I'm excited to have 'crossed over' from an incredible year of exciting change, transition and settling in! Now, a few weeks into the new year, I'm in a reflective mood, and find myself frequently looking back over so many amazing, humbling, and educational moments in 2011. I have hopes for increasing our movement for social change and I hold a great deal of excitement about what could lie ahead.
I'm checking my world view of social justice and philanthropy; seeking a movement that promotes more attention to 'what the people want,' one that calls for greater institutional accountability and transparency, a movement that finds a place for each of us to come together and to realize the beloved community as envisioned by the late great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I'm looking back at a year in which “we” - the 99% - stood on the frontlines, gathered together for justice around the world and across the country; speaking out about the need to move from individualism and corporate greed to collective action and more attention to all of the people. We called for cross-cultural, cross-race and cross-class organizing to ensure critical pieces weren't missed, again, in the new movement for justice for all.
I'm reflecting on how we came together across union and non-union, rural, working class, poor; urban, middle class, students, differently-abled, LGBTQ, the young and older to stand for a common theme - racial, social and economic justice for all; raising our voices for access to credit and capital in all communities, for fairness in the allocation of resources, for use of our tax money to purchase the social services that we know are needed. Locally, MRG co-hosted an Occupy conversation titled Race, Class and Occupy, to ensure the the demands for economic justice of the majority of 99%ers included the critical presence of people of color, young, older, LGBTQ, and women: the most vulnerable to marginalization.
I'm looking back at another year in which MRG continued our mission - to provide funding of nearly a half-million dollars to grassroots groups organizing for access and power in communities throughout Oregon, and we did it despite rough economic realities. MRG has continued to provide equal access, information sharing and support to our newest and longer-term grantees, including those with longer histories in leadership and capacity-building or just starting out.
Looking back, I recall the lessons rooted in the Sankofa bird; a bird that turns back and walks forward; symbolizing African culture and pride and resilience against the odds. I find comfort in the words of the Griot, “To go back to your roots is to take the first step FORWARD. For it is in the past we find the path that leads to the present. And from the present we move on to the future.”
At a time of economic struggle for so many, we can look to the heroes and sheroes who were community-builders and sustainers, who made a way out of no way, and with little support. We can seek comfort and hope from the wisdom of our elders and the young - those who have lived lives of longevity and resilience and those young enough to believe that the quest for freedom and justice is possible, even attainable in their lives.
As 2012 opens before me, I anticipate the work of community and organizational capacity building, strengthening community and organization resources, finding more financial support for those on the frontlines for racial and social justice, peace and environmental protections in Oregon.
In the spirit of Sankofa, I walk forward with my head raised high, with resilience, and a belief that, after 35 years of working to realize a dream of real community that is just and supportive, MRG Foundation will continue to be a leader in effecting social change; that our work will continue to inspire others to join us; that we can raise the voices of all who work to achieve a better world in our own backyard.
In the spirit of Sankofa, I challenge myself and you, to look back and to move forward toward a world in which we can achieve real change that's rooted in freedom, opportunity and social justice for all. Let's reach back and walk forward eagerly and expectantly toward a more just Oregon; one deeply rooted in freedom for all; liberation from oppression and marginalization, a state in which we can all live in the beloved community.