“Do not lose heart. We were made for these times.” At the Facing Race conference that started the day after the election, I found some comfort in these opening words from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ essay, “Letter to a Young Activist in Troubled Times.” One of the speakers at the conference, political commentator Van Jones, strengthened my resolve and that of many of the conference’s 2,000 attendees when he said, “We are less alone than we have ever been.”
Jones contrasted the tens of millions of White people and tens of millions of people of color who feel a common sense of heartbreak with a coalition on the Right that is a lot less unified and a lot less stable than it looks.
In racializing people’s economic anxiety during his campaign, Trump fanned the flames of hate and division. Speaker after speaker at the conference said that if the Left is able to use this political moment to transcend its own tendencies toward fragmentation and silo-ing, it will have an unprecedented opportunity to build a stronger movement for justice. The need for a multiracial, multiethnic, cross class movement has never been greater and Real Change’s role — as a community institution that brings people together to take action — has never been clearer.
Our call starts with protecting our vendors, among the most vulnerable who will no doubt come under greater stress with the emboldening of people who denigrate the poor and with the inevitable cuts to social services that are coming. We must assure our vendors that Real Change is a safe and welcoming place. We will be a sanctuary, a community of inclusion where all are truly welcome and honored, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disabilities.
It won’t just be the most vulnerable people who will inevitably come under attack in the coming era, but the institutions that defend them. As a media source, Real Change is particularly susceptible. This country is already seeing attempts to shut down free speech and characterize the media as “biased” and “fake.” We take pride in our independent journalism and will defend it fiercely. We will be a voice of truth, an instrument of resistance. We will never normalize hate, and you — our readers — can count on us to continue to shine as a beacon of journalistic independence, courage and integrity.
Our newspaper and vendor program gets most of the attention, but looking ahead, we are going to need to ramp up our investment in our advocacy and organizing work. This past year, less than 10 percent of our budget went to our advocacy work. That simply isn’t close to sufficient to meet the need. It is critical that we invest more resources to reach out to our allies and in communities of color and build real solidarity. We must do more organizing across sectors, because issues that affect queer people affect homeless people, issues that affect Black people affect homeless people, issues that affect immigrants and refugees affect homeless people.
We always kick off our Winter Fund Drive the week after Thanksgiving. This year, we set an aggressive $240,000 goal. We simply can’t fall short if we are going to be able to invest in the equity work that will allow us to protect our vendors, preserve the democratic ideals of free speech that we represent in our paper and shore up our advocacy and organizing efforts.
Toward the end of “Letter to a Young Activist in Troubled Times” essay, Estes writes, “When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But ... that is not what great ships are built for.”
Real Change is a great ship. We need our community and our community needs us. Please give generously to our Winter Fund Drive. It is a vital way that you can support us to bring people together so that we can all weather the storm that is headed our way.