Santa Fe is divided into communities that have much and those that have little. It is long past time to address this. Retake has become part of a partnership comprised of Chainbreaker, Earth Care, Somos Un Pueblo Unido, Indivisible, & Democratic Socialists on a journey to economic and social justice. The journey starts now. Details within.
Equity in Santa Fe: A Call to Action
Back in November when the unthinkable happened, many of us realized we hadn’t been paying close enough attention, hadn’t been as engaged as we might have been. We felt a collective and urgent need to do something, to come together. And so Retake Our Democracy was born. A series of meetings occurred with huge turnouts. People wanted action. As the Inaugural approached, plans for a Women’s March unfolded, and all over the country millions marched in solidarity. This momentum was sustained for some time, largely due to Donald Trump and his Muslim ban, offensive cabinet appointments, talk of his proposed legislation, his effort to repeal the ACA, and his appointment of Gorsuch.
But over the past 3-4 months, the number of people showing up for meetings, opening the post and sharing it, and attending rallies have all declined. Despite an utterly preventable state budget crisis and a Governor behaving like a child, a three-week long statewide call for a Roundhouse Rally drew only 200 people. It is as if the spirit has been knocked out of our community. It was to be expected that enthusiasm would wane over time, and the non-stop barrage of Trump executive actions and extraordinarily inhuman healthcare, tax ‘deform’, and budget bills provided repeated body blows to our spirit. All the petitions and marches in the world are not going to deter the GOP, and Retake has expressed skepticism about the real value of these kinds of actions, primarily because they do not constitute a strategy — a coherent set of integrated actions that lead to a clearly defined goal.
Let me get personal: Forty-five years ago, I was an activist in Santa Barbara; we marched in protest against the war; we partnered with labor to prevent delivery of supplies to the University, and we shut down the school; we barricaded Hwy. 101, stopping traffic for hours; the Bank of America was burned; across the nation a flame of idealism was ignited; MLK, Jr. connected the dots of racial justice, economic justice, and peace. Many of you lived that reality and there was one thing that was certain: that this movement would change the world, that justice was around the corner. MLK, Jr. said it so well: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” Well that mountaintop seems obscenely distant just now, and the trail up seems fraught with challenges. And all the iPhones, hybrids, widescreen TVs, and kitchen gadgets can’t mask the deep, soulful pain of realizing that somehow all our aspirations have not been realized. While the doors to justice at a national level seem shut, at least for now, and a veto Queen on the fourth floor of the Roundhouse blocks the path to progress for two more years in NM, there are things we can do here in Santa Fe.
I remain convinced that Santa Fe will rally if a tangible goal and a clear strategy to achieve something meaningful is presented. There is a challenge here in Santa Fe, an affront to our sense of justice that we can address ourselves, without fear of our work being stalled by a Governor or a President…. and a plan is emerging.
A Tale of Two Cities and a Plan for Equity
The Challenge: We live in two cities in Santa Fe, one largely affluent, white, and older; the other younger, browner, and struggling economically. If you are not convinced of this, click here and re-read a post from a month ago: Community Development and Gentrification: A Tale of Two Cities. Or better, go directly to the source of that post, a Chainbreaker report: HIA-report-Final. All you need do is read the Executive Summary and scan the charts scattered throughout this brilliant report. It tells of how the median income in Districts I and II is $60,000 and $54,000, while in Hopewell-Mann the median income is $21,000, and in the Airport Road area, $41,000; it illustrates the extraordinary degree to which our Latino and Anglo populations live not just in different communities, but in different realities. The report also provides abundant evidence of how our city continues to invest its resources far more consistently in neighborhoods with resources than in neighborhoods in need of resources. We must face this reality to fix it.
Most Santa Feans living in Districts I and II believe in social justice; we believe in equity; we believe all humans should enjoy the same opportunities. Yet, over the years we have allowed Santa Fe to become two cities. We can wait for government to address this, or we can start to do it ourselves. I am betting Santa Fe wants to take the lead, to stand tall for equity and justice and not wait for our elected officials to pass bills that inevitably fall short of our deepest, grandest aspirations. A partnership and a plan to achieve equity is emerging.
Retake Our Democracy is announcing the formation of a sustained grassroots, participatory partnership to achieve social and economic justice in Santa Fe, to make two cities one, and to ground that unity in equity. We have been part of two planning sessions now with Chainbreaker, Earth Care, YouthWorks, Indivisible, and Democratic Socialists, with New Energy Economy and Somos Un Pueblo Unido also part of the partnership. The core of this campaign is to find common ground and build power, power that can dictate to our city a path to greater equity. Many details of the plan are not quite ready, but we can share some details now.
Community Conversations & Community Organizing. While all of our partners have different, established organizing strategies for engaging their community, Retake will focus on a variety of forms of community conversations where we will share information about how and why our city is so divided. The information shared will include charts and graphs that depict an undeniable and shameful reality in Santa Fe. That will be the easy part. The hard part will be the conversations that follow that seek to look within and see how we have been to varying degrees complicit in this reality, how our comfort comes at a cost to others we don’t often see. Facing these realities will create an ethical dissonance that will require action. I deeply believe that most all Retake supporters aspire to achieve justice. But this campaign is about moving beyond aspirations into a sustained campaign that will require commitment of time, skills, and financial resources. At the same time that Retake is engaging our constituency, our partners will be canvassing, holding community meetings and town halls in their neighborhoods, and conducting other forms of outreach and organizing.
Retake’s role in this process is clear: we must galvanize the resources that so many of the Retake community are blessed with: time, skills, experience, and finances, and we must put those resources in service of the under-resourced CBOs who have been in the trenches for a decade, the organizations with relationships in our under-served communities, and we must support their organizing efforts. This process is being designed so that each partner engages its own constituency, and then all partners will collaborate to synchronize the voices of each constituency to create a unified base of power. This effort is not about rallying around a specific issue or crisis, it is about building power to achieve equity in all its forms and all its contexts, and it will be built to be sustainable. We are not going to wait for City, State, and National policies to narrow the wealth gap, to create equity. We are going to do our own part to address social and economic injustice by contributing our time, skills, and financial resources to a range of local initiatives to help build the capacity of our activist partners.
Community Conversations for Equity. June 10, 1pm-6pm. As a result of our partnership meetings, the scope of our work has shifted and the scope of this training has deepened. If we are going to be successful in organizing our power, we need a strong sense of purpose and we need skills. On June 10, Chainbreaker’s Tomás Rivera will set the tone and the target, presenting the overarching purpose of the training and the unfolding campaign: equity in Santa Fe. He will be followed by Mark Diaz Truman, a community organizer from ABQ who was trained by Marshall Ganz, the principal strategist for César Chávez for 16 yrs. and then the strategist for the brilliant 2008 Obama campaign. He will introduce the principles of effective community organizing, provide training in active listening and the use of effective communication skills designed to engage and form connection with your audience/listener. After Mark, Katharine Clark who studied under George Lakoff will train us in the use of moral language and how to reframe issues so our messages can be heard by people who may not share our perspective.
I have heard so many times that we need to begin talking with others, we need to listen, we need to engage our entire community. This training will provide the tools for doing so. Please click here for more information and to RSVP. You must RSVP to attend. Participation in this training will provide you tools for all forms of community activism and political conversation, not just in this initiative but in conversations with friends and family in 2018, 2020, and beyond. Most importantly, this is the first step in what hopes to be a truly inspiring and rewarding journey. The path to equity in Santa Fe. It won’t happen without you.
At the end of the day, what we are as individuals and as a community is not what we believe or what we say, it is what we do. Let’s do this together. Santa Fe is supposed to be the City Different, but sadly it has become two cities, not terribly different from so many other US cities, one of haves and one of have-nots. Let’s make Santa Fe truly different and work together to unify this city, unified in justice and equity.
Roxanne and Paul