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Building Our Base

At ONE DC, our vision of community organizing is cooking up! Its hearty base derives from Ella Baker’s approach to organizing. Ella Baker understood that for far too long, those who were directly affected by the issues (poverty, homelessness, racism, displacement) were rarely integrated into their own liberation struggle.

In her praxis as an organizer, Ella Baker practiced participatory democracy. This concept meant that people within movements for social change, those directly affected by the issues, make the decisions related to the campaign or movement; minimize hierarchy within their organization to maximize shared power and equity of voice; and utilize direct action as an effective means to compel decision-makers to implement demands made by the community. ONE DC infuses this concept of organizing and leadership development within our community organizing model as we build our base of long-time DC residents.

Building a base can be chaotic and takes many turns and dips. Organizing and educating the base is exciting, but a slow cooking type of work. Gumbo comes to mind when we realize all the gifts and skills members bring to the organizing dinner table. ONE DC's role is to blend all this talent into a delicious menu of social and political change organizing in DC. Here are some of our ingredients:

1. Leadership Education Action & Power (LEAP)

A people’s vision at ONE DC consists of a membership education program called Leadership Education Action and Power (LEAP). LEAP facilitators use popular education methods to deconstruct the US economy and social issues. Members teach members. With the global understanding of the problems faced by members, members effectively organize their communities and offer comprehensive solutions to decision-makers.

A foundational tenet of ONE DC's vision is that we are organizing for a new system. Because ONE DC is a learning organization, we seek to identify the root causes of injustice and not to simply reform the system. We examine the interconnection of issues like capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, as well as the need for personal and community healing and wellness.

Throwback! Created at a LEAP workshop in 2009

To build power, we must also consistently work to develop our skills as organizers. Over the past several years, our members and staff have participated in the Center for Third World Organizing's (CTWO) Community Action Trainings. Through these trainings, ONE DC members, as well as other local organizers, activists, and tenants studied different types of organizational structures; the power of symbols and framing a narrative to convey a message; campaign frameworks and strategy; and methods of nonviolent action.

GET INVOLVED: The first LEAP session will take place on Saturday, April 27 starting at 11AM. To learn more, contact Claire at ccook@onedconline.org or call 202-232-2915.

2. Grassroots Fundraising

In 2014, the Resource Development Committee of ONE DC began focusing on our grassroots fundraising strategy after attending a session of the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT). We developed a long-term grassroots fundraising strategy with the goal of having a greater percentage of our funding come from our strong base of long-time supporters, so as to be less dependent on foundational support.

Resource Development Committee retreat in 2017

The base of our funding is a combination of small and major donations from individual community members, and grants won through the efforts of our committed grant-writing team made up of members, interns, and staff.  We believe that how an organization approaches fundraising is political, and we strive to create a fundraising structure in line with our principles of shared leadership. Click here to view our 5-year Grassroots Fundraising Strategy Report.

GET INVOLVED: The next workshop in our 2019 Resource Development training series is scheduled to take place Wednesday, April 17 from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Black Workers and Wellness Center. To learn more, contact Nawal at nrajeh@onedconline.org or call 202-232-2915.

3. Coalition Building

ONE DC is a homegrown, locally focused organization, but we embody a far-reaching perspective. We continually develop relationships with individuals and organizations who share our mission, vision, and values not only in Washington, D.C., but around the U.S. and the world. Our Black Workers & Wellness Center is D.C. is affiliated with the National Black Worker Center Project, which supports and incubates Black worker centers that build power with Black workers to advance their rights and improve the quality of jobs in key employment sectors. For the last five years, ONE DC members and staff have attended the National Black Workers Center Convening to expand our vision in coordination with other BWCs.

GET INVOLVED: Join the ONE DC Learning Circle on Sunday, April 14 at 3:00 PM for a special discussion with SLT member Jessica Gordon Nembhard, author of "Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice" Click here to RSVP

From left: Maurice, Nawal, Kelly, Luci (kneeling) and ba at the 2018 National Black Workers Center Convening


ONE DC Members Learn Grassroots Organizing Skills at Center for Third World Organizing Training

By Patrick Gregoire
On October 5 through 7, 2018 over 15 ONE DC members, as well as other local organizers, activists, and tenants participated in the Center for Third Organizing's (CTWO) Community Action Training.

Over the course of two and a half days, we went over the five different types of community change organizations (service-based, advocacy, community economic development, electoral, and direct action/organizing) and their relationships to altering the power structure.

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We learned about messaging and the importance of framing a narrative. We learned about the power of symbols and messaging. Popular brands are instantly recognizable, elicit specific emotions, and transmit specific messages. This is due to the deliberate efforts that go into crafting the stories about them. We learned how choice of words, perspective, and framing and crafting narratives can impact voiceless and disenfranchised communities.

To that matter, we learned what questions to ask ourselves when crafting our messaging as community organizers. What forms of communication work best? What is the current landscape surrounding an issue that we hold important? What audience are we trying to reach? What is our audience’s relationship to this issue? How do they engage with it? How do we get the message out? What are markers of success? These questions are important because they allow us to not only tailor our messages to our audience, but also better ensures that they receive our messages and that those messages stir folks to action.

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We learned how to make a power map and from there, formulate a campaign. We learned which entities to consider (Decision Makers, Organized Opposition, Allies and Potential Allies, Unorganized Constituencies,etc) and what factors to look out for. This framework is vitally important for organizers to get a better sense of the influencers of a given target. Ultimately, it helps us leverage our relationships and networks to determine who needs to be influenced, whom we can actually influence, and exactly who can influence these targets.

Lastly, we were given a list of 198 methods of nonviolent action; tactics that are crucial for the groundwork of any direct action campaign. These are the tools necessary in order to drive, elevate, grow, and ultimately realize our campaigns and get our demands met legitimately.


ONE DC featured in "Right to the City" Exhibit at Anacostia Community Museum

By Angie Whitehurst

A Right to the City is a timely exhibition and comes at a pivotal moment for the nation's capital as our neighborhoods experience rapid and profound transformations. Developed under the direction of chief curator Dr. Samir Meghelli, the exhibition highlights the stories of six Washington neighborhoods and the unsung heroes that have shaped them. Using our renowned community documentation methods including recording nearly two hundred new oral histories and cutting-edge museum design, this exhibition transports visitors into moments that made our city's history. A Right to the City gives us an opportunity to reflect upon the evolution of our beloved D.C. and leaves us with important questions about its future. -from Anacostia Community Museum

On Friday, April 20, the Anacostia Community Museum held the opening night of the Right to the City exhibit. The exhibit is awesome because it shows the grassroots, as we the real people, and not just the symbolically famous. Topper Carew's photographs realistically captures the soulful emotions of everyday life, the painful struggles, the unity of standing together under duress, the joy of simple pleasures of just being together, and the inequity of urban designated zip codes called poverty, homelessness, and ethnically contained "ghettos." This is a silent theme left for the visitor to see, hear, and feel throughout the sensitively, beautifully designed exhibit.


My favorite exhibit is the wall with nostalgic flyers and poster from the years before the now 21st Century. It was a walk through memory lane. Flyers from ONE DC events and campaigns mixed with community event and campaign flyers of the late Marion Barry, Hilda Mason, Josephine Butler, and many others. ONE DC's Dominic Moulden is featured in a video speaking on organizing in the Shaw neighborhood. We will be planning a special ONE DC member visit to the exhibit. Stay tuned for more details!


Just because you can't do what everyone else does, doesn't mean your life stops

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This month we celebrate the leadership of a ONE DC member, Angie Whitehurst. A survivor of a rare form of cerebral malaria, Angie reminds us that we each have unique talents that we can mobilize to serve our community. As a leader in ONE DC's Black Workers Center Chorus, member of the Administrative committee, and a long-time DC resident, Angie is an example of grace-filled resilience and hope.

While working in international development abroad, Angie contracted a rare form of malaria. Her recovery required her to cut down her work hours and slow her lifestyle. She then supplemented her work with volunteering and organizing. In Angie’s words, "just because you can't do what everyone else does, doesn't mean your life stops. Doesn't mean your brain stops."

When Angie was a young woman living with her family in NW DC, her family’s neighborhood was claimed by eminent domain. On the day President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, she and her neighbors moved out of their homes. They built a new home in Petworth. Years later, when plans were forming to build the Metro in Petworth and demolish the homes in the space, Angie and her family organized to ensure their homes were preserved and they were included in the changes in Petworth.

Angie sees the same thing happening at Brookland Manor: development that is neither inclusive nor just. "I call it loopholes. The government doesn't say you have to move, but when people buy buildings just for speculation, flipping, without your participation... it's ethically and morally wrong."

That’s why Angie is a member and leader with ONE DC. She embodies resilience, and she raises all of our spirits with her songs and her stories.

Become a member of ONE DC and volunteer your energy, spirit, and leadership.  


The State of Black Labor Organizing in DC: Past, Present and Future

On Tuesday, October 25, ONE DC, along with Resource Generation, hosted an interactive panel discussion about the history and current state of black labor in DC as well as the role of intersectionality in solidarity organizing. Sitting on the panel were Iimay Ho, the Associate Director at Resource Generation and serving on the board of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice; Kimberly Mitchell, a long time union member and labor activist in the fashion, beauty, and retail industry as well as Vice President of the UFCW Board of Directors; and Eugene Puryear, founder of the anti-gentrification group Justice FirstJobs Not Jails Coalition, Stop Police Terror Project-D.C. and author of the book Shackled and Chained: Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America.

During the discussion, the panel named two forces impeding a robust and inclusionary coalition of black labor organization: 1) A shift away from labor organizing towards non-profit paternalism and 2) an absence of worker solidarity.

Many of the organizations built to work on behalf of black workers and communities are run by non-representational groups. It's the "professionalization of organizing," Eugene remarked. Non-profits embody an institutional hierarchy whereby the needs of the community are defined by an organization and not the people. "Black workers have become the object of organizing, not the subject," Eugene quickly added. Career activism has a tendency to silence the voice of the community in favor of its own programs and political allegiances, especially when confronted with the need for funding.

This tendency speaks to the reality of organizing within conditions set by Neoliberal Capitalism. Organizations need money to function and that money must come from somewhere. Yet, Resource Generation has worked tirelessly to reduce the limitations funding an organization normally necessitates. "We have the flexibility to give to organizations, which frees you to support this or that," Iimay deftly explained, "There's no hoop jumping." One of Resource Generation's core values is believing that "social justice movements need to be led by communities most directly impacted by injustice." Resource Generation aims to reverse the status quo of funding: They subordinate their privilege and wealth to the voice of the community.

Still, even if an answer to the question of funding were found we must still confront the stark lack of worker solidarity and organization. Lamenting, Kimberly spoke a hard truth, "Mothers and daughters have always been organizing the community, church, schools, etc but they've become complacent. I have to remind them that they are needed." A little later she discusses the disparity between the older and newer generation of workers: "I see workers that have worked for forty plus years being disrespected and told 'We don't need you.' What we have now is an assembly line of workers who are unorganized and untrained who are lucky to be there past the ninety day probation period. Its very important we teach the younger generation to let them know that this is not okay or normal." Similarly, Iimay vigilantly highlighted the need for an intersectional approach to organizing: "The legal/illegal immigration status is a strategy for keeping a mass of workers that are vulnerable. Trans folk have some of the highest homeless and unemployed numbers, which are even more when you're black and trans. Queer youth can be cut off from their family and resources."

In the end, the panel left the audience with some advice for moving forward. "Accountability is a key issue. The city will pass anything that sounds progressive but will include either infinite loopholes or make it impossible to enforce." Kimberly was in agreement: "DC is dressed up with nowhere to go." Kimberly also was adamant about opposing gentrification: "What we need to organize around is housing. We are being displaced. This is everybody's fight." Earlier in the discussion, Iimay stood by countering the effects of gentrification: "I don't believe DC should be built on my needs and my consumption." By the end of the night she returned to this sentiment: "The powers that be center the needs of wealthy people and not long-term residents. We need to change the game. We need to focus systemically."

If you would like to find out more about Resource Generation click here. Click here to support ONE DC.


A Reflection on Black August & Organizing with ONE DC

By Paige DeLoach, ONE DC Intern, Cornell University

During the last week of my summer internship with ONE DC, I received an email from Dominic Moulden advertising Black August, a BYP100 and BLM-DC month long event. Black August is described as “a month of rest from, reflection on, and recommitment to our decades long struggle.” Rest from the struggle, reflection on the struggle, recommitment to the struggle. An August that is Black like me. A struggle that is mine.

IMG_6863.JPGBlack August is so necessary. So often, people fighting the essential fights do not recognize their work as continued exposure to trauma. Black people face constant assaults on our personhood and our integrity. We fight for the right to inhabit our bodies, to be in charge of them, to protect and treasure them. This specific kind of fight, against racism and mistreatment, requires us to confront triggering experiences, possibly even share and re­live them, so that others see the validity of this plight. But when we must use these experiences as fuel, we are denied the chance to heal.

Black people are familiar with burnout. Black people are familiar with wounds that are cut open every day. Burnout is full of rage, hopelessness, weariness ­ a type of emptiness that is very hard to shake. Through my internship, I hoped to fight for and with those too burnt out to fight alone. I wanted to take part in fighting for the rights of Black people in my community. I wanted to build power, to provide support, to give solidarity. I wanted to give people the chance to heal.

My work at ONE DC taught me how to work for and with others, how to be an active citizen in the creation of public policy, and how a non­profit organization can help create positive and sustainable change from within a community. I met Angela Davis and Barbara Ransby; I was part of a DC artist’s inner circle for a night; I yelled at city officials; I protested.

As I look back to where I was and all ONE DC accomplished this summer, the one fact I know is that ONE DC gave me the chance to heal, because I was in need of the solidarity I was trying to provide. My rest from the struggle involved joining the struggle of others, and realizing that as I fight for others I fight for myself. We fight for one another to assure ourselves we are not helpless or hopeless, but that within us lies the power to change our world. Spaces like ONE DC and Black
August are essential to our survival, because when we come together, we lift one another up ­ we save each other.

As I return to school, I know that transitioning back to a primarily white institution will be difficult, but I am not afraid. More than anything, I am grateful to every person I met through ONE DC this summer, who helped me heal: you have made all the difference. More than anything, I am eager to come from this period of rest and reflection recommited to the struggle. More than anything, I am ready.
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“Who made us forget our past? Who can make us forget that we come from a long legacy of organizers, thinkers, and doers who understood that the fight can be long, it can be hard, but it can be won?”


Not just an organization, a family.

By Assata Harris

A Reflection on Working with ONE DC.
This summer, I experienced some type of divine intervention, I found ONE DC. I am originally a Bay Area native, and have longed and often romanticized for an organization that I often didn’t believe could exist. I was highly interested in Urban Planning, and for my research paper, I decided to write about gentrification in Oakland. I searched the web for days looking for writers, political thinkers, anyone who could speak about the real root causes of gentrification. Naturally, I couldn’t find anything, until I found a paper written by Dominic about White Supremacy and Gentrification. After I read the paper, I found it a perfect opportunity to contact ONE DC for an internship opportunity for the summer.

I didn’t quite know what to expect because there wasn’t so much information available about ONE DC. It was when I first stepped in the office and felt the warmth and love, I knew this was going to be an amazing summer. I met Rosemary, a dedicated organizer that showed me that ground organizing was not only still possible, but is beyond necessary. I also met Marybeth, a passionate organizer that created a space where intellectualism and love were welcomed. I also met Jennifer, whose eloquence in speech was beyond inspiring. And Claire, the tech behind the scenes that helps keep the organization up and running. And Dominic, who was relentless in perpetuating the shared leadership model. I also got to meet all the wonderful people from the Shared Leadership Team, who brought unique and creative solutions to create the best possible organizing strategies; and people who attended the People's Platform meetings that shared the same beliefs. All of these people a part of the ONE DC movement were all so radical, because they showed me what real organizing looks like.IMG952995.jpg

This summer, I learned how to use Nation Builder, a vital tool for modern day organizing and attended numerous conferences, meetings, planning sessions, and staff meetings. I was able to understand the techniques behind organizing and how much time and effort it takes to do effective outreach. From doing outreach in the rain on Saturday mornings, to attending a Freedom School about resisting state violence, to seeing what a shared leadership staff meeting looks like, to hundreds of phone calls and email blasts, I got to experience every angle of what organizing looks like. Most importantly, I learned that organizing is not about momentum, it is about persistence and base building.

While the organization itself created a wonderful environment for me to further develop my analysis on gentrification, capitalism, and antiblackness, it wasn’t always easy to stomach the amount of systematic violence that has been endured by the Black residents in Washington, DC. When you participate in authentic grassroots organizing, you firsthand feel the atrocities in any community. It was through those moments of sadness that I was able to realize that ONE DC was doing exactly what it set out to do.

While every part of ONE DC was an amazing experience, it was working in Brookland Manor that really left an impression on me. Through ONE DC, I did phone banking trying to help organize a new tenant association board for the property which is planned to be demolished, in turn displacing hundreds of low-income Black families. ONE DC created the environment where I was able to listen and use organizing strategies that were revolved around leadership, equity, and resident-led projects. This was refreshing beyond belief because I have only been used to seeing hierarchal and patriarchal forms of organizing. I felt for the first time I was able to be doing the right work for the right reasons with the right people. This organization created an environment for self-reflection, positive feedback, and a way to expand my worldview in ways that I could not have imagined.

While I was only expecting to make phone calls, do technical jobs, ONE DC was all about everyone participating in organizing. To be able to firsthand see an organization that was devoted to Black organizing and a unique leadership design, was an eye-opening experience. In essence, I experienced growing pains. I was pushed beyond natural paradigms to imagine a world that everyone also calls cliche or impossible. ONE DC pushed me to envision a world without state violence, capitalism, anti-blackness, and patriarchy. I absolutely loved interning at ONE DC this summer. I don’t consider it an organization; I consider it a family. I hope to find my way back to ONE DC, and continue to work with the forgotten people of DC.


Do You Support Black Organizing?

Resist.jpgLet me tell you a story about Libanos, an African immigrant living at Mount Vernon Plaza. A few months ago, Libanos was participating in a class discussion at UDC-Community College when the professor, who happened to be a ONE DC member, started talking about #BlackLivesMatter in DC and ONE DC. Libanos shouted out, “That’s my organization!” With tears in her eyes, Libanos described how resident leaders in Shaw are working with ONE DC organizer and African immigrant, Marybeth Onyeukwu, to resist displacement in their neighborhood. Under the leadership of over a dozen Mount Vernon Plaza resident-leaders and support from ONE DC’s People Platform campaign, Mount Vernon Plaza residents won their rent court cases, preserved 63 low-cost units, and now continue the struggle to win permanently low-cost housing at Mount Vernon Plaza.

Show your support for Black residents, workers, and organizing by making a donation to ONE DC today.

tenantorganizingTable.pngONE DC’s work has always been about doing the hard work of movement building - building community and building leaders to fight back against the rapid gentrification, displacement, and unemployment that longtime DC residents are facing. Our organizing connects the dots between underemployment, poor jobs, mass incarceration, and the demolition of affordable housing, forcing the state and private interests to recognize that #BlackLivesMatter.

This year, ONE DC’s Right to Income campaign is fighting to ensure that #BlackWorkersMatter in DC. With support from ONE DC organizers, resident leaders are forming a coalition of partners to plan for the establishment of a Black Workers Center, a black resident-led space whose mission is to create and maintain racial and economic justice.

As we build a movement to make #BlackWorkersMatter in DC, we are focused on building leadership, especially Black women leadership, who are so often minimized in conversations about Black employment. For us, movement building isn’t a fad: it requires us to organize alongside Libanos, Azieb, and countless other Black women leaders who are fighting for an economically and racially equitable city.kimandphyllissa.jpg

But to ensure we are building a movement and not a moment, we must continue to invest in leaders like Libanos. Movement building is hard work. But some residents—like Libanos, Azieb, Kimberly, & Phylissa (pictured) —are up for the task and ready to fight!

Here’s how you can help. Make a donation today to support ONE DC in sending members and staff to participate in movement-building trainings: Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD), and the Center for Third World Organizing (CTWO). ONE DC is a member-led, member-funded movement, and with your support, we can continue to build the leadership of Black organizers and longtime DC residents who will pave our way to a more equitable DC.

Build the movement with us.