Help us Sustain KPU’s Organizing!

SURJ is fighting like hell for Kentucky year-round. The Kentucky People’s Union (KPU), a base building project of SURJ, was founded less than two years ago in Ashland, a small majority-white, working class city in the eastern part of the state. Since then, KPU has grown into a powerful political home and organizing force, bringing in dozens of new members to fight for housing rights and mobilize for racial and LGBTQ justice. 

The extractive legacy of the coal industry and ensuing economic disinvestment looms large in Ashland. As an unorganized, majority working class area, we identified the area as a potentially opportune place to launch an organizing project. When some of our Kentucky organizers traveled to Ashland to knock doors to test our hunch, they were met with immediate enthusiasm. KPU sprung up almost instantly and now is home to over 80 active members with over 1,000 people expressing interest in the work.

Just this past year, the KKK dropped flyers in town, and KPU members came together with two other progressive groups in the city to publicly condemn the Klan’s presence. We knock doors in the same neighborhood where the Klan dropped flyers, bringing people in through solidarity and community care, not hate and racism. Far right forces target communities like Ashland because they know white people are suffering and they hope to use that suffering to build their ranks. But, KPU offers people true solidarity, coming together across race, gender, age, and ability to win a better life for everyone. 

2023 was a year of growth for KPU. We spent the first four months researching issues, bringing in new members, developing leaders, and building community. After deep listening with people in the community, KPU members voted to take on housing campaigns to protect the rights of renters in Ashland: fighting for a public registry of landlords and the adoption of URLTA.

Since the vote, we’ve knocked on over 1,000 doors of local tenants to talk to them about their experiences. One tenant shared about living without heat for three winters. Others talked about ongoing pest and rodent infestations. We heard about the mental, physical, and emotional toll of living in unsafe housing under landlords who are unwilling to fix properties or take care of issues. Renters have joined up with KPU and are advocating at commissioner meetings, being trained in organizing skills, and growing our base.

In August, 30 of our members showed up at the city commissioner’s meeting with their housing research and demands for the commissioners, sporting red bandanas in the legacy of the multiracial miner’s uprising at Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921. The event earned local news coverage and helped us gain more than 600 signatures on our Kentucky People’s Union Tenants Bill of Rights.

Time and time again, we heard stories of renters in the city who both experience struggle and hope. They know Ashland can do better for its people. This is why we are continuing to hold potlucks, feed our neighborhood, build power, and fight like hell for Kentucky – all at the same time. 

Fighting like hell for Kentucky is a part of fighting like hell for all of us in 2024. Can you help us win?

Help us Sustain KPU’s Organizing! Read More »

SURJ Membership!

In these times of intense crisis and isolation, we all need a crew. Will you officially join ours?

We’re kicking off our first SURJ National Membership drive today with a goal of 1000 official SURJ National Members over the next month!

As most of you know, SURJ was born in 2009 and has grown from a constellation of affiliated groups to a powerful national organization with over 160 chapters, local projects across the South, and ongoing campaign work that is delivering wins and developing leaders. But one thing hasn’t changed in those 14 years: we are powered by our members.

In 2024, we’re facing down a critical election with high stakes. And we know our work won’t stop there: we need an enduring base of organized white people across the country to win the justice agendas our movements are fighting for. To help get us there, root deeper with SURJ in the year ahead: become an official SURJ National Member!

Why membership? From card-carrying union members to the Black Panther Party to dozens of other social justice organizations like SURJ, movement groups have always been made up of official members. This move will allow us to deepen our collective commitment to our community and thus become more powerful and effective in the actions we take. And it’s a way to offer a deeper sense of belonging and investment in folks who opt-in to work with us. 

Why join as a member?

You want to win. You want millions and millions of white people to move towards justice movements. When our organizations are tighter, more aligned, and more deeply committed, we are more powerful.

As a SURJ National Member, you’ll get access to special training, webinars, merch, events, and a members-only online space where you can build community and ask questions. 

Find your people. From coast-to-coast, SURJ members have formed transformative bonds working together on phone banks and action zaps. This is challenging work, and we all need a team of support. Make this one yours. 

What are member responsibilities?

You align with our mission and values. Members pledge to enact the SURJ values in their political work and are aligned with SURJ’s vision for change in the world.

You take action with SURJ. National Members commit to taking action with the national organization at least three times throughout the year on phone or text banks, through volunteer support or being on a campaign leadership team.

You pay dues. In the long tradition of member-supported organizations, SURJ members give financially because they believe our work is important. As a cross-class organization that prioritizes poor and working class communities as key constituencies, our annual membership dues are offered on a sliding scale based on income. 

SURJ Membership! Read More »

Building the ‘White Stripe’: The Young Patriots, Jesse Jackson, and SURJ

by Beth Howard, Carla Wallace, Eddie Wong, and Hy Thurman

Article published: February 5, 2024

‘Steps on a journey of struggle’: Organizers share their experiences in the 1960s, the 1980s and today with bringing white people into the multiracial fight for collective liberation.

Read the full article by Convergence Mag here!

Building the ‘White Stripe’: The Young Patriots, Jesse Jackson, and SURJ Read More »


I am so proud to share that the Kentucky People’s Union (KPU), a project of SURJ in Eastern Kentucky that I helped found alongside community members, was featured this week in MSNBC’s annual racial healing special to commemorate the Martin Luther King Day Holiday.

KPU and other projects like it at SURJ are changing the narrative about what racial healing and racial justice mean. We are a working class-led project fighting for housing rights in a majority-white small town in Appalachia in a deeply conservative area. When white folks talk to other white people about race and what we stand to gain by standing with, rather than against, people of color, we come together and become powerful enough to win things like renters rights in small towns here in Kentucky– or bigger scale things like federal elections.

Watch the special here– KPU’s segment starts at about 43 minutes in.

In the special, I talk about how racism is a strategy. It doesn’t serve those at the top for white people to recognize whiteness or to talk to other white people about racism or transphobia or other issues those at the top try to use to divide us.

While SURJ National is taking on big electoral fights in 2024 to block authoritarians from taking the federal government, KPU will be continuing our long-haul organizing work in Ashland to grow our membership, elect aligned local leaders, and win house legislation in deep red Kentucky. Our work at KPU is a part of SURJ’s strategy of building the white working class flank of Southern, multiracial movements to deliver wins for working people and out-organize the right in areas it relies on for support.

I’m proud that SURJ is struggling on multiple fronts: both on a national scale and deeply local. We’re blocking the far right from further advancing in Washington, and cutting their base out from beneath them by growing our small town organizing in the South. 

We need your support to grow this work in 2024. Can you give a gift today to power KPU and our Southern organizing?

In solidarity, 

Beth Howard

KPU on MSNBC! Read More »

White People: We’ve got Work to do in 2024!

2024 is a critical year for beating back authoritarianism and bringing in thousands of people to movements for justice. We have a sharp plan to organize millions of white people into the multiracial coalitions that are needed for us to win, and we need your help this year to make it happen.

Join SURJ to launch our 2024 work at a mass meeting, “White people: we’ve got work to do in 2024!” on February 7 at 8 ET to hear about our plan to organize millions of white people, bring in thousands of new SURJ members, and deepen our community to face the year ahead. 

We’re kicking off the year by showing up to defend members of the Squad. Squad members have been at the forefront of fights in Congress to work to advance legislation that is most closely aligned with the visions of our movements: housing justice, expanding affordable healthcare, calling for a ceasefire, climate justice, taxing the rich– things white people have so much shared interest in winning. 

They have also been the targets of major attacks by the Far Right, white supremacist, and white nationalist forces, which we know will continue this year. In their primary races, the majority of voters are white, so alongside our partners, SURJ will show up to do our part by organizing thousands of white voters to support the Squad.

We’ll use the momentum of these primary races to swing into the federal election and beat back authoritarianism, defend the election results, and bring in thousands of new people to our movement. At our meeting, we’ll talk you through our plan to organize 12 million white people across 5 battleground states and share how you can get involved. 

This is a pivotal time when the stakes are higher and when we know thousands of white people will be looking for our leadership and to be plugged in. We’ve got a plan to rise to the moment, welcome them in, and mobilize thousands to accomplish our slice of the work.

It’s an undeniably challenging and devastating time. And we believe that one of the strongest antidotes to despair is reaching towards one another in collective action. 

There are two ways to make sure this work happens: join us on the 7th and make a gift to support this work. 

We need the people power to be able to reach out to millions of white people and we need the resources to power that machine. Can you make a gift today to ensure SURJ has the resources we need to show up big this critical year? 

White People: We’ve got Work to do in 2024! Read More »

Why I Work with SURJ!

Last year on a SURJ phone bank, I had a conversation with a long distance truck driver from Kentucky. We spoke while he was on the road and connected initially over what basketball teams we liked, our families, and his horses back in Kentucky. I was calling about the ballot initiative in his state, where we were calling white working class voters to vote “no” to prevent a near-total abortion ban from being added to their state constitution. 

From the beginning of the call, he told me he didn’t have anything to vote for at all, did not believe in political change, and he was clear he was anti-abortion. But as I shared my own story and perspective about who would be impacted by a lack of access– poor people and rural people and people marginalized by our country’s healthcare system– we dug deeper into our conversation. 

I used the SURJ script and leaned on my training to find our way through a long conversation, validating him in what he shared, sharing my own experience, and gently drawing connections about abortion being a wedge issue so that those at the top can grab more power by dividing us. 

In the end, he said he would make it back to Kentucky in time and that he would vote “no” on Issue 2. 

“I’ll vote for you,” he said, after 55 minutes on the phone. 

Will you give a gift at the end of this year to make more conversations like this possible in 2024? 

I am a proud SURJ member since 2016. I have been trained as an organizer with SURJ and am now myself training others. It’s serious and important work with high stakes, but something I always try to communicate when I talk to friends and family about this work is how fun it is. There is so much joy and community in our phone banking spaces! 

And it’s joyful to be in a space undercutting white supremacy! That’s kind of the whole point.

SURJ is who I say yes to. It always has a place for me. Thank God I don’t have to face this moment alone.

Join me today to support this joyful, important work.

In community, 

Mary Biggs

Why I Work with SURJ! Read More »

Don’t Fight Fascism Alone!

Two years ago today, a broad coalition of white nationalist and white supremacist organizations, backed by powerful allies in the government, attacked the US Capitol. 

Since then, the racist, anti-Democratic forces that drummed up election-denial have continued to organize and amass power and influence, from capturing leadership in the House of Representatives to passing book bans and anti-trans legislation in states across the country.

As we enter 2024, we know that far right politicians backed by corporate interests have a well-resourced plan to win. Just like we saw on January 6, 2021, they will use every tactic possible to sow division amongst those of us who have everything to gain by joining together in solidarity. 

They will target people of all backgrounds and races, but let’s be honest: the overwhelming base of their support is white. They will lead with a strategy of racism in order to win over enough white people to gain more federal power.  

Those of us who are white have a responsibility to do everything we can to undermine white support for their authoritarian platforms, which, as we have seen play out across the country, have dire consequences for all of us.

Election years are special – early money really matters so that we can begin our voter outreach efforts in time to move people! Will you make a gift today to ensure SURJ has the resources it needs to fight the Right and win in 2024?

From Georgia to Kentucky, SURJ has seen massive success organizing white people away from the right and into the multiracial coalitions we need to win. SURJ runs one of the most effective voter contact programs in the country targeting working class white people who are less likely to vote for progressive candidates and issues. 

And we’ve got a plan to go big and win in 2024 to ensure we block an authoritarian takeover of the federal government.  

Not only is early money critical, but monthly support makes a huge impact. Can you join us by making a sustaining gift today?

We will organize a universe of 12 million white working class voters in key swing states– Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona. These are the types of voters we have successfully organized in the past, and they are the same voters the far right will target in those states. 

We’ll use the power of our national phone banking infrastructure to deploy thousands of highly-trained SURJ members to have tens of thousands of conversations with these voters through our shared interest organizing model, bringing white people in through the stakes of this moment and issues that affect them.

I know that when we contend for these voters, we can win them over. But we’ll need to raise the funds this year to ensure we’re as equipped as the Right. Later this month, we’ll be sending more information about how you can sign up to phone bank and knock doors with us. In the meantime, the most helpful thing you can do today is donate to support the work ahead. Will you join me in making a gift?

Don’t Fight Fascism Alone! Read More »

Kentucky People’s Union Featured on NBC!

We’re on NBC News as part of their National Day of Racial Healing special!

The segment profiles Kentucky People’s Union (KPU), a working class-led project of SURJ organizing working people in Appalachian Kentucky for quality housing. Founded as a project of SURJ in 2022 in small town, majority-white Ashland, Kentucky, KPU has grown into a powerful organizing home in the region with over 100 members and dozens of leaders.

This is what SURJ’s organizing on multiple scales looks like: blocking the far right from further advancing in Washington, and cutting their base out from under them by growing our small town organizing in the South.

Watch NBC News Now online at 9PM ET and support KPU to expand across Kentucky here:

Kentucky People’s Union Featured on NBC! Read More »

2023 All In for All Students Campaign

At SURJ, we believe that every kid deserves access to quality public education and a school where they feel safe and supported. This is why we launched our campaign “All In for All Students,” which brought together parents and community leaders to rally around school board candidates and school board initiatives that support healthy learning environments for ALL students – no matter their race, zip code, or who they want to take to prom.  Across the country, the far right has been attempting to garner local power through organizing school boards around transphobia and racism, and so we need to organize white people through a different paradigm: building a cross class, multiracial majority that offers welcoming, well-resourced classrooms for every child.

This work was national and local. Nationally, we launched remote cohorts of support where anyone from anywhere could tap in to learn about how to push local school boards to support all students through an online training series and coaching. Cohorts were trained in campaign planning and organizing skills, storytelling, and press work.  We brought people in from twelve states through our Letter to the Editor and Spokesperson trainings and supported members in writing, submitting, and publishing Letters to the Editor and Op-Eds. We had these get published across the United States – from Ohio, to New York, to Kentucky, to Wisconsin. 

We focused our on-the-ground efforts of “All In for All Students” in Ohio and Kentucky. In Ohio, we threw down in six school board elections where candidates aligned with MAGA and the group “Moms for Liberty”, a far right parents’ group that advocates for banning books and banning honest conversations about the history of racism, were running. In these six elections, we had FIVE candidates win. 

Of the six candidates we supported, two were already SURJ members: Lindsey Wyckoff in North Canton and Lizett Schreiber in Olentangy! Both candidates won, as did both candidates from Westerville: Jennifer Aultman and Louise Valentine. In Dublin, Amy Messick won, and Diva Sonya came in third to the incumbent in an incredibly tough six candidate race. 

Here’s our impact in OH by the numbers:

Total Callers: 64 individual callers who signed up for 131 shifts!

Total calls we made together: 33,129!

Conversations w/ voters: 1,452!

Supporters identified: 1,367!

Total “yes” votes we secured for our candidates: 762!

In Kentucky we organized around mitigating the harmful effects of SB 150 – a controversial, anti-LGBTQ+ bill regulating students’ pronoun usage, bathroom usage, and access to lifesaving healthcare. School districts were able to interpret how to implement the bill, and our Louisville SURJ chapter threw down to mitigate the harm of JCPS’s interpretation – which is the largest and most influential school district in the state of Kentucky. We were able to get a very strong resolution passed that mitigates some of the harmful aspects of SB 150, which was modeled after the work of one of our national partners, HEAL. Our success testifies to the power of local organizing and how we can fight what they tell us is inevitable – because we, as a community, get to decide what is inevitable for us and ours. 

Our local work in Ohio and Kentucky will continue on the ground in 2024, and several national cohort members will be running school board campaigns in 2024.

2023 All In for All Students Campaign Read More »

graphic reads "show up for the georgia runoff: join us to bring white people in." It also shows two white people talking.

Take Action in the 2022 Georgia Runoff

Once again, all eyes are in Georgia. After a near-tie between Senator Warnock and Herschel Walker in the General Election, SURJ is mobilizing for a win in the Georgia Runoff. SURJ members showed up to do our part in defeating Trump in Georgia in 2020 AND electing Senator Warnock in the 2021 runoff. With our growing movement, we can continue to defeat the MAGA Right in Georgia!

​​​​​​​Sign up to take action here.​

White people have so much to gain– so much shared interest– in supporting progressive platforms like the one Senator Warnock stands for. Our people of color-led partner orgs are working to mobilize their folks, and we know that when we do our part to make sure white people join them, huge wins are possible. We don’t need all the white people, but we need enough of them.

Can’t take action? Donate to SURJ to support our work in the run offs!

No matter whether you’ve been riding with SURJ for decades or you’ve never done anything like this before, we want you on our team. SURJ phonebanks and textbanks are effective and community-building actions where we gather on Zoom, support each other in calling hundreds of voters, and celebrate together. We’ll give you everything you need to get trained up and ready to have meaningful conversations with voters. 

If you’re ready to stop agonizing and distancing yourself from other white people and ready to step into action to organize, build power, and bring more white people into fights for progressive gains this year and for years to come, JOIN US. We can do this. 

Take Action in the 2022 Georgia Runoff Read More »

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

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.”

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.

“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.

Midterm Campaign: BLOCK, BUILD, GROW 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 »

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