Search This Blog

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Right To The City Alliance: Year 2010 at a Glance

By Anita Sinha
2010 was a year that reinforced the need for powerful collective action. The jobs and housing crises carried over and continued to pulse through low-income communities across the country.  The world started the year with the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and a few months later the Gulf Coast was dealt another challenge of immeasurable proportions with the BP oil rig explosion.  That same month, in April, Arizona detonated an explosion of a different kind. The Arizona legislature’s enactment of SB 1070instigated fierce pro-immigrant organizing, lawsuits that stalled the application of the Arizona law, and copycat legislation for consideration in at least a dozen states.

The U.S. Social Forum in June provided a dynamic space for social justice activists to convene, while the Tea Party gained momentum by launching its own mobilizations and, ultimately, electoral candidates.  A string of queer youth suicides sparked the moving It Gets Better project.  Mid-term elections flipped the House and many state legislatures and governorships to Republicans, and days later, people took to the streets after the stunning verdict in the Oscar Grant shooting.  The prospect of progressive climate change legislation waned, while advocates from around the world convened in Cancun to demand and develop real solutions to the climate crisis.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Development’s (HUD) proposal to dismantle the public housing system became a bill, and a poised housing justice community began mobilizing to respond.

Closing out the year, the lame duck Congress failed to pass the Dream Act, renewed the Bush tax cuts, and sent to the President’s desk the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The release of data from the 2010 Census unveiled major ramifications for states and political parties, while Wikileaks published secret and classified information that stunned the world and sparked a debate about transparency and democracy.

Throughout this year, the Right to the City Alliance mobilized for both proactive and responsive action.

Housing and Jobs
RTTC member groups joined forces knowing that the majority of the damage done by the jobs and housing crises is falling on the backs of their low-income, predominately of color, communities. The Housing and Urban Development Workgroup met several times with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and held a Congressional briefing on its groundbreaking report, We Call These Projects Home, detailing the impact of public housing policies on low-income residents and communities.

The New York City region released a powerful report, People Without Homes & Homes Without People, which calls for the conversion of vacant condos into affordable low-income housing, and held a walking tour of vacant condos.  Los Angeles issued a sharp report card urging the enactment of stricter policies and community-based solutions to improve the housing and living conditions for over 1 million tenants in the city.

RTTC launched a Ready to Work jobs campaign to demand targeted hiring and training for hardest-hit communities, engaging over 800 unemployed workers in 2010. The Alliance also joined forces with Jobs With Justice’s national day of action to declare a jobs emergency.

Civic Engagement
The Civic Engagement Workgroup is an example of how RTTC seized the opportunities of 2010.  RTTC members of the Civic Engagement Workgroup launched a nationally coordinated Yes We Count Census outreach project.  The outreach work of RTTC community-based groups had a significant impact on increasing the participation of traditionally “hard to count” groups in the Census. The project led to new relationships between community members and organizations, strengthened alliances and, in some cases, led to new participation on critical local issues such as foreclosures and jobs.

Next year, the Workgroup will launch the Engaged Voter Organizing (EVO) Training for Trainers, with the goal of training more than 500 leaders. The EVO trainings are created with the acknowledgement that U.S. cities are becoming majority people of color, majority women, and are the locations where new immigrants and LGBTQ people are concentrated.  The EVO training will equip member-leaders and organizers with historic, strategic, and practical information to run a field outreach campaign,  Trainings also will  build a new layer of leadership to create  power and a voice for our communities to determine how our cities are run.  Additionally, in key geographic areas,  Civic Engagement Workgroup members  will educate and advocate for fair and equitable representation in the 2011 redistricting process.

Supporting Arizona & Opposing the Criminalization of Immigrants

Through its support of the grassroots movement in Arizona, RTTC also showed its commitment to backing on-the-ground mobilization in the face of a social and racial justice emergency. The Alliance supported the Alto Arizona campaign by sending a grassroots delegation of more than 80 people to participate in a national mobilization after the passage of SB 1070.  RTTC also dispatched experienced staff to provide on-the-ground organizing, strategy, and fundraising support.

In the fall, RTTC members participated in a Turning the Tide on Immigration summit in New Orleans to address the increased criminalization of immigrants. At this summit, RTTC hosted a strategy session on multi-racial unity, and created a concept paper on how to support a broader campaign that builds connections and coordination between the immigrant rights community and the racial and criminal justice communities.

Ecological Justice
The Ecological Justice Workgroup kicked off ecological justice trainings, called “Eco-Schools” in New York City and Virginia, as the first phase of our ongoing political education series of RTTC mobile schools.  The Eco-schools represent mini-versions of the Movement Generation trainings, Freedom Fighting While Defending the Earth, that advance the development of a deeper ecological justice lens in racial justice organizations.

RTTC members joined a delegation, headed by Grassroots Global Justice, to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancun. Inside the convention, several accords were passed that fell woefully short of addressing long-term climate change needs.  However, outside the convention, a movement for real change to address the climate crisis assembled in strong form. Vibrant marches of thousands of small farmers, indigenous peoples, and community activists from around the world streamed through Cancun’s streets, while about 30 demonstrations showed their solidarity across the U.S. and Canada.

Getting Stronger from the Inside

Amidst RTTC’s great external work, the Alliance also was committed to strengthening its structure and internal operations.  RTTC completed an organizational development process, identifying priorities and creating an alliance-wide, national campaign.  RTTC gave thanks and appreciation to the hard work of outgoing Steering Committee members: Denise Perry, Dawn Phillips, and Rickke Mananzala.  At the U.S. Social Forum, the membership elected a new Steering Committee, consisting of: Anita Sinha, Advancement Project; Jon Liss, Tenants and Workers United/Virginia New Majority; Kalila Barnett, Alternatives for Community and Environment; Alicia Garza, POWER; Mark Swier, Mothers On The Move; Eileen Ma, Korean Immigrant Workers Association; Yvette Thierry, Safe Streets Strong Communities; Gihan Perera, Miami Worker Center/Florida New Majority; and Leonardo Vilchis, Union De Vecinos.

The RTTC national staff went through some changes this year, and has come out strong. The Alliance was very fortunate to hire an experienced and dynamic organizer, Rachel LaForest, as its new Director of Organizing, while it said farewell to its dedicated Lead Organizer, Marisa Franco.  Lisette Le joined RTTC as the new Regional Organizer for Boston.  Avi Rosenthalis came on board as the New York City Regional Coordinator and we said goodbye to New York City Organizer Shannon Barber.  RTTC bade a fond farewell to Carl Lipscombe, and welcomed Mark Swier as the new Operations Coordinator.  Claire Tran remains as our now-veteran RTTC staffer, leading the way as National Organizer for Civic Engagement.

Happy New Year to RTTC and its allies and supporters. Onward!

Anita Sinha serves on RTTC's Executive Committee as Archivist, and is a Senior Attorney at Advancement Project.

1 comment:

  1. Year 2010 was a new era for the jobs in it field. If anyone want to use data integration tools, Then learn the method from here.