivera.


Ani Rivera and the team at Galería de la Raza prepare for the opening of the Comida Es Medicina show at Studio 24 located on 24th Street and Bryant Street. (Francis Yu 2018)

“PolicyLink served as a provocateur — a point of inspiration to challenge the work that was going on, to look beyond arts as a space issue,” says Feliciano Vera of MEDA. Both organizations also benefited from being connected to other cohort members from the Arts, Culture, and Equitable Development initiative. Throughout the grant period, which ends this month, they connected with other cohort members experiencing similar issues within their communities, such as gentrification, cultural erasure, or a drastically changing economic landscape. Events like cohort convenings and the 2018 PolicyLink Equity Summit helped the cohort form a support network of organizations addressing various community development challenges through the lens of arts and culture.

The full integration of an arts and culture lens to these strategies, or a “Culture-in-All-Policies” approach, akin to the “Health-in-All-Policies” movement, can provide a comprehensive approach recognizing the Mission’s cultural legacy in areas such as housing, education, immigration, and others. “When we think of the Mission and community development [we need to] understand the critical role that arts and culture play in facilitating and sustaining community for seven generations forward and seven generations back,” said Rivera referring to the importance of a holistic approach to community development. Work to bring “Culture-in-All-Policies” into the San Francisco Latino Parity and Equity Coalition's policy agenda is ongoing and permeating the collaboration between the two organizations in other ways as well.

Earlier this year, working with PolicyLink, Galería de la Raza and MEDA hosted an informal meeting with a coalition of Mission activists to explore the way arts and culture approaches or considerations could support their fight against planned bus-only lanes on a major thoroughfare in the neighborhood. Equity issues raised by the activists included how private shuttles, i.e. “Google buses”, would be allowed to use the lanes, prioritizing the transport of newer, wealthier residents through the Mission over benefiting Mission residents themselves.

In the meeting, participants were led through a visioning exercise where they were asked to recall or envision the most positive way transit was a part of the life of the neighborhood. Later, as discussions of strategy where being debated, a MEDA policy staffer realized that they, as a community, had overlooked the cultural arguments for reversing the bus-only lane decision. She shared how meaningful bus stops had been to her to meet and connect with neighbors, and that the elimination of bus stops in the Mission to streamline service on the bus-only lanes would disrupt a vital cultural function. The coalition realized once more that one of their most important assets — their cultural identity — could be used in advocacy and organizing. The campaign to change the bus-only lanes continues, but the collaborative work of Galería de la Raza and MEDA to integrate arts and culture into equitable development continues.

Kentucky Communities Unlock their Cultural Wealth to Lead the Way Forward

By Abbie Langston and Lorrie Chang


Photo Credit: Malcolm Wilson, Humans of Central Appalachia

Letcher County, Kentucky is at the very heart of Appalachia, a region as rich in history and culture as in natural resources. Over the last 10 years, the county has lost more than 90 percent of coal jobs that had sustained its economy. About 98 percent of residents are White and 80 percent voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

At first glance, this rural area might seem to have little in common with diverse urban centers like Detroit and Pittsburgh. But the challenge of advancing a just economic transition in coal country is not dissimilar  with the challenge of building an equitable economy in metropolitan regions once dominated by steel, automotive, or other manufacturing sectors.

Like these cities and other “company towns,” Eastern Kentucky citizens once drew their lifeblood from a single industry, and now face the challenge of charting a new economy. One resident likened coal’s hold to addiction. The coal companies proclaimed, “you mine the coal and we’ll take care of you,” she explained. When coal collapsed, this dependency left communities in fear and desperation. So it’s no surprise that many residents have welcomed the prospect of a proposed federal prison as another economic anchor to fill the void.

But across the political spectrum, a consensus is building that Letcher County’s future cannot depend solely on one company or industry. A group of community-led organizations have formed the Letcher County Culture Hub, a network designed to foster and develop residents’s agency and assets, and build on the strength of its own rich cultural wealth. Today the growing list of partners include volunteer fire departments, businesses, community centers, and artist and cultural organizations collaborating with elected officials and other local, regional, and national organizations. Partners bring together resources and work in consensus to pursue common goals including reviving cultural events like the region’s bluegrass festival, founding new social enterprises including one that employs formerly incarcerated people, and expanding opportunity such as broadband Internet.

The Letcher County Culture Hub is also a part of the Arts, Culture, Equitable Development Initiative, generously supported by The Kresge Foundation, for PolicyLink to expand the impact of six community based organizations across the US in equitable development and policy change through arts and culture.

Centering Grassroots Power: Self-Determination through Arts and Culture

The Letcher County Culture Hub was born out of Appalshop, a 50-year-old multimedia arts, culture, and workforce development center that supports residents to tell their own stories, strengthen Appalachian culture, and work for more just communities.

With its arts-and-culture focused mission and deep roots in Letcher County, Appalshop took a unique approach to economic development: unlike traditional development that begin with a plan for a community to develop assets, they began with the community and the assets within it. Ben Fink, an Appalshop organizer who collaborated with community leaders to start the Culture Hub, explained, “This isn’t a project about saving Appalachia. This is a project about Appalachians saving ourselves.” From this perspective, culture isn’t just a way to add local flavor to economic development or market products; it is the very context and medium that make economic and social relationships possible. As Fink put it, “culture means more than music, dance, or art. It means paying attention to the language, interactions, and how meaning gets made.”

For the Culture Hub, starting with culture means starting with the methodology of story circles utilized by Appalshop’s longtime collaborator Junebug Productions, an African-American arts organization rooted in the civil rights movement. Story circles create a space where all voices are equal, identify and build on common bonds, and generate ideas from the intersections and contradictions between stories.

This has been a crucial process for the Culture Hub whose constituents span a wide spectrum of philosophical beliefs and political leanings. Fire chief, former mine owner, and conservative political activist Bill Meade reflected, “If you told me I would be here at Appalshop three years ago, I would have never believed you.” Appalshop has long been viewed by some with skepticism for its progressive political orientation in a place steeped in conservative traditions. But by building from the common ground of culture, the Culture Hub has bridged long-standing divides and forged new bonds of collaboration. Story circles, community plays, and other cultural-based approaches have allowed participants to not ignore their differences, but to work across them through shared values and aspirations. Meade, a founding member, is now one of the network’s central leaders. He has played an integral role in economic development, helping launch the county’s first large-scale solar project with partners; and the arts, playing a lead role in Appalshop’s recent play The Future of Letcher County.

Playing the Long Game: Rooting Culture in an Economic Model

For over a hundred years, Appalachia has been dominated by an economic model that suffocates rather than encourages creativity, new ideas, and self-determination. The Culture Hub’s vision for the next hundred years is very different: build a culture of entrepreneurial spirit, interdependence, and unbounded imagination among residents who believe the future is theirs to create. This is why their mission is not just job creation or economic development. Instead, it is guided by the broader principle, “We own what me make.” The goal isn’t to employ everyone; but to create the conditions for everyone to enact their cultural, civic, and economic agency; identify and build on their assets; and find self-directed ways to turn them into community wealth.

The Culture Hub is playing the long game to redefine who owns and designs the narratives, strategies, and policies that will define Appalachia’s economic transition. Policies or programs alone cannot achieve true equity — a society in which all can reach their full potential — without shifting the culture of how people relate and make meaning and value together.

By building trust and a common voice through the intentional, collective production of culture, participants recognize and act on opportunities and needs in ways that might not be possible in traditional planning processes. As Fink explained, “honestly I think there was some shame about, you know, feeling helpless…[These deeper opportunities and needs weren’t] going to come up but for the kind of really intentional work around relationship building and strengthening that we did.” Because the Culture Hub roots development in people and their stories, participants are able to “not only to tell a different story about themselves, but also to act on that story”. Residents can rewrite their story from helpless to empowered and shape the solutions that turn this story into reality.

The Culture Hub is expanding. What began in 2015 with four partners is now nearly 20. Furthermore, the Culture Hub joined community cultural organizations in the Black Belt of Alabama, Mississippi Delta, West Baltimore, and rural and urban Wisconsin to found an emerging coalition. This project, called Performing Our Future, brings grassroots partners alongside economists, researchers, and technology developers together to advance community-led, culture-driven development on a national and international scale. The Culture Hub and the coalition continue to look for collaborators and funding to support work in which all people, voices, and perspectives make their own future and own what they make.

Kentucky Communities Unlock their Cultural Wealth to Lead the Way Forward

By Abbie Langston and Lorrie Chang

Letcher County, Kentucky is at the very heart of Appalachia, a region as rich in history and culture as in natural resources. Over the last 10 years, the county has lost more than 90 percent of coal jobs that had sustained its economy. About 98 percent of residents are White and 80 percent voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

At first glance, this rural area might seem to have little in common with diverse urban centers like Detroit and Pittsburgh. But the challenge of advancing a just economic transition in coal country is not dissimilar  with the challenge of building an equitable economy in metropolitan regions once dominated by steel, automotive, or other manufacturing sectors.

Like these cities and other “company towns,” Eastern Kentucky citizens once drew their lifeblood from a single industry, and now face the challenge of charting a new economy. One resident likened coal’s hold to addiction. The coal companies proclaimed, “you mine the coal and we’ll take care of you,” she explained. When coal collapsed, this dependency left communities in fear and desperation. So it’s no surprise that many residents have welcomed the prospect of a proposed federal prison as another economic anchor to fill the void.

But across the political spectrum, a consensus is building that Letcher County’s future cannot depend solely on one company or industry. A group of community-led organizations have formed the Letcher County Culture Hub, a network designed to foster and develop residents’s agency and assets, and build on the strength of its own rich cultural wealth. Today the growing list of partners include volunteer fire departments, businesses, community centers, and artist and cultural organizations collaborating with elected officials and other local, regional, and national organizations. Partners bring together resources and work in consensus to pursue common goals including reviving cultural events like the region’s bluegrass festival, founding new social enterprises including one that employs formerly incarcerated people, and expanding opportunity such as broadband Internet.

The Letcher County Culture Hub is also a part of the Arts, Culture, Equitable Development Initiative, generously supported by The Kresge Foundation, for PolicyLink to expand the impact of six community based organizations across the US in equitable development and policy change through arts and culture.

Centering Grassroots Power: Self-Determination through Arts and Culture

The Letcher County Culture Hub was born out of Appalshop, a 50-year-old multimedia arts, culture, and workforce development center that supports residents to tell their own stories, strengthen Appalachian culture, and work for more just communities.

With its arts-and-culture focused mission and deep roots in Letcher County, Appalshop took a unique approach to economic development: unlike traditional development that begin with a plan for a community to develop assets, they began with the community and the assets within it. Ben Fink, an Appalshop organizer who collaborated with community leaders to start the Culture Hub, explained, “This isn’t a project about saving Appalachia. This is a project about Appalachians saving ourselves.” From this perspective, culture isn’t just a way to add local flavor to economic development or market products; it is the very context and medium that make economic and social relationships possible. As Fink put it, “culture means more than music, dance, or art. It means paying attention to the language, interactions, and how meaning gets made.”

For the Culture Hub, starting with culture means starting with the methodology of story circles utilized by Appalshop’s longtime collaborator Junebug Productions, an African-American arts organization rooted in the civil rights movement. Story circles create a space where all voices are equal, identify and build on common bonds, and generate ideas from the intersections and contradictions between stories.

This has been a crucial process for the Culture Hub whose constituents span a wide spectrum of philosophical beliefs and political leanings. ire chief, former mine owner, and conservative political activist Bill Meade reflected, “If you told me I would be here at Appalshop three years ago, I would have never believed you.” Appalshop has long been viewed by some with skepticism for its progressive political orientation in a place steeped in conservative traditions. But by building from the common ground of culture, the Culture Hub has bridged long-standing divides and forged new bonds of collaboration. Story circles, community plays, and other cultural-based approaches have allowed participants to not ignore their differences, but to work across them through shared values and aspirations. Meade, a founding member, is now one of the network’s central leaders. He has played an integral role in economic development, helping launch the county’s first large-scale solar project with partners; and the arts, playing a lead role in Appalshop’s recent play The Future of Letcher County.

Playing the Long Game: Rooting Culture in an Economic Model

For over a hundred years, Appalachia has been dominated by an economic model that suffocates rather than encourages creativity, new ideas, and self-determination. The Culture Hub’s vision for the next hundred years is very different: build a culture of entrepreneurial spirit, interdependence, and unbounded imagination among residents who believe the future is theirs to create. This is why their mission is not just job creation or economic development. Instead, it is guided by the broader principle, “We own what me make.” The goal isn’t to employ everyone; but to create the conditions for everyone to enact their cultural, civic, and economic agency; identify and build on their assets; and find self-directed ways to turn them into community wealth.

The Culture Hub is playing the long game to redefine who owns and designs the narratives, strategies, and policies that will define Appalachia’s economic transition. Policies or programs alone cannot achieve true equity — a society in which all can reach their full potential — without shifting the culture of how people relate and make meaning and value together.

By building trust and a common voice through the intentional, collective production of culture, participants recognize and act on opportunities and needs in ways that might not be possible in traditional planning processes. As Fink explained, “honestly I think there was some shame about, you know, feeling helpless…[These deeper opportunities and needs weren’t] going to come up but for the kind of really intentional work around relationship building and strengthening that we did.” Because the Culture Hub roots development in people and their stories, participants are able to “not only to tell a different story about themselves, but also to act on that story”. Residents can rewrite their story from helpless to empowered and shape the solutions that turn this story into reality.

The Culture Hub is expanding. What began in 2015 with four partners is now nearly 20. Furthermore, the Culture Hub joined community cultural organizations in the Black Belt of Alabama, Mississippi Delta, West Baltimore, and rural and urban Wisconsin to found an emerging coalition. This project, called Performing Our Future, brings grassroots partners alongside economists, researchers, and technology developers together to advance community-led, culture-driven development on a national and international scale. The Culture Hub and the coalition continue to look for collaborators and funding to support work in which all people, voices, and perspectives make their own future and own what they make.

Eight Black Women Mayors Join First-of-Its-Kind Network from PolicyLink and ESSENCE

Featured at the ESSENCE-PolicyLink Women Mayors Roundtable on January 29 are Mayors: LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans, LA; Sharon Weston Broome, Baton Rouge, LA; Catherine Pugh, Baltimore, MD; London Breed, San Francisco, CA; and Karen Weaver, Flint, MI (Photo Credit: Arthur Walton)

 

The political power of Black women has been on full display, particularly in America’s cities where a growing number of Black women have taken over as chief policymaker.

PolicyLink and ESSENCE recentley announced the ESSENCE-PolicyLink Mayors Roundtable -- a network for Black women mayors to exchange ideas, share best practices, develop strategies to create equitable cities, and shine a spotlight on their work and communities. Participating mayors include: Catherine Pugh, Baltimore, MD; Sharon Weston Broome, Baton Rouge,LA; Vi Lyles, Charlotte, NC; Karen Weaver, Flint, MI; LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans, LA; London Breed, San Francisco, CA; Muriel Bowser, Washington, DC; and Lovely Warren, Rochester, NY.

The network kicked off last Friday in Washington D.C., following the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting, and will close July 4-7, 2019 during the ESSENCE Fest in New Orleans. In the interim, the mayors will participate in monthly virtual roundtables on topics related to policy and leadership hosted by the PolicyLink All-In Cities Initiative. ESSENCE will also be publishing a series of articles and videos profiling the mayors and highlighting the work that they are championing.

Read more about the event and watch the short video clip on Essense to learn more.

National Equity Atlas Year in Review

Dear Atlas Users,

Happy Holidays from the National Equity Atlas team! We are thankful for another fruitful year of collaborations with local coalitions and community leaders on data projects that empower collective action, undergird advocacy, and inform policies to advance racial equity and inclusive prosperity. Here are some highlights from the past year:

Employment Equity in Southern States

In partnership with collaboratives and organizations in each state, we released a series of five briefs that lay out policy roadmaps for Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Louisiana. These briefs were all based on data analyses and modeling of a “full-employment economy,” defined as when everyone who wants a job can find one, as well as focus groups with workers seeking good jobs These reports are undergirding the employment equity work of our partners, Partnership for Southern Equity, Alabama Asset-Building Coalition, Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative, Rural Forward NC, the NC Budget & Tax Center, and the Louisiana Power Coalition for Equity and Justice.

New Equity Profiles

Continuing our work to inform equitable growth strategies locally, we developed equity profiles for Sacramento, Albuquerque, Cincinnati, and Omaha. As always, each profile was produced in partnership with local leaders who are using the data in their collective action efforts. In Albuquerque, the profile data will serve as a guide for the city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion as they develop their action agenda. In Cincinnati, the profile is informing the All-In Cincinnati coalition which is focusing on increasing housing affordability and stability for Black women in the city.

Other Reports and Publications

In April, we released Solving the Housing Crisis Is Key to Inclusive Prosperity in the Bay Area, produced in partnership with The San Francisco Foundation. Analyzing Zillow data on median rents, we found that two minimum-wage workers earning $15/hour can find affordable rentals in just 5 percent of the Bay Area’s 1,500 census tracts. Last month, in partnership with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, we released 100 Million and Counting: A Portrait of Economic Insecurity in the United States, which sheds new light on the 106 million Americans — nearly a third of the nation — who are living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Register here for an upcoming webinar on the report and its findings taking place on Monday, January 14, 12:00 - 1:00 pm PT / 3:00 - 4:00 pm ET.

Data in Action/Atlas in the News

Our team has also shared several blogposts adding equity data to the national dialogue about inclusive economies; those posts and our monthly email updates are archived here. And throughout the year, Atlas data and reports have also been covered by various local and national media outlets and articles, radio interviews, and more are available here.

Thank you once more for your interest in our work!

The National Equity Atlas team at PolicyLink and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE)

PolicyLink Awarded Hewlett 50 Arts Commission for “We, the 100 Million”

Art is a must-have for any thriving community. And that’s why we are proud to announce today that we have been selected as a recipient of a Hewlett 50 Arts Commission. Launched in 2017 to celebrate the foundation’s 50th anniversary, this is a five-year, $8 million initiative supporting the creation and premiere of 50 new works by world-class performing artists working in five disciplines. PolicyLink is among a group of 10 Bay Area-based non-profit organizations that will receive $150,000 each to create important and unique work that facilitates discussions around the most pressing local issues.

“We, the 100 Million,” will be a series of place-based, community-driven choreo-poems performed with music and multimedia storytelling exploring inequity in the United States. "We, the 100 Million" expands on the work of PolicyLink over the past two decades to advance racial and economic equity in the United States by combining data, policy, performance and poetry. The piece will be a 10-part spoken word performance that lifts up the lives of the 106 million Americans living near or in poverty. (See also: “100 Million and Counting: A Portrait of Economic Insecurity in the United States,” the newly published data profile that provides a breakdown of who is economically insecure in America.)

One source of inspiration for the development of the performance will be data from the National Equity Atlas (the PolicyLink partnership with the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California). Another important source will be direct engagement with people in communities across the country affected by economic insecurity. Lead artist Michael “Quess?” Moore and PolicyLink Senior Fellow and creative director of “We, the 100 Million” Jeremy Liu will work closely with our staff of researchers and public policy experts and local communities to communicate a richer and more nuanced understanding of the lived experience of 100 million Americans struggling to make ends meet.

To learn more about the Hewlett 50 Arts Commission and the nine other awardees, click here.

Winning on Equity

Americans were given a clear choice at the voting booth: continue to endorse a dystopian vision of this country — one rooted in bigotry, xenophobia, and sexism — or instead aspire to the better angels of our nature and take a step in a more optimistic direction.

Millions of Americans chose to embrace the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. As a result, we not only witnessed a historic level of turnout for a midterm election, but a record number of women and people of color were elected to Congress. Voters in congressional districts from the heartland to the coasts sent a message that said: "enough" with the hate and fearmongering.

  • Enough with the anti-immigrant rhetoric and race-baiting.
  • Enough with the voter suppression.
  • Enough with the misogyny.
  • Enough with the lies and hypocrisy.
  • Enough.

What we saw instead is millions of Americans supporting candidates who endorsed the cause of equity — just and fair inclusion for all — as the best way for everyone to participate, prosper, and reach our full potential. Around the country, voters came out in favor of progressive policies protecting health care, creating more affordable housing, and adopting measures to strengthen representation for all voters by establishing nonpartisan redistricting commissions.

Not every race turned out favorably for the cause of equity — and we suffered some tough setbacks that will require more hard work ahead.

We've also been challenged to turn away from the wishful thinking of the past that said "someone else will advance our cause."

It's on us.

It's on us to free our democracy from its history of oppression built on racism, misogyny, and greed.

It's on us to use our power to rewrite the rules that have concentrated wealth and power in the hands of a few, so that our elected officials become responsive to our concerns.

It's on us to ensure that people who were previously left out can participate fully in our economy and society.

With renewed hope, while recognizing so much work remains, let's redouble our efforts to ensure everyone can do well in this great country and reach their full potential. Whatever cause you embrace — removing barriers to work, increasing affordable housing, reforming the criminal justice system, protecting the vote — let's celebrate the fact that we are in this fight together, because our futures are intertwined.

It's on us.

Act Now to Defend Trans Rights!

An attack on any of us, is an attack on all of us!

The present Administration continues to demonstrate that the society it seeks for America is the exact antithesis of an equitable society. An equitable society is one in which ALL can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. The New York Times reported this weekend that the Trump Administration intends "to establish a legal definition of sex" that would "exclude [transgender individuals] from civil rights protections under federal civil rights law." Such actions defy the very principles of equity and put the Administration's inhumanity once more on full display.

The proposal would impact the lives of two million people, causing disarray and revoking equal access to health care, housing, education, and fair treatment under the law. Like so many efforts promoted by this Administration, the proposal ignores the legal and medical precedents, strong science, and general decency and compassion that undergird these supports for transgender individuals.

We must all lift our voice to register our outrage at this blatant bigotry. Let this Administration know that we will not stand by quietly while it attacks any of us. The strength of the equity movement lies in our solidarity. An attack on any of us, is an attack on all of us!

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  • Contact senior Administration officials. Let them know that you are opposed to any proposed rule that would strip transgender — or any — people of their civil rights and other protections.
     

Equity Is the Driving Force: How Advocacy Led to Oakland’s New Cultural Development Plan

By Francis Yu, PolicyLink Arts & Culture 2018 Intern

The Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition (OCNC) – which brings together cultural organizations, neighborhoods, artists and residents of color – has accomplished many feats in the few years of its advocacy and community organizing in Oakland, a city that locals proudly refer to as “The Town.” From being an integral component in budget wins that led to the hiring of Roberto Bedoya, the city’s first cultural affairs manager in fall 2016, and increasing grants funds for local artists and organizations last summer, OCNC has proven to be a critical community voice and has won on several equitable arts and culture policies in a city that has been lacking in such policy work for more than a decade.

On September 17, the City of Oakland released Belonging in Oakland: A Cultural Development Plan, in addition to announcing a restructured and expanded arts grant program, approving 80 projects totaling over $1 million.  The plan, one of OCNC’s original policy goals it identified several years back, is a guiding framework that centers on a cultural equity lens in developing policy, apparent in its tagline: ”Equity is the driving force. Culture is the frame. Belonging is the goal.” Through this framework, both community groups and city officials can design policies and interventions rooted in equity – just and fair inclusion for all. Anyka Barber, co-founder of the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition, adds that, “cultural equity is going to be about making sure that equitable implementation happens.”

Below is a diagram that shows the process of how Oakland’s civic leaders, advocates, and residents informed the development of the plan.

A unique and defining feature of Oakland’s cultural plan is its purposely broad nature: by looking at how cultural equity applies to broader policy areas, strategic development of specific policies and programs would center and consider its effects on the culture and identity of Oakland’s residents. “The goal of this plan was to bust the framing of culture within policies wide open, to not see it in a narrow way,” says Vanessa Whang, who authored the plan under Bedoya. She emphasized the importance of looking at “culture as ways of being,” which has broader implications on the cultural aspects of other city agencies and departments.

This was an important organizing principle for OCNC in that this frame values culture as critical to one’s identity and broadens their advocacy efforts to the community at-large, who feel the city’s culture is under threat as Oakland experiences rapid change. “The displacement of culture and knowledge – cultural entities, churches, spaces – are part of a systemic erasure of community,” states Barber. The threat of this change is critical to the formation and the work around arts and culture that OCNC has undertaken.

As OCNC moves to its next chapter, a cultural development plan that centers on cultural equity provides a shared language communicating the importance of culture as OCNC strengthens its relationships with other advocacy organizations such as ReFund Oakland, a multisector coalition that organized around the City of Oakland’s budget and was integral to OCNC’s policy wins. OCNC is also currently advocating for the re-establishment City of Oakland Arts & Culture Commission, which has been inactive since 2014.

Funding from The Kresge Foundation and support from PolicyLink has supported the work of the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition. PolicyLink has provided capacity and technical assistance in helping prepare OCNC leadership to develop, frame, and organize their policy agenda;  prepare for meetings with elected officials; and build and support their communications strategies. Additionally, Leon Sykes, who helps in the operations of OCNC, emphasized the role of OCNC’s presentation to the 2018 PolicyLink Equity Summit. “It was important in helping us realize just how much work we’ve accomplished.”

California Needs to Do More to Advance Climate Justice

Tomorrow launches a week of global action and gatherings to deepen commitment and accelerate action to tackle climate change. Around the world, indigenous people, frontline communities, and their allies, will be gathering in thousands of cities and towns to demand that our leaders commit to building a fossil free world that puts people and justice before profits.

This call to action comes at a critical time for California, which is why PolicyLink will be joining partners in our home state to Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice! While California has been lifted up as a leader on climate policy and inclusion, the reality is that for low-income communities and communities of color, we have a long way to go to deliver on equity and ensure that all Californian’s can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.

Today, approximately one third of our state’s residents, more than 14 million people who are disproportionately of color, are living at or below 200 percent of the poverty level. By just about every health indicator (asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity) communities of color fare worse than their white counterparts. For decades studies have told us that people of color are disproportionately exposed to harmful air pollution and a recent national study found that the pollution exposure disparity between White and non-white communities in California is among the starkest in the nation. In fact, a report by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessmentfound that one in three Latinos and African Americans live in census tracks ranked as having the highest pollution burden and vulnerability in California. In contrast one in 14 Whites live in these census tracts.

These disparities are not accidental. They are the result of historic and ongoing racial bias and discrimination in policy and practice that have segregated people of color in communities that lack the basic characteristics of a healthy place, have cut individuals and entire communities off from economic opportunity, and have used our political and justice systems to isolate and criminalize people of color.

Climate change, and the devastating impact it is already having on low-income communities and communities of color is another manifestation of these structural inequities. While California has made some important strides in addressing climate change we have not done enough to ensure that our policies advance equity and climate justice. It is time for California to step up to this challenge.

  • Transition to 100 Percent Renewable Energy. California has led the nation in its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, our state institutions continue to put forward policies, investments, and programs that perpetuate our dependence on fossil fuels. The time for fossil fuels is over. For too long our communities and our planet have suffered the negative consequences of fossil fuel extraction, refining, transport, burning, and disposal. California needs to join Indigenous and environmental justice leaders to accelerate a full transition to a fossil free clean energy future.
     
  • Build Community Resilience. Reducing carbon emissions is critical to slowing and minimizing the impact of climate change but climate change is already here, and low-income communities and communities of color are suffering the consequences. California needs to move beyond thinking about climate adaptation as disaster recovery and needs to tackle the systematic and structural inequities our communities experience. This will require significant, immediate, and sustained investment of public resources to reduce social, economic, and health disparities and ensure that all communities have the physical infrastructure, social institutions, and economic opportunities required to thrive before, after, and despite climate change impacts.
     
  • Ground Solutions in Community LeadershipThe people closest to our State’s challenges have the solutions to solve them. When the voice, wisdom, and experience of impacted communities drive policymaking processes, profound transformations happen. Policymakers need to partner with impacted communities to eliminate the climate gap and secure a future where all can flourish.

Join us in San Francisco tomorrow, or in your own community, as we call on our elected leaders to commit to a just and fair transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

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