Sharing a Cultural Recipe for Resilience

A Project Advisor at Movement Strategy Center Presents a Recipe and a Family History for Southern Black Lives

The holiday season is among us — a time to celebrate, reflect, reset, and gather in community. It’s also time to prepare festive meals and share favorite dishes — many from recipes that have bounced around families for generations. The concept of sharing foods and sharing traditions has always been an integral part of movement work, as well. When we share recipes that connect us to our roots, we invite our community to recognize our whole selves. 

The staff here at Movement Strategy Center (MSC) clock in across several states, cities, and time zones. Thus, our mostly remote culture demands creative ways of convening, connecting, and developing connections and we must be intentional in our cultivation of Beloved Community. At the end of the day, our issues and their solutions are interconnected — whether they’re at work or in life. 

It was in this spirit of community and reflection, that our Movement Infrastructure Innovation Center (MIIC) team was asked to share a recipe that best represents their culture. Most team members shared actual recipes — tamales, a honey glazed ham, and lasagna — family favorites shared year after year at holiday gatherings. But, Karmella Green, who joined the MIIC team as a Project Advisor in the Summer of 2022, offered her team something different: a powerful video presentation detailing a cultural recipe rooted in compassion, shared history, and Black liberation. 

Through an oral history, beginning in the 17th century, Green — a Black woman and a Texan — challenged her teammates to interrogate perceived benefits of White proximity, a driving force that prompts people of color to adopt anti-Black views. Karmella articulated the resilience of her culture, noting, “Slavery is White history. How we survived it is Black history.” Her narrative is buried in poems and pain; it details familial accomplishments and societal failings and is bookended with quotes from the Black luminaries lining her family’s bookshelves. She details her family members, including her great great grandmother — a well known member of their community. Throughout these stories, Green poignantly reminds us that “if intergenerational trauma can be passed down through DNA, so can healing.” 

Her incredible piece is a recipe — not for a casserole but for healing, for growth, and for overcoming systemic racism. It echoes her contemporary efforts to disavow the inherent systemic racism within the philanthropic community, and it is a lesson for transforming communities. 

Thank you, Karmella, for sharing your cultural recipe and reminding us, this holiday season, that when we share histories, we can shape possibilities for our collective future, rooted in love. With her permission, we invite you to watch her piece, as presented to her teammates, in the video below. 

Trigger Warning: the video includes photos of violence, themes of racism, oppression, death, and abuse.

If you are feeling nourished, like and share this blog, and let us know in the comments below what dishes — or histories — are staples on your holiday table. No matter the dish you bring to the table, MSC wishes you and your beloveds a spirited holiday season.


Judith LeBlanc: A Movement Icon Goes to Harvard

One of Movement Strategy Center’s Board Members Brings Native Organizing to Cambridge

Judith LeBlanc isn’t just one of Movement Strategy Center’s board members — she’s a movement icon. LeBlanc, an enrolled member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, probably wouldn’t admit to her icon status. You’d more likely hear her refer to herself as a proud grandmother, a proud citizen of the Caddo Nation, or just a fan of ice cream and fry bread.

Illustration by James Bradford

But she’s an absolute force. Just look at her resume: LeBlanc serves as the Executive Director of the Native Organizers Alliance; a field director for Peace Action; a National CoChair for United for Peace and Justice; a board member for IllumiNative; and the chair of the board of NDN Collective. Judith was a 2019 Roddenberry Fellow and, before her board position at MSC, she worked for four years as a member of MSC’s Transitions Lab community. 

This fall she also made time to serve as a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School alongside a former governor of Wyoming, a former Secretary of State for West Virginia, and a former Prime Minister of Sweden — in addition to other luminaries of politics, business, and academia. She is leading a study group of lucky Harvard students that will focus on exploring Indigenous rights and Native and Indigenous organizing across the country.

At a September forum at the university, LeBlanc was a breath of fresh air among the far right doom and gloom. She called Election Day “a snapshot of the balance of politics.” She continued: “Everything that happens between elections — on issues at the grassroots level — is what shapes the outcome of elections.” She is thrilled by “a historic high number of Natives” running for office and the “vibrancy at the tribal and grassroots level … Native people are highly aware of the threats to sovereignty and the impact of systemic racism and they understand that elections matter.”

 “Everything that happens between elections — on issues at the grassroots level — is what shapes the outcome of elections.”

With Harvard Kennedy School students
With Harvard Kennedy School students

After a recent Institute of Politics event, LeBlanc took to Facebook: “truth telling, good food, and great conversation with Mark Trahant, Phil Deloria, and Libero Della Piana. So proud of our people at Harvard who are preparing for sovereignty and self determination!”

Her enthusiasm was still palpable a few weeks later. In a conversation with LeBlanc, she noted that not only were the first Native women elected to the Congress in 2018, but that now, for the first time in over 230 years, there is Native Alaskan representation in the House of Representatives.

And all this in the same month that the Department of the Interior announced nearly 650 geographic locations with names containing an offensive slur for Indigenous women would be renamed — with input from Native communities. Though it didn’t come a moment too soon, it’s still impressive that this historic mass renaming is occurring less than a year after Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland — the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary — formally declared the word a derogatory term and began this process.

Last year, LeBlanc was involved in the Red Road to D.C. project — a two week national trek that saw a 25-foot, 5,000-pound totem pole created by a group of Lummi Nation artists journey from Washington state to Washington D.C. The House of Tears Carvers — the Lummi traditional carvers behind the monumental artwork — consider totem poles to be much more than art. LeBlanc agrees: “they tell our stories, they gather prayers, and give us guidance for how we walk.”

And that was exactly the intention of the tour — as co-sponsored by the Native Organizers Alliance and chaperoned by LeBlanc herself. At her speech on the National Mall, she drove the project’s mission home: calling on the Biden Administration to both “recognize the traditional, legal, and inherent rights of Native nations and Indigenous peoples to protect sacred places” across the country and recognize their own ancestral responsibilities to protect sacred places for future generations. LeBlanc was joined by Secretary Haaland and multiple speakers that day, each representing different tribes and speaking to the needs of their ancestral lands.

 “What’s the medicine we need? That medicine is to heal the land. But first, we must bring people together to heal themselves, to understand their relationship to land and place and history.”

She also spoke of her hope to “bring people together to recognize what it is that will make us stronger.” She asked: “what’s the medicine we need? That medicine is to heal the land. But first, we must bring people together to heal themselves, to understand their relationship to land and place and history.” She continued, “the future is Indigenous … And I say that to mean that the future is when we will recognize our relationality — that we’re related — when we recognize that we have common struggles in order to make sure that our descendants live a good life.”

These sentiments aren’t new. From her work on behalf of the Wounded Knee Defense/Offense Committee on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in the early 1970s, to Standing Rock pipeline protests beginning in 2016, LeBlanc has espoused the value of cultural strategy and how “walking in ancestral knowledge” can “[define] the present” and shape the future. She also believes in establishing your role in the community or communities you hold yourself accountable to — in order “to be a good relative” in community.

At the end of the day, LeBlanc’s packed schedule, list of achievements, and everyday ethos all comes down to her respect for the role of the traditional practices of her people and all Indigenous people.

A big congratulations on your stint at Harvard, Judith — and in all your achievements and their throughline in peace, interdependence, community, and self-determination. Like and share this blog in honor of Judith and Native American History Month.


Sandbranch, Texas, and the Intersectionality of American Water

Movement Strategy Center Considers Water Equity, the Clean Water Act, and the Repercussions of Sackett v. EPA

Water seems fairly innocuous — you open your tap and water comes out. You assume it’s safe, it’s clean, it’s drinkable. Maybe you prefer Poland Spring or Lacroix, or you use a Brita, but you assume you can drink your water. You certainly feel comfortable bathing in it, washing your dishes with it, using it to prepare meals, or sloshing it into the dog bowl.

But water is a hot topic right now. Take the recent crises in Mississippi’s capital, the years of inaction and litigation in Flint, Michigan, and our country’s generally poor water infrastructure in many majority BIPOC cities and towns. At Movement Strategy Center (MSC), we are crowdfunding in support of the residents of Sandbranch — a Texas Freedman’s Settlement that still lacks clean, running water, despite its location just outside Dallas, one of the most prosperous cities in our country.

Our water is a hot topic at the Supreme Court, too. Sackett v. EPA is an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case that could broadly affect the Clean Water Act, which was ratified way back in 1972 and just celebrated its 50th anniversary. And it may wind up being the most significant attack on America’s clean water laws since the 1970s.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Sackett case, it involves a couple who hoped to build a home near a lake in Idaho. To do so, they began to fill the property — a federally protected wetland — with gravel. The EPA, citing the Clean Water Act and its broad protection of the “waters of the United States,” halted the work and required the gravel’s removal. That was back in 2007. Since then, the case has bounced around the court system and will now be heard before the Supreme Court.

The Sacketts’ lawyers will argue that the wetlands in question are not “waters of the United States,” and thus not subject to federal regulation.

We know what you’re thinking. It’s water; and it’s in the United States. What’s the question?

We turned to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for a little clarity. Per Jon Devine, the director of NRDC’s federal water policy team: “Congress intended the phrase to be interpreted very broadly.” 

When lawmakers were drafting the Clean Water Act … They envisioned its protections as extending to all the various bodies of water that make up a watershed, many of which people use for recreation, fishing, and drinking-water supply. And while those lawmakers may not have been hydrologists, they nevertheless understood the fundamental interrelatedness of these different bodies of water. “So the very earliest regulations set forth by the EPA were inclusive … All the relevant parts of an aquatic ecosystem, including streams, wetlands, and small ponds — things that aren’t necessarily connected to the tributary system on the surface, but that still bear all kinds of ecological relationships to that system and to one another.

He noted that, over the years, various parties — often developers and polluters — have attempted to litigate the meaning of the term; and until the early 2000s, those parties usually lost.

The Clean Water Act was nonpartisan, and it was passed in reaction to massive fish die-offs and dangerous levels of mercury and raw sewage in our waterways.

In 2006, another case surrounding another wetland drainage project was brought before the Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy stuck to the script — his opinion maintained that “waters of the United States” didn’t need to be visibly contiguous to warrant protection; and that if destroying or polluting one wetland or pond or creek could affect the health of a second body of water, then said waterway deserves protection. Both the Bush and Obama administrations subscribed to this viewpoint.

That said, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia saw things differently: his opinion centered on navigable waters. If it can’t accommodate a boat — well, protection shouldn’t be necessary.

That opinion, though ludicrous, was supported by the Trump administration and has opened the door to cases like Sackett v. EPA. And, crucially, it could make poking holes in the Clean Water Act a whole lot easier. And that’s a travesty: the Clean Water Act was nonpartisan, and it was passed in reaction to massive fish die-offs and dangerous levels of mercury and raw sewage in our waterways — not to mention the fact that Ohio’s Cuyahoga River literally caught fire and Lake Erie was projected to become biologically dead. 

And while our waters have improved immensely, many waterways are still unhealthy and face further degradation from “forever chemicals” and increases in urban and agricultural run-off as developers pave over natural spaces and farmers and property owners doubledown on fertilizer and pesticide use. That’s to say nothing of climate change: drought, water scarcity, and just how hard our wetlands work in storing carbon. 

We hope the Clean Water Act remains intact in the face of our overwhelmingly conservative Supreme Court. And, like Kennedy’s subscription to the interconnectedness of American waters — from seasonal ponds and small swaths of wetland to our largest lakes and most powerful rivers; we must recognize the interconnectedness and intersectionality of the American water system. We can not forget our brothers and sisters in Sandbranch, and in other communities all over the country that lack clean water infrastructure.

The people of Sandbranch — property owners and taxpayers — are represented by the Sandbranch Planning Committee and are working tirelessly to not only bring water to their community, but increase access to fresh food, equitable healthcare, and basic infrastructure (streetlights, trash removal, signage) to their community. With help from MSC, the Chisholm Legacy Project, and the Until Justice Corporation, the Sandbranch Revitalization Fund is starting with the installation of Hydropanels — a solar-powered system that can supply households with safe, clean running water pulled directly from the atmosphere. 

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has joined the crusade. The organization is sponsoring Hydropanels for two homes in the community while working to raise additional funds and urge other large environmental organizations to make similar investments in Sandbranch and other frontline communities struggling to access clean drinking water.

“It is shameful that hundreds of years after its founding by emancipated men and women, this community does not have reliable access to clean and safe water,” said Dr. Adrienne Hollis, vice president of environmental justice, public health, and community revitalization at the NWF.

Members of NWF and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined Tonette Byrd, who leads the local Until Justice initiative and has led efforts to bring Hydropanels to Sandbranch, at a town hall meeting in October. Byrd, who has worked closely with the community and built relationships with its members, said in an interview, “this community deserves better and what I see happening in this community should not happen anywhere in the United States.” 

She continued: “we are thrilled to be working with the community to ensure that this innovative technology can begin to help address these historic environmental injustices and provide renewable, reliable, and affordable water for community residents. Other environmental groups, federal, and state partners should invest in this and other similar efforts to address water insecurity in frontline communities in Texas and across the country.”

The members of this community have been oppressed by systemic racism and environmental injustice for over a century. Phyllis Gage, a longtime resident, said, “we’re paying taxes. So where’s my tax money going?” Her comments remind us that these Americans need far more than Hydropanels. These are a sort of band-aid — residents need city water and sewage services, food justice, land justice, and opportunity; and all of it must be rooted in a Just Transition.

“This innovative technology can begin to help address these historic environmental injustices and provide renewable, reliable, and affordable water for community residents.”

Food scarcity has become a central aspect of their plans: a centralized, community Hydropanel will maintain a community garden to grow fresh produce for Sandbranch residents. Meanwhile, residents point to their rising property taxes — in 2020 tax rates doubled and, in some cases, tripled for landowners. This despite the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) designation that limits property improvements and buyout offers beginning in 2005 that offered some residents only $350 for their properties.

Sandbranch’s water crisis touches every part of every resident’s life — how could it not? Safe, clean water is essential — to people, to productivity, to the natural world. It’s all connected — much like the “waters of the United States” cited in Sackett v. EPA. We need the Clean Water Act to remain intact. And, in Sandbranch, we need to support the installation of Hydropanels — a first step in bringing equity to this tiny but mighty Texas community. Please donate what you can to the #SandbranchIsRising campaign; and please share this blog. Water is life.


A Black-owned Farm Blooms
in Sonoma County

Inspired by Octavia E. Butler, Pandora Thomas Grows Fruit and Community at EARTHseed Farm

As climate disasters dominate headlines, and rent hikes, state-sponsored violence, and union-busting billionaires fuel social inequalities, the premise of the Parable Series, sci-fi books by the beloved ancestor and New York Times best-selling writer Octavia E. Butler, can feel more like prophecy than speculative fiction.

Photo of Pandora Thomash EARTHseed by Paige Green Photography for Made Local Magazine
Photo by Paige Green Photography for Made Local Magazine

The staffers and activists that populate MSC’s ecosystem are “positively obsessed” with the series; and that includes Pandora Thomas — a former Climate Fellow with the People’s Climate Innovation Center. Thomas is the founder and land steward of EARTHseed Farm — a 14-acre  solar-powered farm and orchard — the first Black-owned farm in Sonoma County. And, she named her farm after a religion that Butler created for said series of books. 

Earthseed, as revealed in the series, is a religion based on the idea that “God is Change” and adaptation is crucial: all the seeds of all life on earth can be transplanted and, through adaptation, will grow in many different situations or places. The concept resonates in the world of transformative movement building:

All that you touch, you Change. 

All that you Change Changes you. 

The only lasting truth is Change. 

– Octavia Butler, from the Parable of the Sower

All that is to say: when our core staff convened at our Oakland office this summer, it was a perfect opportunity to pay a visit to EARTHseed Farm. Like its namesake religion, the farm practices relationship-based design while reconnecting and evolving in its Afro-Indigenous principles and practices. 

Butler’s character Lauren Oya Olamina’s commitment to spreading the message of Earthseed is not unlike Thomas’ goals for her farm. Thomas envisioned a place where Black and Indigenous communities can reclaim their relationship to the earth, their history, and the future. With the permission and blessings of the Graton Rancheria Tribe, a federation of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo groups, Thomas, a passionate global citizen, established her Black-led and operated farm in March 2021. In addition, Thomas works as a caregiver for her mother and globally as a teacher, writer, designer, and speaker, and co-founded the Black Permaculture Network. 

Located on the ancestral lands of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo Peoples in California’s Sonoma County, the farm is an example of permaculture stewardship in action: an ecological design system embedded in Indigenous wisdom that elevates ecosystem health while meeting human needs. The rows of fruit trees and berry brambles — which are bordered with flowers and herbs for cutting and drying — are managed by a group of like-minded practitioners and sing with bees and butterflies. Crops include various apples and pears, persimmons, plums, pluots, guavas, and mixed berries.

Signs throughout the farm remind us that berries are a self-protecting bunch and to pay our respects to the fruits we pick. The sign asks patrons to introduce themselves to the fruit, ask for its permission, and send appreciation for all it does for us.

Honoring ancestors and the land is integral to the EARTHseed Farm mission. Signs throughout the farm remind us that berries (and their thorns) are a self-protecting bunch; and that we should always pay our respects to the fruit we pick. Signs ask patrons to introduce themselves to the fruit, ask for its permission, and send appreciation for all it does for us.   

EARTHseed sells produce wholesale and runs a popular U-pick program from May to November that is open to the public. During our visit, we ran into visitors like Janie, from the East Bay, who is a big fan of the Parable Series and brought her friends to pick fruit after discovering the farm in a Google search for Butler’s Earthseed concept. U-Pick Steward Lisbeth Paniagua walked the group through the farm, educating the guests on permaculture design while showing off the ripest fruits and berries. 

EARTHseed’s wellness and health products are produced by Herb Diva Abi, the owner of the Stinging Nettles, or otherwise sourced from Black-owned farms.

We also met Abi Huff, a.k.a. “Herb Diva,” the owner of the Stinging Nettle and director of Healing Clinic Collective — an MSC fiscally sponsored project — restocking the farm store shelves with herbal creams and insect repellents. She shared her warm memories of the Black to the Land Gatherings EARTHseed hosted last Spring to reconnect folks to the roots of Afro-Indigenous wisdom. Their first event was in partnership with CAFF and gathered BIPOC land stewards from the region. Huff told us what an incredible experience it was to arrive at the event and be greeted by so many beautiful Black and brown faces — in an area that isn’t famed for its diversity. She told us the series was a fantastic way to build and support the community. 

Thomas has long been known for building relationships and sharing her ideology with neighbors across age, race, and economics — spreading ideas of resilience and self-determination. This particular Saturday morning as we entered the farm, we were greeted to the sounds of resident musicians, Leon and Kevin, who featured bluegrass tunes and traditional African instruments including the African Burkina Faso. 

With freshly cut flowers from their garden, and a note to the entire EARTHseed Farm family, neighbors living across the street from the farm stopped by to introduce themselves and welcome the EARTHseed team.

Later, we met Thomas’ neighbors from across the lane. They arrived bearing freshly cut flowers from their garden along with a note to the entire EARTHseed Farm family. We spent the next hour or so with the couple, walking the grounds, checking out the resident pigs, taking in the impressive solar panels, and attempting to identify the butterflies swarming otherworldly passion flowers studding a thicket of passionfruit vines. Thomas and her neighbors chatted like old friends — so it is no surprise that she has made quite a splash for herself within the tight-knit community along Sullivan Road in Sebastopol.

Visiting EARTHseed Farm was an inspiring treat and fed our imaginations. As communities work diligently to reverse historic harms and restore regenerative systems that honor our humanity, EARTHseed Farm is a place of solace, refuge, and healing for the Afro-Indigenous community, and for food- and nature-lovers of all stripes.

The farm is a part of Thomas’ new Sankofa Project — one of MSC’s new FSPs and member of the Movement Strategy Network. Sankofa will include Thomas’ work with Marin City and Urban Permaculture Institute. You can support this work through donations, by volunteering, by stopping by to shop or pick fruit, or by spreading the word about this remarkable farm. Share this blog and share the possibilities EARTHseed Farm can inspire. And check out the sights and sounds of EARTHseed in our gallery below.


Everything You Need to Know About 988

Movement Strategy Center Chats with Tansy Hall McNulty, Founder and CEO of One Million Madly Motivated Moms (1M4), About the Launch of 988

On July 16, 2022, 988 is finally going live — a sort of sister service to 911, 988 will replace the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255, which will remain in service after July 16) as a nationwide number for individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts, mental health or substance abuse emergencies, or emotional distress. A first step in reimagining crisis support in the United States, this easy to remember, three-digit number (call, text, or chat) is confidential, free, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers will be connected to trained English and Spanish language crisis counselors with interpretation services in over 150 languages.

We (virtually) sat down with Tansy Hall McNulty, Founder and CEO of One Million Madly Motivated Moms (1M4), to discuss the launch of 988. As founder of 1M4, Tansy leads an ongoing effort to compile and share a comprehensive guide of local and regional Mobile Crisis Units all over the country — an often safer alternative to calling the police for Black families in need of mental health support. When 988 legislation was passed, in 2020, Tansy, 1M4, and their resource were in demand — this collection of crisis units and co-responders would be a jumping off point for 988’s network of operator-counselors and the mobile crisis units we all hope will follow, as 988 secures funding and expands.  

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MSC: What is 988? 

THM: 988 is a federal mandate that was created back in December of 2020, that we would have a short, easy to remember, three digit number for suicidal thoughts, mental health emergencies, and behavioral health emergencies. Effective July 16th of this year, 2022, 988 will go live nationally. 

MSC: When should we call 988 instead of 911? 

THM: 911 is for criminal behavior or medical and physical emergencies … 988 is for those who are having suicidal ideations and those who are experiencing mental health emergencies, or emotional distress. So these are times that you need a counselor, someone to talk to, someone to de-escalate … The hope and the intention is for it to be a national dispatching center for mental health emergencies. That infrastructure is still being built, however … It will not be ready on July 16th in all places — so I want people to be aware that when you call 988 in these situations, depending on where you live, you may still have an interaction with a law enforcement officer.

MSC: How is 988 funded?

THM: 998 will be funded much like 911, in some states … Look at your cell phone bill, and look at the breakdown. On your bill you’ll see something that says 911. Everybody who has a cell phone is paying … 12 cents a month or 15 cents a month for 911. And that’s so it’s a fully funded organization and entity and that means it doesn’t run out of money. Well 988, ideally, would be funded the same way, but some states are running into issues with this additional fee, because it’s become politicized. So, some states are actually leaning towards a one-time grant opportunity to fund 988 and to fund the call-takers, those who will be servicing the 988 systems. The issue with having a one-time grant is it’s one time. And this is something that needs to be sustainable, so that it can continue, stay funded, stay helpful.

 "The issue can be that sometimes the states take over and they don’t want communities to drive solutions, when we know communities keep communities safe."

MSC: What are some gaps that 988 does not address? 

 

THM: The hope is for 988 to one day be fully fleshed out, to be able to release mobile crisis response teams, or mobile crisis units as well call it on our website — it’s just not there yet, they’re still building the infrastructure for that. And a big portion of that, too, is the need for funding — you have to be able to fund things for them to work, you have to be able to pay people … When you’re this close to someone going through rough times you need to be compensated well for that. So the funding is needed; and consistent, sustainable funding — not these one time things.

We also need community involvement — we have some community response teams on our website but there are so many others out there … I’m hoping they’re able to be funded through 988 too. The issue can be that sometimes the states take over and they don’t want communities to drive solutions, when we know communities keep communities safe.

 

MSC: How can we help make 988 better?

 

THM: Our involvement is needed, because a system that you are not a part of, you’re not considered. It’s very important to be a voice at the table; or just a voice on the other side of the phone. The opportunities to become a call-taker, to become someone who is the voice … Listening to what they need, what they’re saying, providing them the best outlet for help — and the outlet could just be you, listening. It’s amazing to me what happens when people just listen; when people actually feel heard. 

We need people on the other end of the phone who sound like the community that’s calling them. So if you’re someone who is empathetic to other people, who has a will to listen … Look up opportunities for employment, to be the voice someone hears when they’re upset … If you are someone who cares about people, who cares about solutions, who cares about public safety, the safety of individuals going through rough times, consider being a call-taker, consider going through the training to become one of those counselors … who are trained to de-escalate, to provide a soothing voice to hear you out in your darkest hour. 

"We need people on the other end of the phone who sound like the community that’s calling them."

MSC: What can we do until 988 launches and while it’s being developed?

 

THM: Right now you can go to our website and look up our mobile crisis units. Look at your state, look at your area, find who’s in your area who can respond to your needs. Particularly if you’re someone who has had or knows of someone who’s had suicidal ideations, or someone who has manic episodes — become familiar now with the guide and the people in your area, before you need them. It’s always best to build familiarity before you need that help. So you can know what their processes are and you know the group that’s going to answer the phone … I encourage you to call [their administrative phone numbers and] just talk — say, what can I expect? I have a family member or a friend who has these things that happen every now and then, what would happen? I don’t want to engage the police — will they be encountered? 

On our site it will tell you. We interview the people to ask them — will you include law enforcement? Some said yes, every time; some said only if a weapon is involved — ask them those questions, talk to them. [Save their] numbers now, so if … something happens with [a] loved one, or [you] see someone going through some distress, and it seems like they need help, [you] can call this number and know they have a better chance of surviving that interaction.        

You can all help us build out our guide. If you look at our list and you know there’s a mobile crisis response team that’s local to you [that isn’t listed] … Please share with us: go to our website or email [email protected], and send us the name of the organization. We will call them [and ask] them the same questions … just to make sure we understand how they respond.       

 

MSC: How do I know 988 is something safe that I can trust?

 

THM: We want … to [hear] what’s actually happening in the community. So, after you call 988 we would like to know what happened — so we can document it, we can keep up with it, we can actually report back to the implementation team.

Even for our mobile crisis guide: when you contact these different units, we would like to know what happened, did they get you the help they needed? 

I was in contact with a woman in New York … Her nephew was having back to back manic episodes, and when they happen back to back they increase in intensity. They put him on a list — it was a six month wait to get in with a psychiatrist. The family did not want to engage law enforcement, it’s a Black family. So they went to our guide, and they called their local mobile crisis unit, who put them in contact with resources. They ended up actually taking him to the ER, because at some ERs – it should be all but it’s some – there are psychiatrists on staff that you can get in with. So he was able to avoid having to interact with law enforcement by referencing our guide. 

And his aunt, the one who contacted me, was extremely grateful that she had that resource, that information. So we want to know from others: when you use our guide, what happens? We want to hear your stories, hear your experiences, we don’t want to share your name … We just want to know your experience so we can get better. We can let individuals know, who are in positions of power — you didn’t do what you were supposed to do, or you did, you did an excellent job, tell your colleagues [and share your knowledge in] keeping people safe and truly caring for people when they need us.  


The MSC Storytelling Series: Jacqui Patterson

In this installment we get to know researcher, advocate, and activist Jacqueline “Jacqui” Patterson founder and executive director of the Chisholm Legacy Project former director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program; co-founder of Women of Color United; and proud board member of MSC.

“It wasn’t a coincidence, it wasn’t happenstance.” So says Jacqui Patterson — activist, founder of the Chisholm Legacy Project, and MSC board member — on how she made her way to Movement Strategy Center. 

She was introduced to MSC through Movement Generation but if it wasn’t that it would’ve been something else: “the universe … draws like-mission and like-spirited people together.” She knew from the beginning there was alignment in work and in mission and it became clearer as Patterson participated in MSC’s movement support work — the Transitions Labs, the facilitation of conversations and meetings, and the cultivation of projects. “There are so many points of resonance and alignment in everything that MSC does … Whether it is the heart of the people … Or the way that they facilitate conversations about collective organizing toward the world that we want, MSC has been an inspiration, a catalyst, and a facilitator of radical imagination and a radical love in action.”

Patterson hails from the southside of Chicago — a very urban place not far from the other, more suburban side of the tracks. Her neighborhood offered many of the great touchstones of city life — ice cream trucks, block parties, and community. But also some of the worst: there were gangs, the sound of gunshots weren’t uncommon, and concerns about her brother simply existing as a Black boy in America were pervasive. 

Her family blended two cultures — her mother came up to Chicago during the Great Migration from Dublin, Mississippi; her dad immigrated there from Jamaica. The result was an upbringing steeped in both Deep South and Jamaican influences: a culture of food (collard greens plus curried chicken) and music (rhythm and blues plus reggae). Patterson’s ancestry is in sub-Saharan Africa; her common history involves those ancestors being stolen from their homelands and brought to unceded territories in both the United States and Jamaica to become the enslaved labor behind the economy and the infrastructure of those respective lands. 

She says, “I am who I am out of that history and that story. And, I am who I am in celebration of the rich cultural heritage and in resistance to and in reparations from how the heritage and ties to nation and community were interrupted by colonialism. I do what I do to both celebrate and treasure that cultural heritage.”

There are so many points of resonance and alignment in everything that MSC does … Whether it is the heart of the people … Or the way that they facilitate conversations about collective organizing toward the world that we want, MSC has been an inspiration, a catalyst, and a facilitator of radical imagination and a radical love in action.

Her work reflects this. She is working to restore “linkages in some ways to the motherland,” and “address, redress, and correct the carnage and the aftermath of colonialism and where it has left our communities as a result of the systemic exploitation, extraction, and oppression.” The work centers on Black and BIPOC communities all over the world; and is in partnership with all “the aligned and the allied — anyone who is allied and aligned with the mission of Black liberation.”

For her, liberation ensures “that all people have self determination and have what they need to be whole and thriving.” And it starts with accountability — “my purpose is to be in service to the quest for self determination and liberation of Black frontline communities.” 

So much of that begins with being very “intentional about who is not even being thought of by those sitting at the table — much less are they even at the table.” In terms of climate justice, Patterson wants everyone to have a seat. Thus, a focus on chronically ignored Freedman’s Settlements — communities, many unincorporated, established by those “just emancipated from enslavement.” 

One, a community of only about 100 people outside Dallas, is Sandbranch, Texas. Stunningly, this unincorporated village adjacent to one of our country’s wealthiest cities has never had running water. Their well water was contaminated in the 1980s, and today, residents rely mainly on donated bottled water — not just for drinking, but for cooking and bathing. Stories like these are at the center of the Patterson-founded Chisholm Legacy Project — an organization that connects Black communities on the frontlines with the resources necessary to implement transformation. 

It isn’t easy work. And that’s why Patterson so valued the aforementioned Transitions Labs — these safe spaces offered community and reflection. A way to, at least metaphorically, refill your cup. These gatherings also made it clear that “all the work around social justice and systems change is intersectional.” A priceless opportunity “to explicitly be engaged with folks who are doing work from gender justice to education justice to general economic justice and so forth, and to really come together and talk about this notion of Just Transition and this ideal that we want as a society.” She acknowledges the concept “might sound utopian,” but for the frontliners in attendance that discussion and that space is “a necessity in order to survive and thrive as people.”

All the work around social justice and systems change is intersectional.

It can be hard for outsiders to understand what these retreats and workshops were like. Patterson describes them as a chance to step “away from the day to day, the list of deliverables … The nonprofit industrial complex.” Crucially, they offered an opportunity to discuss the roles and purpose of both the individuals and the organizations across various movements in “a space of ideating … Set up to accommodate all learning and being styles.” 

Attendees showed up with “a selfless sense of mission, so there was a level of trust and safety there.” And the work — deep conversation and reflection, “the practices: tai chi, somatics, embodiment … Various exercises that got you out of your head and into the culture” — fostered intimate connection. “We can go whole days, weeks, or months without thinking about that larger arc,” so the safe space to simply “think and be” was invaluable and unlike so many other gatherings and workshops.  

It was at one of these Transitions Labs in the Redwood Forest — “a generative environment” — that Patterson felt everything sort of gel: her work, her goals, her collaborations with MSC. The activity at hand involved focusing on “developing a seed of an idea and being with people who were like-minded, like-focused, and like-spirited who were also growing their own seeds.” The seed that “began to truly blossom” for Patterson that day — while laying on the floor with her peers and remembering the iconic book the Bridge Called My Back, a collection of radical writings by Black women — involved “work specifically focused on supporting the wellbeing of Black femmes.”

That “unformed dream” turned “into an action plan … That birthed the fourth element of focus of the Chisholm Legacy Project — the focus on Black femme support.” Patterson explained that she had observed the “level of weight on Black femmes in terms of holding so much, our families, our organizations, the movement, in the case of Alabama and Georgia — actual democracy. Yet so often you see our sisters in the struggle are so weighed down by that.” 

Sighting stress, premature deaths, and all the ways these weights can negatively manifest in the health of her peers inspired the project’s steadfast support of wellbeing. She believes this concept of “community care, organizational care, movement care — instead of just preaching self care to someone who is always going to put themselves last” is crucial to the future of the movement.   

Today, Patterson feels honored to continue to support MSC as a board member, calling the work “a blessing.” Likewise, she values “the opportunity to continue to be in relationship with the innovations team that is doing amazing work,” citing her participation as a founding member of the National Association of Climate Resilience Planners. She looks forward to “continuing to support Climate Innovation’s (soon to be renamed People’s Climate Innovation Center (PCIC)) team” and ensuring “that the communities that we work with — including the Black femme climate justice leaders — are able to connect with and be nurtured by the rich range of offerings that MSC has,” especially in terms of climate resilience planning and training and Black youth leadership development.

And, circling back to the Freedman’s Settlements and towns like Sandbranch, she looks forward to growing “the ways that MSC’s fiscal sponsorship and regranting programs can benefit some of the most marginalized Black communities in the United States.” She continued, “the hope is that MSC and the Chisholm Legacy Project can together support the self determination and liberation of these communities all over the nation.”

She also hopes that others — new friends of MSC, new members of the collective movement ecosystem — get the chance to experience something like MSC’s Transitions Labs. They so deeply and positively affected Patterson and she recalled — with a lot of laughter and a little bit of embarrassment — one opportunity where participants were invited to write letters of appreciation to each other. Other people maybe wrote one or two and I literally sat there and wrote super sappy love letters to everyone. I was just feeling literally just full of so much love for everyone who participated.” 


Honoring Our Connections and Putting Love at the Center

Practicing our Future Now: Beloved Communities Network and Movement Strategy Network present: Living the Practices of Transformative Movement Building, Part 2

 What do we need to consciously practice to be the people who reflect our shared vision? How do we honor our connections, build community trust, and put love at the center?

Maintaining a sense of radical imagination about the future helps us better understand our collective past. It is our duty to use our collective imagination and use it to shape and direct the tide of change ourselves. 

On December 15 and 16, 2021, Movement Strategy Center (MSC) co-founder Taj James chatted with activists, facilitators, and cultural influencers in a multipart conversation exploring how to live the Practices of Transformative Movement Building on Facebook Live, sponsored by Movement Strategy Network and Beloved Communities Network (BCN). 

In the second segment, we invited filmmaker Wolfhawk Jaguar, Kerri Kelly of CTZNWELL, founder of the Big We, Anasa Troutman, to grapple with big questions including, how can I be the best ancestor now, for the future we all deserve? Listen to these culture builders as they discuss the lessons of radical connection and deep embodiment. Jaguar reminded us that our true power lies in our vulnerability; and that practicing to be reflective of a shared vision of regeneration requires that we center love and build trust in our communities. 

Discussion centered on the four elements at the core of transformative movement building and include leading with audacious vision and bold purpose; deeply embodying the values at the heart of the vision; building radical and deep community around the vision; and using all of that — vision, embodiment, and connection — to strategically navigate toward the future. 

Watch the entire conversation below.

The conversation echoes the juicy conversations on Beloved Communities Network Radio. Catch up on the first season of BCR at Beloved Communities Network’s YouTube.


What Do We Want and How Deeply Do We Want It?

Practicing Our Future Now: Beloved Communities Network and Movement Strategy Center Present: Living the Practices of Transformative Movement Building, Part 1

What do we want and how deeply do we want it? What choices can we make that bring ourselves and our whole communities forward through unpredictable conditions? 

Maintaining a sense of radical imagination about the future helps us better understand our collective past. It is our duty to use our collective imagination and use it to shape and direct the tide of change ourselves. 

On December 15 and 16, 2021, Movement Strategy Center (MSC) co-founder Taj James chatted with activists, facilitators, and cultural influencers in a multipart conversation exploring how to live the Practices of Transformative Movement Building on Facebook Live, sponsored by Movement Strategy Network and Beloved Communities Network (BCN).

In the first segment, guests included Autumn Brown of AORTA and Aisha Shillingford and Terry Marshall of Intelligent Mischief. They talked about the lessons shared with them around transformative movement building. They also discussed the courage and hope it takes to imagine a future that collective traumas might otherwise dim. 

Brown reminded us to look for folks practicing the future now and memorably declared that “Blackness is a sight of magic … One of the most magical forces on earth.” Marshall and Shillingford reminded us to look to ballrooms, raves, or cookouts — places where people practice community and can find hope.

Discussion centered on the four elements at the core of transformative movement building and include leading with audacious vision and bold purpose; deeply embodying the values at the heart of the vision; building radical and deep community around the vision; and using all of that — vision, embodiment, and connection — to strategically navigate toward the future. 

Watch the entire conversation below.

The conversation echoes the juicy conversations on Beloved Communities Network Radio. Catch up on the first season of BCR at Beloved Communities Network’s YouTube.


MSC's 73 Questions with Aisha Shillingford

Movement Strategy Center Chats with Aisha Shillingford of Intelligent Mischief in a 73 Questions-Style Interview

Movement Strategy Center and Intelligent Mischief present MSC’s 73 Questions with Aisha Shillingford, creative director of Intelligent Mischief. This is our take on Vogue’s iconic 73 questions and in it we discuss Afrofuturism, art and design, movement building, social justice, the Golden Girls — all for MSC’s first-ever #GivingTuesday and End of Year Giving campaigns.

Credits
T
alent: Aisha Shillingford 
Videographer: Auden Barbour
Produced by: Movement Strategy Center 


It seemed like an open and shut case.

Movement Strategy Center on How Philanthropy Must Evolve