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A group photo of the State Voices network at our national convening (photo courtesy of Mabel Photography)

All Power to The People

There’s power in the collective, and our communities deserve a democracy that addresses the needs of the people, especially those who are Black, Latinx, indigenous, migrants, LGTBQIA+, disabled, poor, women, and more.

That’s why the State Voices network is committed to fighting for multiracial political power for oppressed people, together.

Last month, organizers and advocates from the State Voices network came together in Albuquerque, New Mexico at our national convening, Charting Our Strategic Direction – Our Vision, Our People, Our Structure, Our Power. We discussed dismantling white supremacy, collectively reimagined our structure, built trust and community with each other, and geared up for 2020.

Convening in order to build trust and fight for power has been essential in movement building throughout history. In 1905, 29 civil rights activists, including W.E.B. DuBois, convened in New York to discuss political rights for Black people and formed the Niagara Movement. In 1951, 100 Black women came together to convene in D.C. for the Sojourn for Truth and Justice to demand freedom for political prisoners and an end to police brutality. In 2016, UndocuBlack’s Undocumented and Black Convening brought together 65 undocumented Black people, and their collective brainpower helped solidify the network’s goals of integrating healing spaces and community with advocacy and protest.

It’s in this spirit that the State Voices’ network builds community with one another. Here are some highlights from our national convening in September. Check out how we used collective power in developing our strategic direction, discussed ending oppression, and grounded ourselves in Native and Latinx culture in Albuquerque.

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A group of advocates and activists in the State Voices network during a workshop at our national convening (photo courtesy of Mabel Photography)

State Voices’ Strategic Direction

As many folks know, State Voices is transforming. We made a lot of advancements in our strategic direction, where we are mapping out our vision for State Voices as a network as we continue building political power for oppressed people.

We understand that there is power in the collective, and that’s why we know that our best strategies will be built together, and informed by people doing on-the-ground freedom work. The convening was an opportunity for us to collectively reimagine State Voices’ structure and vision for power.

We learned lessons from other large progressive organizations during a panel featuring Jennifer Epps Addison of the Center for Popular Democracy, Jamal Watkins of the NAACP, and Sara Schreiber and Miguel Avitia of America Votes. We gained feedback on our current structure from each other, and used consensus building models to help envision our structure as a network.

We collectively reviewed three statements that State Voices’ North Star Committee generated to help guide us into 2020. Those statements—’Our People,’ ‘Our Vision for Power,’ and ‘Our Theory of Change’—are meant to reflect who were are and how we fight for political power. We came up with a lot of amazing feedback to the statements, and are currently working on revisions. These statements will help us all stay grounded and rooted in our values.

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A group of advocates and activists in the State Voices network present during a workshop at our national convening (photo courtesy of Mabel Photography)

Ending Oppression, Fighting for Justice

On the first day of the convening, the Trump administration came to Albuquerque to hold a rally, and organizations across New Mexico organized protests in support of migrants. This includes partners with the New Mexico Civic Engagement Table: the New Mexico Dream Team, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, Progress Now New Mexico, ACLU New Mexico, and the Center for Civic Policy. Actions, voter registration drives, and community performances were abundant. At the convening, we amplified efforts on social media under the hashtag #NMUnitedAgainstHate.

The following day, State Voices board member and Executive Director of The Partnership Funds, Erin Byrd, lead us through a timeline of white supremacy, and provided us with language to discuss dismantling it and building a pro-Black politic. We talked in caucuses about our experiences as Black, Latinx, Native and indigenous, Asian American and Pacific Islander, white, and multiracial people in the workplace and in broader society. Through this sad and traumatic history, we checked on one another and supported each other.

We followed the workshop with a session where we used our radical imagination to come up with concrete suggestions and reflections on making sure the State Voices community is safe and supportive for everyone. We created relationships and bonds with each other that will last beyond the convening.

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A group of advocates and activists in the State Voices network present during a workshop at our national convening (photo courtesy of Mabel Photography)

For the Culture

I’m so grateful for the New Mexico Civic Engagement Table—their kindness, generosity, welcoming nature, and their efforts to liberate oppressed people in New Mexico. The table helped make sure we were grounded in Albuquerque’s spiritual and cultural Native, indigineous, and Latinx culture.

We spent the convening at the Sandia Resort & Casino at the Pueblo of Sandia, a federally recognized tribe that has been in the area since 1300 AD. The first day of the convening, Julia Bernal helped welcome us to their ancestral land and said a prayer in Tiwa, the language of the pueblo. Panelists Arturo Sandoval of the Center for Southwest Culture, Regis Pecos of the Leadership Institute at Santa Fe Indian School, and Laurie Waehkee of Native American Voter Alliance shared sociopolitical and cultural history of the area. Sandoval reminded us that cultural acts are political acts.

We had the opportunity to have dinner while being serenaded by Otilio Ruiz Co, an incredible local music duo. Sky City Buffalo Ram Dance Group performed in the morning the next day.

Wednesday night, the city of Albuquerque hosted us at the Albuquerque Museum for a night of music, performances, food, drink, and speeches. A local food co-op provided us with our meal. Mayor of Albuquerque Tim Keller spoke about his commitment to ensuring New Mexico is a place where everyone can thrive, especially indigenous and Latinx folks who face violence and discrimination in the city. Flamenco dancers from Rebozo, the mariachi band, and the ska band were all incredible.

Local Native artist Dale Deforest created beautiful artwork for the convening that we will cherish forever!

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The Sky City Buffalo Ram group performing at the convening (photo courtesy of Mabel Photography)

Building Power in 2020 & Beyond

There’s a lot in store for the State Voices’ network. We are finalizing our strategic direction process, and gearing up for 2020.

Many of our tables and partners have already launched large scale voter registration programs, with a goal to register a minimum of 2 million new voters! We are implementing Get Out The Count efforts to be sure we are counted in the 2020 Census, and organizing around major issues that are impacting people’s lives—from police divestment to getting big money out of politics. Our network will contact tens of millions of voters as we educate and turn people out for one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime!

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Advocates in the State Voices network with the convening swag bag (photo courtesy of Mabel Photography)

 

We create magic when we convene as organizers and activists dreaming of a better world. It takes time and intention to unlearn what this white supremacist society has taught us, to learn more loving and healthy ways of engaging with one another and our earth. At State Voices, we are committed to this intentional work.

There’s a lot up we are up against. Racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, fatphobia, colorism, discrimination against poor people. But together, we’ll fight for political power for oppressed people. Our multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural coalition of freedom fighters can’t lose when we are grounded in love and living in our full dignity.

Take a look on Facebook to see some of the pictures from our convening. Let’s stay in solidarity together in this movement for a better world.

Alexis Anderson-Reed
Executive Director of State Voices