Category Archives: Emerging Justice Seekers

Acknowledging Systemic Racism and Unpacking Whiteness

Acknowledging Systemic Racism and Unpacking Whiteness

Lindsay Hueston
February 21, 2019

In a commitment to moving towards being an anti-racist, multicultural organization, NETWORK staff is intentionally setting aside time in 2019 to read and discuss Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. The book examines structures of race in the modern-day United States, and is an especially pertinent read during Black History Month. As a white woman, DiAngelo challenges systems of whiteness that have led to the racism that permeates our political and societal culture. Though it may manifest itself in different ways, racism is still alive and well today, and impacts countless policies and issues that NETWORK works on in order to mend the gaps in our society.

During Black History Month, NETWORK challenges you to examine the way you and the systems around you may unintentionally perpetuate racism. We are trying to be intentional about listening to the experiences of people who are directly impacted by systemic racial injustice, and we encourage you to do the same.

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

– Lilla Watson, indigenous Australian activist

Some resources that may be helpful throughout this month, please comment below with any recommendations you have to add:

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
White Like Me by Tim Wise
Waking Up White by Debby Irving
Trouble I’ve Seen by Drew G.I. Hart
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Roxane Gay
Audre Lorde
Alice Walker
Toni Morrison
James Baldwin
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Maya Angelou

We Must Talk About Race to Fix Economic Inequality (YouTube video)
Talks to help you understand racism in America (TED talk playlist, videos on racial justice)
The Myth of the Welfare Queen (PBS video)

Everyday Respectability Politics
An Examen for White Allies: from the Ignatian Solidarity Network
What Black Lives Matter Can Teach Catholics About Racial Justice: from America Magazine

Reading List for Northam: recently-published article that has some great anti-racism resources
16 Books About Race That White People Should Read: further reading resources
(White) Girl Power aka The List: a list of anti-racist resources to white women to attain a deeper understanding of Black women’s lived experiences
Skimm Reads for Black History Month: recent popular books written by Black authors

People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond: holds programs, workshops, and resources for anti-racist education and organizing
Rachel Cargle: an activist and writer who educates others about anti-racism and intellectual discourse
Everyday Feminism: website has an entire section dedicated to the intersections of race and feminism

Code Switch (NPR)
Pod Save the People
Yo, Is This Racist?
Good Ancestor
Hoodrat to Headwrap
The Racist Sandwich Podcast
Ezra Klein: Political Power and the Racial Wealth Gap
A Conversation About Conversations About Race

Dear White People (TV, Film)
The Hate U Give


Feature artwork from Ernesto Yerena, Amplifier

The Importance of In-District Lobby Visits

The Importance of In-District Lobby Visits

Alannah Boyle
February 19, 2019

Here at NETWORK as a member of the Grassroots Mobilization team, I have spent the last week excitedly working with our field and our team in preparation for February Recess meetings, which take place while Congress is out of session every February.

Before I began my Associate Year at NETWORK, I hadn’t realized the importance of in-district lobby visits, and building relationships with staff who both live and work in my community. Building relationships with in-district staff can help lead to a meeting with your Member of Congress themselves. In these meetings, you can learn about your Member of Congress’s priorities and goals, and how you can work with them in the future. We are all experts in our own lived experience, part of which involves where we live. Our Members of Congress have to split their time between living in our community and living in Washington, D.C., so our expertise and relationships in our community can be very helpful to our Member of Congress. It is important that we share our expertise, and our values, with our Member of Congress’s office.

As part of NETWORK’s February Recess preparations, members of our Grassroots Mobilization team and our Government Relations team gave a webinar. Our Grassroots Mobilization team outlined pro tips and best practices for lobbying. Our Government Relations Team then provided a policy briefing. This February Recess, NETWORK members are lobbying on Mend the Gap bills that are moving this session, including HR 1: For the People Act, Raise the Wage Act of 2019 and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

If you missed our webinar on how to conduct a lobby visit, you can watch it here. If you set up a February Recess Lobby visit, please feel free to contact the Grassroots Mobilization staff here. We’d love to help you plan your visit and hear how your visit went afterwards!

Voices from the Sunrise Movement: Local Activism Against the Mariner East Pipeline

Voices from the Sunrise Movement: Local Activism Against the Mariner East Pipeline

Olivia Freiwald
February 12, 2019

I met two-year-old Brooke and four-year-old Jack in late June of 2018 on a scorching 91 degree summer day in Exton, Pennsylvania. Their bubbly laughs brought out the big sister in me and we chased each other around the yard. Then Danielle, their mom, and neighbor Ginny walked me and my housemates over to what I was really there to see. Not even 100 feet from where my game with Jack and Brooke had taken place, rows of endlessly long, beige sections of pipe lay in a fenced off strip of land, the pipes bending slightly as they sloped down the hill.

Ginny explained this was the Mariner East Pipeline Project, which included refurbishing a petroleum pipeline from the 1930s and the addition of two more pipes running across the state of Pennsylvania. Sunoco and Energy Transfer Partners poured over $4 billion into this project that was now years behind schedule due to painful, avoidable complications.

Sinkholes formed inches from people’s homes, an underground freshwater aquifer that 15 houses relied on for clean drinking water was destroyed, and the soil, water table, and acres of natural land cleared for the job were damaged beyond repair. Ginny, a geologist by training, had been involved in the growing community of pipeline opposition since the beginning.

Danielle and Ginny met at a community meeting and became active in the Mariner East Resistance. It didn’t take long for Danielle to decide to run for Pennsylvania State Representative, to protect her children, her home, and the safety and dignity of her community being threatened by natural gas companies and corrupt politicians.

I was a native of the Philly suburbs just 40 minutes from Mariner East, hearing all of this for the first time. For years I lived and went to school 40 minutes from the pipeline intended to carry ethane, butane, and propane: three extremely volatile natural gas liquids undetectable if leaked, and terrifyingly easy to ignite. Danielle made the decision to run for office look easy; no one was standing up for her community, so she decided to do it herself.

For the next six months I lived with five other 20-somethings in subsidized housing and volunteered full-time to win Danielle’s election as a state representative. We learned together through countless conversations what Danielle’s community cared about. We listened to pipeline workers and NRA members, conservatives, liberals, independents, indignant non-voters, and everyone in between. We spent hours and hours with Danielle and Ginny combing the suburbs of southeastern PA, our shared mission coursing through my veins like fire, grounding me in purpose even when doors were slammed in my face.

One of the most humbling and rewarding moments of my time in Downingtown, PA was the night my housemates and I attended the public risk assessment presentation at one of the local high schools. The pipeline companies and the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission (PUC) had refused and ignored requests for a state environmental risk assessment, so the community members fighting for their lives decided to do it themselves. We walked in to the high school auditorium and immediately saw our friends from Food and Water Watch, gave hugs to the folks who recently were released from jail after our protest on the pipeline easement, shook hands with local state candidates, caught up with Danielle and Ginny, and beckoned the mayor of Downingtown to come sit by us. Over two hundred people filled the room and we never stopped catching the eye of someone we knew, worked with, or otherwise recognized. The community effort behind stopping Mariner East finally had a face. The cause for which many in the room had put their lives on hold or even at risk felt strong, capable, and worthwhile.

On November 6, Danielle Friel Otten won the election by 3,000 votes. My team of six 20-somethings had identified 5,000 supporters while knocking on doors – the margin of victory.

We successfully got a non-career politician, woman, activist, community leader into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to replace an incumbent who had failed to represent his constituents’ best interests. Since then, Chester County launched a criminal investigation into the construction of Mariner East, while the PUC and Sonoco quietly opened the pipelines and began the transportation of the lethal natural gas liquids.

I don’t know what the future holds for Chester County’s safety at this point. Right now it feels a lot like trying to stop a powerful tidal wave. On the other hand, in lots of ways, we won. We met and inspired students at West Chester University, registered first-time voters, and rallied with thousands of people in DC, demanding a Green New Deal. The word “politician” has become a cringe-inducing word, but the woman I helped into that position exemplifies everything the job is meant to be. We, the people, the children, and the fighters of PA-144, are not up against our elected official anymore to build a world of justice and love. Finally, I witnessed honest representation, massive grassroots victory, and a growing hope for a future where true democracy reigns.


Olivia Freiwald grew up outside of Philadelphia and is now a sophomore at Tufts University studying Climate Organizing and Sustainable Development. Olivia was a fellow with the Sunrise Movement from June-November 2018, living and working full-time in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and continues her involvement with Sunrise while in school.

Feature photo from Waging Nonviolence.

In Order to Call Itself Family-Friendly, the U.S. Must Examine its Workplaces

In Order to Call Itself Family-Friendly, the U.S. Must Examine its Workplaces

Siena Ruggeri
February 5, 2019

February 5th is the anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act, which was passed in 1993. This law gives employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was a huge step forward for working families, but it still excludes many. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth estimates that half of all working parents and 43 percent of women of childbearing age are excluded from FMLA coverage due to outdated eligibility requirements.[1] Family leave policies need to be updated for 21st century workplaces and include low-wage earners.

Even if a worker qualifies for FMLA coverage, in many cases, they can’t afford to take it. Quite simply, far too many people can’t weather the sudden loss in income, and often fear they will lose their job if they take unpaid leave. Family leave needs to be paid for workers to utilize it, but paid leave remains rare in U.S. workplaces: 93% of low-wage workers have no access to any paid family leave.[2].

In 2019, the United States remains the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal paid leave benefits. After 26 years without landmark paid leave legislation, the time has come to not only offer family leave, but ensure all working families can access it. We need a federal universal paid leave policy to accomplish this goal.

A lack of family-friendly workplaces is bad for both employers and their workers. Employers must deal with the costs associated with high turnover, and employees are forced to choose between advancing their career and caring for family members.

The growing demands of caregiving can’t be ignored by federal policymakers any longer. According to a recent Harvard Business School study, almost three quarters of U.S. workers are caregivers in some capacity. Of those, 80% said that their caregiving responsibility made it harder to do their job. As a result, 32% of all employees surveyed said they left a job to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities.[3]

With women taking on a huge majority of caregiving, they are disproportionately impacted by a lack of paid leave. Women are twice as likely to stay home to care for a sick child, and three in five women say they have their care responsibilities on their mind when they’re at work. [4] Our society can’t achieve true economic justice for all women when we offer them no support or legal protections to balance caregiving and a career.

Government inaction on paid leave also reinforces the racial wealth gap. Already paid lower for the same work as their white peers, people of color are deeply impacted by inaccessible leave policies. Black women are the primary breadwinners for 70 percent of their families.[5] They’re also more likely than white women to leave or lose their jobs after birth.[6] By refusing to support black women in their careers, we create yet another structural barrier to push women of color out from opportunities for economic advancement.

Let’s take the anniversary of the FMLA to push Congress to give working families, and especially working moms, the relief they need. It is not just the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing. We cannot call ourselves a family-friendly country until we do so.



[2] United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 32. Leave benefits: Access,private industry workers,” National Compensation Survey, March 2018,


[4] “Modern Family Index,” Bright Horizons,

[5] Sarah Jane Glynn, Breadwinning Mothers. (taken from this link:

[6] Lynda Laughlin, Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns. (taken from this link:

New Congress, New Methods of Communication: Social Media’s Evolving Political Influence

New Congress, New Methods of Communication: Social Media’s Evolving Political Influence

Lindsay Hueston
January 31, 2019

Multiple progressive politicians have cemented a new way of campaigning and keeping constituents informed: showing their authentic selves online, as a means to engage with their constituents and a national audience more genuinely. The embrace of social media as a legitimate political tool reflects a changing dynamic in U.S. politics, one which favors real people and experiences over polished messages and canned rhetoric.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Examples abound: newly-elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez making mac and cheese on Instagram, with Senator Elizabeth Warren mimicking the strategy and opening a beer after announcing her exploratory committee a few weeks later. Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke even live-streamed his visit to the dentist.

These politicians are unabashedly using their platform to deliver not only glimpses into their personal lives, but to convey more authentic reactions and opinions, providing the public with a sense of participation. Bringing people into the political process—even if it is from the screen of a smartphone—is a surefire way to engage unlikely voters in politics.

No longer are today’s politicians glossed over, seemingly flawless, and untouchable. Instead they broadcast themselves to the public through the likes of Instagram and Twitter. It is the very popularity of their unscripted humanity—their willingness to cook on camera, drink, share their skincare routine, or get their teeth cleaned—that reveals the general population’s thirst for approachable politicians. In a world where high-power Washington officials have become increasingly stratified from the people they represent, this type of refreshing social media engagement narrows the gap between representative and constituent.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Politics are ultimately about human issues, and the use of social media brings these topics back down to a human level. The greater public can instantly connect with a representative from their mere fingertips; political power is becoming more democratized as people decide who their most popular elected officials are via social media. Political clout, then, lies only a few viral tweets away.

Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke

Yet social media’s glimpse into the inner workings of today’s politicians does not always produce a positive result. Notably, President Trump continues to fire off tweets in lieu of consulting with his staff and making thoughtful major policy decision. The power of social media in politics, however, is far vaster than merely his rapid-response, incendiary tweets may indicate.

The fact that these stories are now more accessible (due in no small part to the most diverse Congress we’ve ever seen) is a sign of our changing political times. As a Communications Associate at NETWORK, I witness firsthand how social media influences people’s beliefs and perceptions. In this past election cycle I saw an incredible influx of representation of women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, varying religions, and more. This new representation further illustrates the rich narrative that tells the story of the people of the United States.

Featured image from @ocasio2018

Rural Roundtable: New Mexico

Rural Roundtable: New Mexico

Erin Sutherland
January 28, 2019

Two weeks ago, Sr. Simone and I traveled to New Mexico to facilitate NETWORK’s first-ever Rural Roundtable.  The idea for a Rural Roundtable came when NETWORK realized that while we have a good understanding of how federal policies impact people in the urban and suburban areas, we needed to gain a better understanding of the lived realities for people in rural areas to be better advocates for the 100%.  The stops on some Nuns on the Bus tours had been in rural areas, but we wanted to make a more intentional commitment to specific communities by building upon events we would already be having in the state.

The day after we arrived, Sr. Simone and I spent the morning meeting with residents from the Laguna Pueblo.  We visited St. Joseph Mission School in San Fidel, NM, where we met 40 amazing students and staff who are actively committed to learning about and rectifying the environmental and health damage that was a result of decades of uranium mining.  Merrick, an eighth grade student, showed us a video he had made that  recently won first place in a regional competition.  The video featured the story of his grandmother, who had worked in the Jack Pile uranium mine and now has pulmonary-related health problems.  In the coming year, the entire school was planning to test their water for uranium, and the eighth-grade class was planning to travel to the University of Notre Dame to present their findings.  In the midst of such mature and thoughtful leadership and community engagement, it was heartbreaking to think of the health effects that these students and their families could face because of reckless extractive policies.

Later that night, we convened our roundtable in Albuquerque and spoke with service providers and community leaders from women’s health, childcare, rural dental care, indigenous communities, food security, and immigration sectors.  During our two-hour long conversation, Tina Cordova of Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium described the decades-long treatment of New Mexico as a “sacrifice zone” where corporations and government agencies have come in and extracted resources and conducted tests with little regard for the residents.  New Mexico has an endowment fund that is mostly invested and managed out of state.  Another community member described how this treatment has affected people’s view of their self-worth: if your government treats your community like it’s dispensable and not worth the investment, you eventually start to believe it.

As I reflect on everything I learned during my trip to New Mexico, it is empathy for all those who feel forgotten or left behind by their government that has stayed with me.  It is my faith, which upholds the dignity and value of every human life, coupled with my patriotism for “We the People,” that firms my resolve that everyone deserves to feel and be treated like a valuable member of society.  One thing Sr. Simone does so well is to help people move past helplessness and despair and towards hopeful action.  At NETWORK, this first roundtable gave  us an opportunity to reflect on how we can lobby for policies that will include the 100%- not just the people with whom it is easiest to engage.  This experience has given me and NETWORK an opportunity to listen more, listen first before acting, and then to act with intentional inclusion.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to have gone to New Mexico and to have met with so many amazing activists  heavily invested in bettering their communities.

To see more photos from the Rural Roundtable in New Mexico, click here

Working Towards a Livable Income: The Raise the Wage Act

Working Towards a Livable Income: The Raise the Wage Act

Siena Ruggeri
Quincy Howard, OP
January 22, 2019

Working Americans are getting left behind. While corporations have reaped the benefits of economic recovery, taken advantage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, been pocketing record profits, and making trillions of stock buybacks, the American worker is in a state of crisis.  Wages have stagnated since the 1970s with any gains mainly going to the highest-paid workers.  The federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) has not budged in a decade.  These realities threaten the financial stability of millions and mean that the purchasing power of most workers today is the same as it was in 1978.[1]

The concept of a minimum wage establishes a floor of compensation below which workers cannot hope to support themselves: our floor has been set at $7.25/hour since 2009.  That federal minimum wage has not increased with inflation, either, so it loses value over time.  Over those 10 years, it has become increasingly difficult for someone working a full-time minimum wage job to cover their basic needs. Earning the minimum wage does not ensure a livable income but having a fair minimum wage goes a long way towards helping low-income workers get by.

Minimum wage workers are parents, caregivers, and community members. They include home health workers that support the independence of people with disabilities, preschool teachers who serve low-income students, and the cabin cleaners and baggage handlers that ensure our air travel runs smoothly. It is reprehensible that millions of people work full time, yet are a paycheck away from acute poverty and homelessness. Raising the minimum wage is a common sense step that would bring dignity back to the millions of employees that have been left behind.

Since Congress has failed to increase the minimum wage, states have been leading the way.  Twenty-nine states have raised their minimum wage; the 2018 midterm election brought about successful statewide minimum wage raises in both Missouri and Arkansas, with incremental increases to $12 and $11, respectively.[2] Minimum wage increases in numerous and diverse states around the nation tell us that not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes good economic sense.


The introduction of the Raise the Wage Act of 2019 is a top legislative priority for the 116th Congress and for NETWORK Lobby’s livable income policy initiatives.  This legislation gradually increases the federal minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour by 2024. It also addresses the inflation issue by automatically raising the minimum wage based on subsequent increases in the typical worker’s wages. The bill also addresses inequities built-in to our current minimum wage by applying the same wage requirements for tipped workers and workers with disabilities.  The Raise the Wage Act offers an impactful and targeted policy which would immediately help people and families living in poverty: 27% of beneficiaries are working parents with children and half have family incomes of less than $40,000 per year.  While an incremental raise is not going to immediately fix the deep inequities low-wage workers have been dealing with for decades, it offers a much-need relief that will have an immediate impact on their quality of life.

Even as we push for passage of the Raise the Wage Act of 2019, NETWORK continues to lay the foundation of pay justice for workers.  Advocating a livable income for workers means promoting a broad array of policy changes in addition to increasing the minimum wage.  A livable income would enable workers to accrue savings and assets, retirement security and protection against unemployment.  What we consider “livable” allows workers to earn a disposable income, making possible leisure, educational and skills enhancement.  A livable income incorporates opportunities for continued wage growth and promotion at a job.

For the lowest wage earners in the country, the Raise the Wage Act would double their pay; potentially enabling them for the first time to afford safe and stable housing, sufficient amounts of food, adequate transportation, and reliable child care.  Now is the time to put pressure on our representatives to do the morally responsible thing: raise the wage and provide a desperately needed economic safety net to the millions who have been left behind.






Two Shutdowns Over Immigration Policies

Two Shutdowns Over Immigration Policies

José Arnulfo Cabrera
January 17, 2019

In our current government shutdown—this time over $5.7 billion dollars President Trump is demanding as a down payment to build a wall—I was thinking about last year’s much shorter shutdown (only 3 days) over a DACA fix and the many other numerous times politicians have used the security of undocumented people and families as a bargaining chip in political debates. This blog post is a reflection of my feeling and thoughts of the last year’s DACA fix during the appropriation process. This ISN’T what other DACA recipients or undocumented youth felt during this time.

My two younger sisters and I grew up in the rallies our mom would drag us to. My mom was an organizer and I hated it. My weekends and weeknights were always filled with meetings, rallies, protest, and vigils. But after being tricked to share my immigration story and then organize a rally at the age of 15, I fell in love with it. A few years later I got my first community organizing job while I was a student at Xavier University. I organized a group called YES, Youth Educating Society, a group for high school and college students who wanted to fight for immigrant rights, empower immigrant youth, and put pressure to elected officials to adopt pro-immigrant policies.

After the 2016 election, our membership grew and the following year we had 100 members across the greater Cincinnati area with 50 of them considered “active members.” On September 5, 2017, every DACA recipient and their loved ones’ nightmare happened. The Trump administration decided to end the DACA program. That night I went to bed with a 105 degree fever, exhausted from rapidly organizing a protest outside of Senator Portman’s Cincinnati office, and having to comfort my fellow YES members. I spent the rest of that night re-planning how to achieve my life goals as an undocumented citizen. I spent the rest of 2017 trying to pass all my classes so I could stay on track to graduate in May 2018, organizing rallies in support of the 2017 DREAM Act, coming to D.C. to lobby Ohio Senators and Representatives to support the DREAM Act, and participating in a sit-in at Senator Portman’s DC office. But the most challenging and stressful month was December when immigration advocates made their strongest push for a DREAM Act.

The current government shutdown reminds me of the one that happened in January 2018, and how they both resulted from immigration-related issues: DACA last year and building a border wall this year. In December 2017, Congress had to pass multiple short-term continuing resolution bills that would fund the government for the following year. Democratic leadership saw that moment as an opportunity to secure a Republican commitment to hold a vote on legislation that would protect   the 800,000 DACA recipients who felt the weight of deportation again after the Trump administration rescinded DACA. After several negotiation meetings between President Trump and Democratic leaders, a deal was made. Republicans would include a DACA fix to last few appropriations bills, and Democrats would agree to give President Trump the money to build the Wall. Activists made it clear to Leader Pelosi that they didn’t want that deal. We wanted a clean DREAM Act.

I was scared. I was freaking out. I kept a close eye on leading groups in DC who were organizing actions for a DACA solution, aiming to make this the last time we had to pass a bill that will give DACA recipients citizenship, instead of the threat of deportation.

I was thankful that those demonstrators were doing what needed to be done to put pressure on the Senate to pass a clean DREAM Act. I was angry at myself that my exams were on the same week all of this was happening, and I couldn’t go to DC to do my part. Then I realized that if the DREAM Act didn’t pass, in 2019 my DACA would expire and I would lose the job I got after graduating from college. Since September 5, 2017, I still didn’t know how I could accomplish my life goals without my DACA. Watching all of the action in DC kept reminding me that I still didn’t have a plan figured out.

This standoff resulted in a government shutdown from January 20-22, 2018. The shutdown ended when the House and the Senate passed a short-term continuing resolution funding the government until February 9. Part of the agreement was that the House and Senate would use that time to pass legislation that would protect DACA recipients. Instead, federal court orders in January and February extended DACA renewals for previously-approved DACA recipients. By the time Congress needed to pay additional funding for the federal government, there was no mention of a legislative solution for DACA. Since then, Congress has not considered the DREAM Act bill again.

This past December, we found Congress in a similar position they were in the previous year. They needed to pass seven appropriations bills to fund the government, including one for the Department of Homeland Security which would have given President Trump money for the wall. This time, no one wanted to put a DACA solution in the debate. In some weird way, I’m kind of glad. I don’t think I could take another emotional month like the one in December 2017. But this time, the fight for wall funding is still relevant and is the reason why  we’ve been in a government shutdown for 27 days. Before everyone at NETWORK left for the holiday break, we saw President Trump refuse to sign the funding deal that didn’t give him the $5 billion to build a wall on the US southern border. Coming back to the office this month I was disappointed by the lack of leadership President Trump has to re-open the government. President Trump has failed to get the funding for the wall but has succeeded in further dividing our country.

I know passing a clean DREAM Act, or even a comprehensive immigration reform bill, won’t be easy. It would most likely get worse before it gets good and we’ll definitely get scuffed-up, but we’ll get it. I have faith.

Reflecting on Roots Camp: Activism in Motion

Reflecting on Roots Camp: Activism in Motion

Marshele Bryant and Ibby Han
January 7, 2019

Members of NETWORK’s Grassroots Mobilization and Communications teams recently attended RootsCamp, an “un-conference” for organizers, political campaign workers, and progressive activists.

NETWORK wanted to highlight the work of other emerging justice-seekers in activist spheres, and asked a few community members to reflect on their Roots Camp experiences.

Marshele Bryant, Statewide Campus Organizer at Virginia Student Power Network:

This was my first time attending Roots Camp and it was unlike any conference I’ve attended before. It is billed as an “un-conference,” allowing attendees to shape and guide the agenda from start to finish. There were more structured trainings that focused on lobbying and preparing to run for office but there were many more that pitched and picked up by other folks attending the conference. The toughest part of Roots Camp was deciding which sessions to attend! It was exciting to be surrounded by so many folks doing similar work but it was also a relief. There were sessions that catered to specific issues organizers face within the progressive sphere as well as strategy sessions for battling some of the biggest external challenges we as progressive organizers face.

One of the first sessions I attended was a frank discussion about how white supremacy and racism is a problem even in the most progressive spaces. A friend from Michigan Student Power attended a session dedicated to self-care, an important but often neglected aspect of our work. One session I attended had a few folks who worked on the Stacey Abrams campaign. Another session was led by folks from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s digital team for her campaign. It’s one thing to watch inspiring candidates build progressive, grassroots campaigns that eventually capture national attention. It’s another to meet and engage with the folks who built and sustained those campaigns. Whether the campaigns they joined were successful or not, there was a hopeful energy that enveloped the conference.

I left Baltimore and returned to Chesapeake, Virginia with a renewed passion and pride for the work the Virginia Student Power Network has done and continues to do. Meeting with people who worked on some of the biggest campaigns of the election cycle caused me to reflect on what VSPN has achieved. With a staff of two people, we managed a cohort of 25 Vote Fellows who registered over 780 Virginians to vote and engaged thousands more in GOTV efforts. We realized the importance of integrating electoral work with the issue-based organizing that has driven our organization since its inception. And I can only look forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in 2019.

Ibby Han, Statewide Campus Organizer at Virginia Student Power Network:

This was my first time attending RootsCamp! Everywhere I went, I ran into a friend from a different corner of the movement world. It was a mingling of over 1,000 folks from political campaigns, grassroots organizing, and the tech world. The first session I attended was an open conversation on how white progressives tend to replicate systems of oppression in their organizations and campaigns. We had a great discussion centered on lived experiences and frustration felt by people of color working in majority white progressive spaces. The weekend offered many other opportunities: I hosted my own workshop, attended talks by Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar and Deepa Iyer, and built relationships with other AAPI organizers from across the country.

As a part of the Student Power Networks crew, we came with a unique perspective. Not only were we some of the youngest people there, we also shared our experimental model of youth-led year-round organizing that integrates electoral work, issue-based grassroots organizing, and policy work, all on a statewide level. RootsCamp was a great place to connect and reconnect across many movements and strategies.

As the 116th Congress kicks off, Roots Camp was the perfect place to channel progressives’ excitement and plan out strategies for the future, especially with regard to dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy in political and organizing spheres. We have hope for this new session of Congress, especially with so many Roots Camp activists leading the charge nationwide.

NETWORK’s New Year’s Resolutions

NETWORK’s New Year’s Resolutions

Alannah Boyle
January 1, 2019

We asked NETWORK staff to share their social justice goals and resolutions for the New Year. As we enter 2019, here’s what staff members are planning to incorporate into their lives:

My New Year’s Resolution Is To…


“Be a better food consumer.  I want to only buy food that I will consume and making more of an effort to use up food before it goes bad.  Additionally I want to cut out plastic bags in my shopping.”

-Erin Sutherland, Grassroots Mobilization Associate


“Live more simply so I can give more generously.”

-Catherine Gillette, Grassroots Mobilization Coordinator


“Follow more women and femmes of color on social media and read their blogs.”

-Meg Olson, Grassroots Mobilization Manager


“Cut down on my wasteful consumerism. In 2019 I will buy a maximum of 10 new articles of clothing all year”

-Alannah Boyle, Grassroots Mobilization Associate


“Try to greet each day with joy and welcome.”

-Laura Peralta-Schulte, Senior Government Relations Advocate


“Welcome the new Representative from my hometown (Chrissy Houlahan, PA-06) and introduce her to NETWORK! I’d also like to get more involved in local social justice issues, particularly concerning homelessness, affordable housing, and gentrification.”

– Lindsay Hueston, Communications Associate


“My New Year’s resolution is to read more books about domestic and international social justice issues so that I can have a deeper understanding of them, especially how issues are intersectional.”

-Colleen Ross, Communications Coordinator


Wishing all in our NETWORK community a happy and healthy 2019. May our work for justice continue!