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Ana María Archila

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Joining Forces to Win

Posted: 11/21/2013 2:02 pm

As progressives, we need to dramatically increase our scale and reach to win. With the merger of the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and the Leadership Center for the Common Good (LCCG) in January 2014, we are poised to do just that.

The stakes are high. The crisis in American society is severe: Inequality is now at the highest level ever recorded. In 2012, the top 1 percent of U.S. households received 19.3 percent of all household income.

The income gap between white and non-white America is growing even faster. Between 2005 and 2009, median white wealth declined by 16 percent, while median black wealth dropped by 53 percent and Latino wealth declined by 66 percent. Increasing economic inequality is being matched by increasing political inequality. Our democracy and the political participation of people of color, young people and the elderly are being eroded by state legislatures, with the tacit support of the Supreme Court.

All this would be much worse of course, if not for the work of the progressive organizations and movements that have fought inequality and racism for decades.

We can, and must, go farther and faster to fight inequality, the erosion of democracy and racial injustice. There is a growing opportunity to challenge the status quo and to build a society characterized by opportunity, equality and inclusion. Increasingly strong and assertive community organizations across the country are stepping up to demand better. Immigrant organizations, worker centers, progressive unions, elected officials and people of faith are envisioning and creating more inclusive and equitable cities and states, even in spite of our failed national politics.

The most successful community campaigns present a new vision for change, a creativity and fearlessness to promote policies many have thought unachievable, as well as a canny understanding of how to navigate local political forces.

My organization, the Center for Popular Democracy, works at the center of this emerging new politics, working to build the capacity and resilience of rooted, democratic, community-organizing institutions. We feel the urgency to grow our movement, to build new strength, to share organizing models and strategies more broadly, and to replicate campaigns and tactics that work to confront racial and economic inequality.

Just as our movement needs more power and reach, so do we. That's why we are merging with the Leadership Center for the Common Good to create a newly powerful Center for Popular Democracy on January 1, 2014. Our organizations' sister c4 organizations, Action for the Common Good and Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund will also merge to create a newly powerful Action for the Common Good. Part campaign center, part capacity builder, part policy shop, our merged and expanded organizations will work together to more effectively build the strength and capacity of democratic organizations to envision and advance a pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda.

From recent successes, we have a sense of what is possible when working communities are well organized, resourced and equipped to demand change. In New York, coalitions of community groups, progressive unions, and faith networks came together this year to secure a raft of impressive victories, from a raise in the state's minimum wage, to the adoption of paid sick days' legislation in New York City to the passage of pro-immigrant language access initiatives in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. And, in the face of fierce opposition from outgoing Mayor Bloomberg, CPD and our allies secured passage of new laws to stop the discriminatory policing tactics of the NYPD -- Stop and Frisk. CPD brought our policy expertise, strategy insights, and coalition coordination experience to these fights -- helping drive them to victory.

The New York victories mirror the work we are engaged in across the country -- in 27 states with more than 90 partners nationally. Through strategic and sustained local and state victories, driven by strong community and labor partners, and supported in important ways by CPD, we can secure tangible improvements in working people's lives and generate the upward pressure and momentum necessary to refocus national policy on furthering values of equity, opportunity and democracy for all.

Strong local organizations with a clear vision and an appetite for bold action are well able to scale up to win national victories when strategic opportunities present themselves. Last May, for example, the Home Defenders League, a project of LCCG and many close allies, staged a dramatic week of action which included civil disobedience by foreclosed homeowners at the Department of Justice as well as at other sites. Their actions tied together the simmering public outrage over the lack of prosecutions of Wall Street banks with a need to find relief for the hard hit families and communities. Five months later, reports of a pending $13 billion federal settlement with JPMorgan Chase suggest the long fight may be about to yield results.

The launch of the merged and expanded Center for Popular Democracy and Action for the Common Good is our ambitious move to help increase the strength, scale and reach of community organizing. Together, we are stronger. Together, we can build the power we need to win.

 
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