Grace Aheron

Fight Like Hell for Kentucky

Fight Like Hell for Kentucky: our campaign to re-elect Governor Andy Beshear

SURJ has deep roots in Kentucky. Our founders are from the state and were mentored into the legacy of anti-racist white organizers by SNCC member and fellow Kentuckian, Anne Braden. For the last decade, our chapter in Louisville has been organizing white support for multi-racial coalition efforts to get cops of out of Louisville public schools, oust the judge who signed the no-knock warrant that resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor, and abolish cash bail in the city. Two years ago, we launched the Kentucky People’s Union in Appalachian Eastern Kentucky that is organizing working people around housing rights. And in 2022, we had 20,000 conversations with white working class Kentuckians as a part of a statewide effort that blocked a near-total abortion ban from being adopted into the state constitution.

Our work in Kentucky has been rooted in our members on the ground and flanked by our national base. This year, we’re contacting half a million white Kentuckians in working class, primarily rural areas to support the re-election of Democratic governor Andy Beshear.

Beshear’s opponent, Daniel Cameron, is a Trump-endorsed, far right candidate who is a career-long Mitch McConnell protege. He is running his campaign relying divide-and-conquer tactics of the far right, blaming the state’s problems on trans kids and teaching racism in schools while the GOP supermajority in the state legislature gives tax cuts to the rich.

Putting Cameron in office would be terrible for working Kentuckians, but also has national implications as his election would enshrine a Republican trifecta in Kentucky– a dangerous advance of the authoritarian right’s state-by-state take over that affects everyone.

In this election, SURJ is contributing to statewide efforts by doing what we do best: having long, values-centered conversations with white working class voters in rural areas that no other progressive group is contacting. While the Democratic Party turns out voters likely to support their efforts, we focus on persuading less likely supporters who, based on our previous campaigns, we know will support progressive causes when engaged.

SURJ members in Kentucky and across the nation meet people in their material suffering, listen and validate their experiences, and then call out the right’s divide-and-conquer tactics for what they are: distractions from the party’s failure to deliver on supporting the day-to-day lives of working people. Instead of centering the candidate, we connect over issues and offer the candidate as one right next step towards building a Kentucky that works for everyone.

And it works. In our work on the abortion amendment last year, 25% of people we spoke to who supported the ban at the beginning of our conversations were persuaded to oppose it by the end of the call.

From our work, we know that white working people are ready to support progressive causes, we just need to talk to them. Combined with the abortion victory last year, a victory this year for Beshear in this majority white working class state would be a back-to-back rejection of the right’s efforts to divide people along lines of difference or moral hysteria.

At SURJ, we organize white working people around on their shared interest- what they stand to gain- in rejecting the racism and division of the right and joining multiracial efforts for justice. We’ve done it in Kentucky before- and we’re doing it again this year.

Fight Like Hell for Kentucky Read More »

The Jacksonville murders were a product of intentional radicalization

This weekend, three Black people were murdered in Jacksonville, Florida by a white person influenced by racist ideology. Our hearts are broken and we are holding the impacted families and broader community in our hearts as they grieve.  

Racist political violence, especially against Black people and trans people, is escalating in this moment. It’s being stoked by the highest levels of government down to grassroots groups and radicalized young people, like the shooter this weekend.  

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other authoritarian politicians enshrine white supremacist ideology into law, banning teaching about racism and attacking efforts to increase diversity in schools and workplaces. While he is publicly “condemning” the violence that took place this weekend, he has blood on his hands as his rhetoric and policy drive this kind of thinking from the governor’s mansion. At the local level, Moms for Liberty and other groups organized around white scarcity become foot soldiers for these racist ideologies.  

This weekend’s heinous act of racist violence did not happen in a vacuum in Florida, but was rather a product of intentional efforts. Our organizing work can’t bring back the lives lost. But we can recommit to the work today to ensure that we shift the political climates that allow racist killers to be emboldened. I spent my early organizing life in Florida, and I’m proud that SURJ is doing our part to stop DeSantis’ rise to power nationally.  

In May, we took action with the Dream Defenders, Florida Rising, Hope Community Center, Florida Immigrant Coalition and others to blockade Governor DeSantis’ office, protesting the multiple vicious attacks on marginalized communities in the state.   

And our chapters across Florida and the country are fighting back in their local communities– organizing support for trans kids, combating racist policies, taking on work at the school board level, and supporting the work of our partners.

SURJ is part of a thriving ecosystem of racial justice organizations in Florida who are building power and fighting back against DeSantis and his policies. Recommit to fighting racism and authoritarianism in white communities with SURJ today:

With gratitude–

Julia Daniel
SURJ Assistant Director

The Jacksonville murders were a product of intentional radicalization Read More »

SURJ 3 Year Strategy, Part 4: Kentucky People’s Union

he news about queer people these days is mostly horrifying and heartbreaking, so we’re proud to share a bit of queer joy and resilience as we come to the end of pride month. 

This past week, members of the Kentucky People’s Union, a project of SURJ located in a small town in Eastern Kentucky, in partnership with Ashland Pride organized over 60 trans students, their parents, educators, and allies (pictured above) to demand that the local school board vote to not comply with SB 150, one of the worst anti-trans bills in the country, which includes a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth and requires school districts to create policies that ban children from using bathrooms that align with their genders.

The Kentucky People’s Union is bringing together trans youth, working people, and community members who are ready to fight for all Kentuckians’ rights and dignity. Will you give a gift today to help KPU grow its work?

Then, will you give a gift to support Ashland Pride, a key partner in KPU’s organizing?

As you probably know, SURJ has deep roots in Kentucky. Some of our founders are from Kentucky and we have been investing in this majority-white, rural state for years. It’s a place where Mitch McConnell and the GOP have built an empire, but it’s also a place full of working white people ready to come with us. We’ve seen this time and again in our campaigns– whether defeating a statewide amendment to ban abortion or electing a slate of progressive judges in Louisville who support ending cash bail.

Kentucky People’s Union is a key part of SURJ’s strategy to build grassroots power in small towns and rural places in the South to block far right radicalization and undermine their base of support– and a cornerstone of our work in Kentucky. 

Learn more about KPU.

A year ago, KPU had its first meeting of about 12 people  (pictured above). Since then, they have knocked on hundreds of doors in the community, helped lead the SURJ campaign that stopped the abortion ban, and rallied at the state capitol to help defend trans people’s rights. A year after that first meeting, KPU’s member meeting had over 50 people in attendance where they voted to launch a housing rights campaign (pictured below).

Right now, KPU is building out this housing campaign, organizing the local school board to not comply with SB 150, and working alongside SURJ’s national work to re-elect Democratic Governor Andy Beshear. As our work in Kentucky grows, we’re hatching plans to expand SURJ’s organizing across Appalachia. KPU is an example of what we know at SURJ: that there are millions of working white people waiting for us to talk to them and waiting to be invited in. 

SURJ 3 Year Strategy, Part 4: Kentucky People’s Union Read More »

Our June Newsletter

“My right to be me is tied with a thousand threads to your right to be you.”- Leslie Feinburg, white butch activist and author

Happy pride month! Across our staff and membership, so many of us are queer. So many of us found our way into this work because of our own experiences of deep oppression and deep belonging. So many of us have found our shared interest in the work of racial justice because of our queerness.  Amidst the intensity of ongoing repression today, if you’re queer: we love you, we’re with you, and we’re fighting for you.  

Speaking of being proud, last month we launched our national three year strategy to stop authoritarianism from taking over the federal government in 2024 and to build an enduring base of working class white people. 

Schools are cornerstones of our communities and public education is an important part of democracy. Across the country, the far right is using schools for stepping stones to power, scapegoating and endangering trans kids and enforcing curriculums that teach lies about our country. And they rely on the support of white parents and white voters.

We are building a program to support members and chapters across the country to out-organize the far right in white communities and to work for school systems that serve all students.

Join us for our first School Board Organizing Call on June 20 at 8 ET to learn more. 

We are especially excited to have folks from Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Georgia on the call to build momentum going into our priority 2024 election swing states.

On the heels of our victory defeating the near-total abortion ban in Kentucky, we’re continuing the momentum to build progressive power in this Southern state where SURJ has deep roots. This year, SURJ members in Kentucky and across the country will organize white, working class voters to re-elect Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, who stands between a possible Republican trifecta and many of the far-right policies moving across the state. 

Join us on June 22 at 6 ET to call others in the SURJ network and invite them into this work.

Join the newest campaign of SURJ’s project, Southern Crossroads, to call rural Georgians to discuss how rural hospital closures are affecting them. Our goal is to call 1,000 rural residents of majority-white counties in Georgia to build with them and invite them into our work.

Register for our first phone bank on June 12 at 6 ET.

The Republican supermajority in the Kentucky state legislature overrode Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto and passed SB 150, one of the worst anti-trans bills in the country, banning gender-affirming care for trans kids and mandating schools discriminate against trans students. This horrific targeting of young people not only endangers their health and safety, but is a clear power-grab by the far right– to use trans kids as a distraction they build power around, while they underfund schools and slash funding for social services for kids.

On May 23, Louisville SURJ chapter members and SURJ National staff rallied alongside organizations from across the city, students, and public school teachers to demand that the Jefferson County Public School system vote to not comply with the statewide mandate.

With the Zinn Education Project ad ReThinking Schools, SURJ is a partner in the National Day of Action to Teach Truth. For the past two summers, teachers have rallied across the country at historic sites to speak out against anti-history education bills and to make public their pledge to teach the truth, providing a valuable counter narrative to the oversized coverage of the well-funded anti-CRT movement– and we’re doing it again this year.

SURJ chapters across our network are showing up in these efforts– learn more here about how you can sponsor an action in your community.

Register here for our action hour on Thursday, June 15, 3 ET– our monthly opportunity to take meaningful action for abolition campaigns and racial justice in a supportive community. 

New around here? Register to join our new member orientation on June 14 at 12 ET.

SURJ in the news:

  • Our rally in Louisville demanding the school system vote to not comply with the state’s legislation targeting trans students
  • SURJ Executive Director, Erin Heaney, on this new podcast about race and white people
  • Salon’s coverage of the organizing happening in Florida against DeSantis, including SURJ members

And more:

Our June Newsletter Read More »

SURJ 3 Year Strategy, Part 3: Southern Crossroads

The second prong of SURJ’s three year strategy to block authoritarianism and build a base of white people to win is to grow our work in poor and working class white communities in the South.

The South is key to stopping an authoritarian takeover of this country and building an enduring progressive base to win things we all need.

For the last fifty years, the ultra-conservative GOP has targeted the South and relies on this region to stay in power. Out-organizing them in white communities there cuts their base from beneath them. 

One way we’re doing that is through our project, Southern Crossroads, that organizes poor and working class white people in small towns and rural areas in the Deep South. Learn more about this part of our strategy.

Southern Crossroads (SCOPE) brings folks into our work by meeting them in their day-to-day struggles around issues like housing, healthcare, and wages. After launching local listening projects, winning city-wide renters protections, and winning local elections, we’re growing our work to launch new small town, statewide, and regional projects.

Members of BCLP stand with home is where the heart is sign

Bedford County Listening Project (BCLP) was formed after the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville in 2017, when white supremacist came to Shelbyville, Tennessee. Community members came out to counter-protest and recognized that there were so many people in this small, majority-white town that wanted their community to stand for justice. 

Six years later, we have elected a BCLP member to city council who ran on an anti-KKK and tenants rights platform, won changes to tenants rules, and won a renters committee to advise the city. 

Tennessee for Safe Homes (T4SH) launched this year out of the BCLP. T4SH is a statewide initiative where we’re contacting thousands of poor white renters across the state to bring them into campaigns like the ones BCLP has won. 

Last month, 17 BCLP members and allies (and kiddos) gathered for two days of mass door knocking to reach out to neighbors about how the growing housing crisis in Tennessee is affecting families in rural areas. We knocked 500 doors in 10 housing complexes to talk to renters about issues they’re facing. Over the last two months, we’ve called 2,000 renters and have had 500 folks in rural TN take action with us. 

Last month, 17 BCLP members and allies (and kiddos) gathered for two days of mass door knocking to reach out to neighbors about how the growing housing crisis in Tennessee is affecting families in rural areas. We knocked 500 doors in 10 housing complexes to talk to renters about issues they’re facing. Over the last two months, we’ve called 2,000 renters and have had 500 folks in rural TN take action with us. 

Want to join this work? Help us contact more rural renters on June 13.

Georgia Healthcare Listening Project (GHLP) is our newest SCOPE project launching this month.

Hospitals are closing in rural areas across the South, making accessing healthcare services even more difficult. We’re calling people in majority-white, working class communities across the state to learn about how this issue is affecting them and to invite them into our work. 

You can join our first phone bank on on June 12.

SCOPE’s efforts are not only blocking far right radicalization in working class, white, Southern communities, but we’re bringing people into our work to change their communities for the better. Here are three ways to support SCOPE:
1) Make a donation to grow our Southern organizing
2) Join us to call renters in Tennessee on June 13
3) Help us launch the Georgia Healthcare Listening Project on June 12

In solidarity, 
Showing Up for Racial Justice

SURJ 3 Year Strategy, Part 3: Southern Crossroads Read More »

SURJ’s three year strategy, Part 2

The first prong of SURJ’s three year strategy is to stop authoritarianism from taking over the federal government in 2024. 

For the next three years, we will be working to mobilize millions of white voters to:

  • Keep the US Presidency and Senate in Democratic control
  • Defend elections and certify election results across the country

To do this, we need millions of white people choosing to side with working people of all races and not white people at the top– and we need structures big enough to mobilize those people to not only vote out authoritarians in 2024, but stick with our movements for decades to come. 

White people have a responsibility to organize other white people into formation with POC-led organizations to prevent an authoritarian takeover of the federal government. And– we know that defeating the far right at the ballot box in 2024 doesn’t mean it will go away forever. For sustained change, we need an enduring base of support in white communities.

Over the next three years, SURJ will work to not only achieve these goals at the federal level, but use the elections to build that necessary base for longterm change, building a “big tent” where anyone from anywhere can join our work.

Our 2024 focus states

For the last six months, we have been in deep conversation and numbers crunching about exactly where we can have a meaningful impact in 2024. We considered where we have partners, where there’s a SURJ base, and where a slice of the white, working class electorate could make a difference in securing that state’s electoral votes. Based on this strategizing, we’re focusing on Georgia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Ohio.

Learn more about our plans in those states.

Building to 2024: school boards, elections, and actions

Between now and inauguration day in 2025, we’re working backwards to build the power we need to pull off these goals. To kick off the work of blocking authoritarianism and building the power we need to win, this year we’re…

Working at the school board level. From supporting anti-racist candidates to advocating to strike down anti-trans policies, we’re running a nation-wide program where you can “get in where you fit it” to support school board work near you or mobilize to support places where school board issues are heating up.

Standing with the people of Kentucky to re-elect Governor Andy Beshear. In one of the only big elections in the country in 2023, Beshear is running against a Trump-endorsed candidate who was hand-picked by Mitch McConnell. This majority poor white state has been a key place where the right has built power– and is key in stopping far right growth across the nation.

Taking action against the far right. From protecting drag story hours to election defense, we need mass actions of white people showing up against far right actors. We’ll be running training programs and coordinating actions to be in solidarity with vulnerable communities and to model white people standing for justice and not hate.

Learn more about these plans.

It’s ambitious work– and after 14 years of organizing, SURJ is in a position to be able to scale to pull it off. 

SURJ’s three year strategy, Part 2 Read More »

Which side are you on? SURJ’s 3 Year Strategy



Over the last few months, we’ve been doing some deep strategizing to assess this current political moment we’re in and ask the question: what are the biggest threats we’re facing to justice today and where is SURJ best positioned to intervene, disrupt, and take action? How can we- as the nation’s largest group specifically organizing white people for progressive movements- do our part? On this webinar we will be rolling out a multi-pronged strategy to move as a broad and vast network of folks taking action all across the country and beyond– with chapters, as individuals, or as part of our national work– to build the power we need to counter the right’s advances, defeat authoritarianism, defend and grow our democracy, and advance our fights for racial and economic justice

Which side are you on? SURJ’s 3 Year Strategy Read More »

SURJ’s 3 Year Strategy to Stop Authoritarianism, Part 1

“SURJ has taught me the practice of hope as a joyful discipline. To resist the pacifying, demobilizing culture of doom scrolling, cynicism, resignation, and passive critique.”- Shea, a SURJ member on our mass call

What is the role and responsibility of white people who care about racial justice, right now under these conditions?

Last night at our webinar with over 900 SURJ members and friends, we shared our answer to that critical question: Block and defeat the forces driving us towards authoritarianism and build the majorities needed to secure transformational change by growing our movement.  

If you missed the call, you can watch or review the recording and transcript from last night. 

And you can join the work ahead by:
Signing up to join our organizing work in your local community or critical battleground state
Making a meaningful donation to ensure we can carry out our plan 

I am so proud that SURJ is at a moment in our organization’s evolution where we are poised to make a big impact. Over the next week, we’ll be sharing more about each piece of our strategy– from our electoral swing state plans in 2024 to the Southern, small town organizing we’re kicking off this year. 

The millions of white people in the streets in the summer of 2020 and the big numbers that joined us last night confirmed: there are so many of us who care deeply about racial justice and who are ready to get to work. Join us! 

In solidarity, 
Erin Heaney

SURJ’s 3 Year Strategy to Stop Authoritarianism, Part 1 Read More »

From Scarcity to Solidarity Toolkit

After the racist murders in Buffalo, NY in 2022 it became widely known that the shooter subscribed to the “Great Replacement Theory,” a racist ideology that claims white people’s political power is intentionally and systematically being reduced by adding more people of color to the US population. This idea is not new, but the most recent iteration of racist, scarcity-based thinking.

To support our members in their organizing in majority-white communities that are targeted with these kinds of ideas, SURJ organizers developed the following toolkit. We know that when we bring white people into campaigns for justice through their shared interest– what they stand to gain– they are less susceptible to these kinds of racist, scarcity-based ideologies.

From Scarcity to Solidarity Toolkit Read More »

SURJ Response to the Overturning of Roe v. Wade

Today, we at Showing Up for Racial Justice are outraged and grieving in light of the Supreme Court ruling that overturns the right to an abortion in every state. Though it was expected, this is a heavy and difficult day amidst a series of many difficult days before it. Find a rally near you to join in expressing collective grief and rage– practices that are absolutely essential in these times of increasing fear and despair. When you’re ready, take action with us to continue the work.

This decision is one piece of a political agenda of the Far Right to establish a nation where a number of wealthy, white, conservative elites rule over the lives and autonomy of the rest of us– communities of color, immigrants, people who can be pregnant, poor people, women, trans people, and people with disabilities.

For those of us who are white, our work in the days ahead remains the same: to out-organize the Right in our communities and bring millions more white people into our movements for justice. So many white people– today, particularly white people who can get pregnant– have so much to gain by joining multiracial fights for justice.

Over the last forty years, the Right and those at the top have built a primarily white, conservative, Christian base around this issue through dog-whistle politics– racist messaging without explicitly naming race– lies, and scare tactics. And, in doing so, they have consolidated enough political power to enact the similar conservative rulings we have seen in the past few weeks– weakening existing gun legislation, increasing the ability of the state to kill potentially innocent people, and weakening police accountabilitygrowing the wealth and power of the elite few at the expense of the many.

Part of our collective path forward to fight back against this ruling is working to shift power in Washington and at the state level. The representatives in Congress have the power to approve or reject federal judicial appointments. Governors can veto repressive laws inclusion those that would seek to punish people seeking abortions. State houses will be the gatekeepers of legislation to allow abortion, to criminalize those seeking abortion, and we must keep organizing for bold candidates in every state.

Here are four ways white people can show up today to take action for reproductive justice:

  1. Find a rally near you.
  2. Join our mid-term elections program– Block, Build, Grow– to organize white people to shift power around issues like abortion and healthcare. Our first action is a text bank in support of Stacey Abrams for the Governor of Georgia on July 13th.
  3. Donate to people-of-color led organizations that fund and organize for abortion access like SisterSong and the National Network of Abortion Funds.
  4. Watch our webinar with long time reproductive justice activist, Loretta Ross, to better understand why abortion is a racial justice issue and why white people have a key role in organizing to defend this right.

We join with others across the nation in grief and rage. And take today as an opportunity to recommit to the work of justice.

SURJ Response to the Overturning of Roe v. Wade Read More »

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