SURJ Team

Keep your scorn. Kentucky needs your solidarity.

Beth Howard, Op-Ed for the Boston Globe

My beloved Eastern Kentucky has been ravaged by floods that have killed at least 37 people, destroyed homes and businesses, and left entire communities in ruins. In the midst of chaos and mudslides, let me be crystal clear: There is nothing natural about this disaster.

This devastation is the direct result of climate change: Hundred-year floods are now occurring on a yearly basis in Kentucky. Children have been washed away from their parents because decades of extractive coal mining in Appalachia has stripped topsoil off our mountains, leaving rainfall with nowhere to naturally drain. Elderly people are waiting in rising waters, praying to be rescued, because infrastructure in this entire region has been left to rot. People are going without their insulin and medications because for generations, corporations have been stealing our labor, our land, and our lives.

As the waters continued to rise, so did the vitriol coming our way on social media. Many people, many of whom claim to be progressive, are laying the blame for this situation at our feet — even suggesting that we deserve it — “These people got what they voted for.” “It’s so sad so many people there don’t even believe in climate change and don’t want any sustainable energy.” “The reps they overwhelmingly elected routinely vote against aid when disasters hit blue states … At some point, compassion fatigue sets in.”

So my people know there’s no hate in our hollers. We got each other no matter what. We can show up for each other and reject the lies that white nationalists militia groups try to pass off in exchange for water and sandwiches. Democrats, especially white Democrats: Stay on your phone, but log off Twitter. Call us. Connect with us. Join an organization that’s actually engaging with working-class people in Appalachia and the South. Give a damn about us. We know solidarity as a practice and, to survive the climate and political crises we are faced with, we need solidarity as a practice at a grand scale.

Click here to read the full article at the Boston Globe.

Keep your scorn. Kentucky needs your solidarity. Read More »

Monthly Action Hours

Looking for an easy way to plug into the work for justice and to gain community organizing skills? Our monthly action hours support the work of our partners to win racial and economic justice. Join us in monthly, one-hour gatherings where we will call, text, or email whomever we are pressuring that day. You’ll receive training and support throughout the session as well as a community of fellow SURJ members to take action with. Come on in!

Monthly Action Hours Read More »

Graphic shows black and white photos of Heather McGhee and Erin Heaney in front of a rainbow gradient. Text reads "Beyond Zero Sum: Heather McGhee and Erin Heaney on white people's shared interest in racial and economic justice"

Beyond Zero Sum: Heather McGhee on white people’s shared interest in racial and economic justice

“The answer is cross-racial solidarity. Nothing important has ever been accomplished by one person. I can recycle all I want – I can’t stop climate change by myself. When race is so often used to divide us, it takes us coming together across lines of race.-Heather McGhee

At SURJ, we believe that racism is employed by the wealthy elite to make white people believe they have more in common with a white billionaire than the people of color in their neighborhoods. The truth is, white people have so much to gain- a shared interest- in fighting for racial and economic justice.

In this webinar, SURJ’s National Director, Erin Heaney is in conversation with Heather McGhee, political strategist and author of “The Sum of Us,” to explore the history of strategic racism and how white people can organize their own communities away from a “zero sum” mentality and towards an understanding of their shared interest in fights for justice.

Click here to watch a recording of the webinar.

Click here to access a transcript of the webinar.

Beyond Zero Sum: Heather McGhee on white people’s shared interest in racial and economic justice Read More »

Graphic is the Sum of Us logo

Racism’s cost for white people

“To fight for a fairer system, the working class would have needed collective action, which has always been in tension with the pull of American racism.”– Heather McGhee, The Sum of Us 

Those in power use racism to try to prevent white people from taking collective action with people of color. If we’re going to face down what’s coming, we must organize millions of white people away from zero-sum thinking and towards shared interest and solidarity.

We are excited to share that author and strategist Heather McGhee launched a podcast last week on the heels of her bestselling book, The Sum of Us: what racism costs everyone and how we can prosper together, to explore just this– the strategic use of racism to build the power of corporate politicians and big businesses while gutting public infrastructure– and stories of people across the country who are fighting back. Listen here on Spotify.

And then join Heather this Thursday, August 4 at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET in conversation with SURJ National Director Erin Heaney to learn more about how we organize white people into movements for collective action. Here at SURJ, we believe that organizing white people through a framework of shared interest– what McGhee calls “the solidarity dividend”– is our best contribution to our movements right now. See you on Thursday to go deeper.

Racism’s cost for white people Read More »

Graphic shows white text on a black background that reads "block, build, grow."

SURJ Launches Midterm campaign: BLOCK, BUILD, GROW

At a time of rising authoritarianism and increased attempts to undermine our democratic systems, Showing Up For Racial Justice announces our Midterm Election 2022 program, BLOCK, BUILD, GROW.

Our 2022 Midterm program is designed to to BLOCK white supremacist organizing, BUILD progressive political power in key southern and midwestern states, and GROW our collective base of anti-racist white people trained in using electoral work as a tool to bring millions of white people alongside communities of color to win progressive power.

Erin Heaney, National Director for Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) said, “We’re going to be hearing a lot of pundits say that Democrats shouldn’t talk about race in the Midterms because it’s a losing strategy. But you know who will continue to talk to poor and working class white people about race? Tucker Carlson. Steve Bannon. White nationalists on YouTube. It’s our job to engage white people, many of whom could go either way or sit elections out entirely, about what they have to gain by voting for leaders ready to govern with respect for all people.”

SURJ volunteers talking with a voter in Kentucky, May 2022

In GEORGIA we will build off our 2020 program, when members contacted nearly 2 million white voters in the General and 20201 Senate run-off elections. We join our partners at New Georgia Project and CASA to knock doors, text, and call voters in Henry and Clayton Counties south of Atlanta to Re-elect Senator Rafael Warnock, elect Stacey Abrams as Governor, and elect Bee Nguyn for Secretary of State, a position that will be critical to defeat potential threats to undermining our electoral system.

We will also be working to elect Demetrius Rucker in Housing District 117 in Henry County, which was recently redistricted. We’ll be focusing on working-class white voters residing in Locus Grove and McDonnough, where the majority of the electorate resides. Working people, whether white, Black, or brown, all want similar things – and we know we need candidates who fight for all of us instead of dividing us.

In KENTUCKY we will support Louisville SURJ’s work to end cash bail in the city by electing progressive judges that understand people should be home, connected to their community, not in cages waiting for a trial simply because they don’t have enough money for bail. We will build off our rural base building project in Eastern Kentucky to organize working-class white people’s support for Charles Booker in Eastern KY and across the state.

Also, Abortion access is on the ballot this November in Amendment 2. As a part of a multiracial coalition Protect Kentucky Access, SURJ will be talking to white people across the state to make sure they support abortion access this November. Kentucky is now poised to be the second state to protect abortion rights by popular vote, and we know that there are thousands of Kentucky voters who are ready to come with us. We just have to talk with them.

“We Continue to Focus on the South – not because it’s the most racist place, but because it’s where the Right has invested political power building for decades – and white people in Appalachia and eastern Kentucky have the most to gain by joining our movements alongside working-class communities of color to fight for racial and economic justice.” – Beth Howard, Rural Kentucky Campaign Director, Showing Up for Racial Justice

In OHIO SURJ Ohio will organize opposition to Trump’s pick for the Senate, JD Vance, who is the millionaire author of Hillbilly Elegy. Our members in the rural, harm reduction-focused organizing project in Appalachian Ohio, Nelsonville Voices, are ready to organize to block support for this far right-candidate in their community. They will amplify to the rest of Ohioans that the real values of Appalachia are multiracial solidarity and collective care, and Ohio’s Senate representative should advance those values.

SURJ Launches Midterm campaign: BLOCK, BUILD, GROW Read More »

Graphic shows black and white photos of Heather McGhee and Erin Heaney in front of a rainbow gradient. Text reads "Beyond Zero Sum: Heather McGhee and Erin Heaney on white people's shared interest in racial and economic justice"

Beyond Zero-Sum: Heather McGhee on white people’s shared interest in racial and economic justice

“The narrative that white people should see the well-being of people of color as a threat to their own is one of the most powerful subterranean stories in America. Until we destroy the idea, opponents of progress can always unearth it and use it to block a collective action that benefits us all.” – Heather

McGhee, The Sum of Us “White privilege is real, but it’s not an organizing strategy.”– Erin Heaney, SURJ National Director

As we fight to protect civil liberties and block white nationalism in the days ahead, white people must have a clear understanding of why we’re in this work.

At SURJ, we believe that racism is employed by the wealthy elite to make white people believe they have more in common with a white billionaire than the people of color in their neighborhoods. From the inception of this country– from the creation of white identity to the racist backlash to Civil Rights– this is a strategy that has continually been employed to keep power in the hands of the few. 

The truth is, white people have so much to gain— a shared interest– in fighting for racial and economic justice. 

All of us will benefit from a world where our communities have the resources they need. In these times when organizing white people away from the Right and corporate power is critically important, SURJ organizes white people around the reality of shared interest.

On Thursday, August 4th at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET, join us in conversation with Heather McGhee, political strategist and author of “The Sum of Us,” to explore the history of strategic racism and how white people can organize their own communities away from a “zero sum” mentality and towards an understanding of their shared interest in fights for justice. 

Beyond Zero-Sum: Heather McGhee on white people’s shared interest in racial and economic justice Read More »

Calling White People In, To Strengthen and Grow our Movements

The external conditions we are facing as people working for justice are immensely challenging right now. And, as much as we strive to live out our values in our own communities, the conditions we are facing in our movements are also challenging. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about call outs, the internal culture of progressive movements, and how we can build a movement big enough to take on the threats we face.

SURJ has spent the last 12 years practicing one of our central values of calling white people in, not out, and adrienne maree brown has been at the forefront of helping movement communities orient around abolitionist values of care and belonging. This moment is ripe for exploring these connections.

This webinar features SURJ leaders in conversation with author and emergent strategist adrienne maree brown to explore why we need collective practices of calling in and how we can build a spiritually and emotionally well-resourced culture for white organizers.

Click here to view the webinar.

Click here to access the transcript.

Calling White People In, To Strengthen and Grow our Movements Read More »

Graphic shows text over a crowd holding Pride flags that reads "white queer and trans people have everything to gain by ending white supremacy."

White queers’ shared interest in ending white supremacy

Long before I was out, I was known. I was in 7th grade the first time a group of boys yelled “Wehman’s a Man!” up the stairwell at me. Over the next five years the yelling escalated to shoving, to being buzzed off the road by cars of teenage boys yelling homophobic slurs, to teachers punishing me for not adhering to gender dress norms or for kissing my high school girlfriend in public– like hundreds of other teenagers around us. As I became an adult, homophobia and transphobia continued to shape my life in the form of job, housing, and healthcare discrimination and the ways that fear of violence and discrimination restricted where I went or what I thought was possible in my life.

My name is Grover, I’m a Butch parent with two young kids, a writer, the kind of person who puts bright pink wallpaper in their house. I joined the staff at SURJ two months ago as the Deputy Director of Communications, and know that storytelling is one important way we can come together to make sense of the world and gain the strength to take action together.

As we close out LGBTQ pride month, I want to share my story with you that shapes my motivation– my shared interest– in ending white supremacy as a white queer person. What do I mean by shared interest? I mean the specific ways I, in my specific humanity as a white person in a racist world, have a personal stake in the work to end racism and white supremacy. Not just a duty as a person who cares about others, not just a responsibility for repair as white person in a racist system, but a fight-for-our-lives shared investment with communities of color in ending white supremacy and racism and creating a better world for us all.

When I was 19, I lost stable housing for the first time and became one of the many gender-non-conforming, queer, and trans young people who experience homelessness and housing insecurity in their lifetime. I slept in my car, a storage locker, my friend’s couch, a basement, my workplace’s couch before opening shift. I changed cities, I walked into social service offices, waiting, waiting, only to be sent out with no help. Maybe some of you reading this share this experience too?

The racist strategy of those at the top is to present homelessness prevention and affordable, publicly supported housing as a handout, rather than tell the truth: that the system of homelessness is a violent choice our nation makes and justifies with racist, classist messages and greedy policies, and we can make it rare, brief, and singular like other nations have. White queer and trans people, white people who’ve experienced housing insecurity, have everything to gain by ending white supremacy.

Read the rest of my story here.

As a queer white person, the world will be a safer place for me when we end white supremacy. White nationalists are among us, embedded in the leadership of majority white communities and being radicalized every day by intentional organizing online and in person. They are dangerous to communities of color, Jewish and Muslim communities, and must be stopped. They are dangerous to LGBTQ people across race and faith, to children whose genders don’t conform to a narrow sense of what boys and girls should be and must be stopped. They are dangerous to cis and straight white men and women of conscience and must be stopped. We must out organize the right.

The story I told here is an example of mutual interest or shared interest storytelling. As white people organizing, we can all identify a shared interest– or two or three– in ending white supremacy.

White queers’ shared interest in ending white supremacy Read More »

Graphic shows white text on a black background that reads "block, build, grow."

Block, Build, & Grow with us in the midterms

In the days ahead, those of us who are white have the opportunity to do our part in pulling the country back from escalating authoritarianism and the brink of fascism. This is not the time that we turn away in despair, but when we root deeper in what we know is true: millions of white people across the country are ready for us to talk to them and waiting to be given a better option than white supremacy.

Today, we launch our midterms election program, Block, Build, Grow and we are inviting people from across the country to help us BLOCK white supremacist organizing, BUILD progressive power in key states, and GROW our collective “we” of anti-racist white people to show up big in 2022, 2024, and beyond.

We know elections aren’t the end goal, but another form of opportunity:

“At its worst, electoral work can be transactional, short-sighted, heartbreaking, and painful. And – elections are opportunities for our movement. They are an opportunity to bring new people into our movement, to build new leadership and skills, to shift power dynamics for the long haul, to contribute to victories that are set by folks most impacted by the systems, and to really change the conditions under which our broader movement is operating.”

  • Erin Heaney, National Director, SURJ, in our 2020 webinar, “Building Anti-racist Electoral Work” in 2020

No matter where you live, you can help us organize white people in 2022 to build long-haul power. We’ll be working in states where we already have roots to make sure white people vote based on what they stand to gain from progressive platforms like the ones Stacy Abrams, Rev. Raphael Warnock, and Charles Booker represent – and not based on the racist divide-and-conquer tactics of the Far Right.

Here’s what we’ll be up to:

  • GEORGIA: building off our massive program– of which many of you were a part– contacting nearly 2 million white voters in the 2020 General and 2021 Senate Run-Off elections, we’ll be joining our partners at New Georgia Project and CASA again to knock doors, text, and call voters in multiracial counties outside of Atlanta where our job is to organize enough persuadable white folks away from Trump’s Big Lie and towards justice-aligned platforms.
  • KENTUCKY: Charles Booker– who narrowly lost the Democratic primary in 2020 and came back this year to win it– is a candidate who understands that working people of all races have so much to gain by working together to shift power. We’ll be building off our deep work with our chapter in Louisville and rural base building project in Eastern Kentucky to organize working class white support for Booker in 2022 across the state.
  • OHIO: JD Vance, Trump’s pick and millionaire author of Hillbilly Elegy, does not represent the interest of the people of Appalachia. We know it from our rural, harm reduction-focused organizing project in Appalachian Ohio, Nelsonville Voices, and know that our members are ready to organize to block this Far Right candidate to show the country that the real values of Appalachia are multiracial solidarity and collective care.

We know these locations are strategic places where we can move key groups of white people, grow a base of voters who understand their shared stake in fighting for justice, and build the power and skills of SURJ members across the country who take action with us.

Block, Build, & Grow with us in the midterms Read More »

Attica Scott for Congress 2022

We are building lasting infrastructure to grow progressive power in Kentucky for the long haul. Despite the defeat of Attica Scott in a Democratic primary on Tuesday, we are inspired, driven, and hopeful. Landscapes don’t shift overnight– and this is just the beginning of the momentum we are building to carry into the days and years ahead.

Progressive victories led by Black women in Georgia in 2020 and 2021 showed the nation that transforming conditions requires a commitment to building power for the long-haul, not just in election cycles.

We knew that Attica – a working class, Black mother who has a long history of standing up for justice– was the underdog, facing off with a millionaire lawyer who received donations from the likes of billionaire tech bros. Instead of relying on high dollar donations, we ran our campaign on people power- and moved thousands of white Lousvillians to see their futures tied up with the movement values Attica stands for. As Attica wrote, “It took nearly $2 million to defeat our people-powered campaign.”

Over 200 SURJ members from the Louisville chapter and National Membership program contacted 133,471 white voters in KY-03 to organize them to support Attica Scott. In white working class precincts where we knocked doors, support for Attica was over 7 points higher than in similar precincts where we did not canvass. And the campaign has been a strong catalyst for recruiting new SURJ members and moving seasoned SURJ members deeper into action. As one LSURJ member, Lindsay, shared with us:

“Working with SURJ has given me hope. It’s been this galvanizing force that it is possible to organize people who don’t have a lot of funding behind them to fight for what’s right and to fight for all of us. The racial justice side of it is what got me into it- and now I see how possible it is to politically mobilize and go up against the corporate establishment Democrats who have just completely failed us- and how interconnected all of this work is.”

We have our work cut out for us in the days ahead. We’ll continue mobilizing white people to support progressive people of color in Kentucky, Georgia, and other key states leading up to the midterms. And we’ll be organizing in those communities long after the elections to make sure the work continues.

Attica Scott for Congress 2022 Read More »

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