Upswell Pop-Up #3: Forging a More Just and Equitable Union

Upswell Pop-Up #3: Forging a More Just and Equitable Union

// By Debra Rainey

Simply acknowledging that inequity exists isn’t enough. We are duty-bound to leverage every ounce of our energy, empathy, intelligence, and power as individuals and as a sector to be a force that helps drives the change that is needed to create a more just and equitable America. Upswell Pop-Up #3 explored the critical factors that must be taken into account, and what we must do in this moment of destiny to achieve that goal.

Why is it important?

We all know that the challenges gripping our nation aren’t new, and we can no longer turn a blind eye. No one understands that more than our country’s Black community, which continues to be weighed down by the burden of systemic racism, hate, oppression, and discrimination that has gripped our nation for more than 400 years. And it falls to all who have not felt the weight of racial inequity to face our responsibility to accept, understand it, and reform the inequitable systems that have enabled it and allowed it to persist.


Centering Racial Equity in City Hall’s Response

Majestic Lane, Candace Moore, Joy Marsh Stephens, Victor Reinoso | Watch Here

Making Sense: We have reached another point on the long arc of history — that Dr. King talked about and that people have long fought for before now — that has brought us to today. The challenge before our nation’s cities and our country is what we will do with the opportunity?

  • We must do the deep work and re-imagining necessary during this moment of intensity, urgency, and motivation to address these crises — being thoughtful and intentional about our efforts to address the challenge of creating lasting systemic change.
  • Well-meaning people are often the slowest to change because they have difficulty seeing how their framing of policies is harming other people.
  • To effect real change, anti-racist policies that are developed must be ingrained at all levels and throughout municipal governments, and small and large decisions must reflect those anti-racist policies.
  • We must explore opportunities to institute community-based strategies and involve the community in making transformative change in policing. “Fix things with, not just for, people.”


Centering Policy in Our Search for Justice

Angela Glover Blackwell and Dan Cardinali | Watch Here

Making Sense: The police shooting of George Floyd and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 have laid bare the systematic racism that continues to haunt our nation. But we are experiencing moments of our nation beginning to realize our full potential. We’re now able to really talk about race in America, and deal with the original sin. And we’re realizing that our nation cannot reach its full potential unless all people can reach theirs.

  • If you’re not talking about race in America, you’re not talking about anything important.
  • All people must join the battle for equity with a sense of humility, respect, and sense of long-term commitment.
  • Our nation is becoming a majority of people of color. The fate of our nation is dependent on investing in them. If they thrive, our country will thrive.
  • Focus on the “curb cuts.” They were initially intended to accommodate people who use wheel chairs, but they’ve made it easier for all of us to cross the street.
  • System change is not system transformation. Some systems need to be put away for good and reimagined.
  • Practice radical imagination. Go to the edges of what you want, then pull it back in and say, “Why can’t it be that way? And then start working on it.”


Courage & Conscious Leadership

Swami Jaya Devi and Habib Bako | Watch Here

Making Sense: Right now, “changemaker paralysis” is sweeping across our organizations because people are afraid of making mistakes. How do we fix that and embrace our capacity for courageous leadership? By allowing ourselves to be truly vulnerable.

  • Consider a traditional Quaker approach: I refuse to be enemies with you.
  • Be curious to know how people got to where they are. Courage, curiosity, and compassion can help you stand side-by-side instead of in opposition.
  • Embrace the frame of mind that “I don’t want to be I want to do right and get it right.”


Advancing a Progressive Agenda During this Time of Crisis

Aaron Dorfman | Watch Here

Making Sense: We’re in an unprecedented moment where progressive policies can be won that undermine white supremacy. The key? Supporting movement building.

  • Throw out what you thought were reasonable or “winnable campaigns.” It’s time to dream big and unleash our imaginations.
  • Movements let donors leverage their dollars, are essential for large scale change, and create lasting benefits by nurturing a pipeline of emerging talent.


Building a Trauma-Informed Organizational Foundation Resilient to Crisis

Nkem Ndefo and Amy Turk | Watch Here

Making Sense: As we respond to both the pandemic and racism in the United States, we need to consider the role that trauma – both personal and collective – is playing in our lives.

  • Social connection is the underpinning of a trauma-informed response. Don’t confuse spatial distance with social distance.
  • Embrace principles of safety, trust, transparency, peer support, collaboration, choice, cultural humility, and mutual learning – and notice how these terms land and feel when you say them.
  • It’s tempting to go to our heads – but we won’t find the solutions there. Embodiment of these principles builds the capacity that sustains an anti-racism agenda.
  • Avoiding tough conversations isn’t an option. We need to help people get into tough conversations and stay in them without falling apart.


The moment is now – for us as individuals, as changemakers, as organizations, and as a country – to make the systemic changes that are necessary to ensure our nation truly holds “these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This is the social sector’s opportunity to seize this moment as the heart and conscience of our nation to strongly advocate for and help lead the tough work we know is ahead. For it is only through dismantling our deeply ingrained systems of injustice, and viewing all subsequent actions to replace it through the lens of anti-racism – that our path will be made clear to create an America “with justice and liberty for all” that enables all people to thrive.

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