Written by Angela Gallegos-Castillos, Community Planner at Instituto Familiar de la Raza.
As COVID-19 continues to ravage our Latinx communities, as institutional violence repeatedly plagues our youth with police brutality, social silencing, and mass hysterectomies creating the social dynamics and dilemmas we are living today—the question many of us are asking: How did we get here?
To answer this question, we must answer the questions: Who counts? Whose voices are heard? Who gets to sit at the tables of decision-making power?
We know who it is not—it’s not our poor, not the millions of immigrants in this country, not BIPOC and certainly not our advocates.
Suffering, violence, pain and alienation are a consequence of ignoring and suppressing the uncounted for too long. After all, social justice advocates who have been in the game long enough have fought for radical system change that actually makes a difference for decades. We’ve advocated for change that begins with community, where community is the central concern, and not an afterthought.
A big lesson from the social movements of the 1960’s and 70’s is the idea that supporting community requires that we pivot TOWARDS building community institutions that respond to community needs while also organizing to dismantle and reform the racist, sexist, homophobic and class system. To that end, several Chicanx/Latinx/Indigena leaders and visionaries established nonprofits to address the needs of its people, identify and address service gaps, build agencies relevant and in tune to residents, create community-centered approaches and solutions, and lifting culturally and linguistically responsive services that make a difference.
In San Francisco, our Chicanx/Latinx/Indigena elders built community institutions on firm foundational principles of justice, love and inclusion that we benefit from today. We have over 25 Chicanx/Latinx/Indigena serving agencies that respond directly to the needs of the Latinx residents from which private philanthropy and public institutions can learn. Listening to neighborhood residents and their advocates is key. It is important for philanthropic and public institutions to adopt community-driven strategies that place community knowledge at the center, adopts practice-based evidence, and puts promising approaches in action.
Roadmap to Peace (RTP), a community-birthed and driven initiative begun in 2012, is a product of that thinking. Our new framework, titled Community-Driven Collective Impact (CDCI), positions community needs at the center of ALL discussion, strategy and measurement. RTP is charting our own journey, creating a framework for CDCI based on OUR values and principles, reflecting OUR reality as a community working to improve social conditions of Latinx youth.
We call on philanthropy and public institutions to reconsider business as usual. If they are to reflect your values, we encourage you to assess how, and in what direction, you pivot. I take the lead from our Hopi Elders who invite us to consider: “Where are you living? What are you doing? What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? Where is your water?”
To bring about social change, social justice, equity and inclusion, private philanthropy and public institutions must break old paradigms; it’s time for a major paradigmatic shift in their bellies. They cannot, however, do it on their own. Courage and right relations are required to define what is at your center.
To be successful, private philanthropy and public institutions must consider the following:
1) Stop and LISTEN, listen with compassion and with care and openness to what community has to tell you so you LEARN.
2) Adopt a collaborative leadership paradigm based on principles of dignity and respect that honors community-based knowledge not solely from literature and ivy towers – be willing to get uncomfortable.
3) Develop new equitable and authentic relationships with and in communities – stay in relation for the long haul which means rethinking your operations as you know them- INVEST in COMMUNITIES.
4) Adopt progressive strategies and tactics to create inclusive and equitable public institutions. As Audrey Lorde reminds us, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” It’s time for institutions to consider new thinking, new design. Community and ancestral wisdom has much to teach you regarding strategies to end human suffering and measure success.
5) Who gets invited to discussions and decision-making tables ultimately reflects what is defined as important. Change your notion of who matters. Everyone has a role to play in a post-COVID world. Promote knowledge; resident knowledge, parents, youth, children are as valuable and knowledgeable as any program manager, CEO, or chancellor. It’s time to listen.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Let’s roll up our collective sleeves and put “las manos a la masa” (all hands on deck). We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.