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 »

Join us in Showing Up for Jamaal!

To advance racial justice at the federal level, we need more governing power in the hands of movement-aligned elected officials at Congress. Rep. Jamaal Bowman was elected in the midst of the historic racial justice uprisings in 2020, and has been a champion of racial justice policies- things like protecting teaching racial justice in schools and fighting for a ceasefire in Gaza- since then.

Coming off the heels of our massive victory in Rep. Summer Lee’s race, SURJ is pivoting to protect Rep. Bowman’s seat in NY-16. Join SURJ and Rep. Bowman on Wednesday, May 18 at 8 pm ET to discuss why these primaries matter– and the important role white people play.

Bowman’s challenger, George Lattimer, was recruited by AIPAC and has already received $600,000 from the far right-aligned Super PAC. And just like Summer Lee’s opponent, he has begun accepting large checks from MAGA super donors. These donors have been responsible for putting far right candidates in office who are banning books about racial justice, criminalizing protest, and gutting abortion rights.

SURJ is going big in this race because Rep. Bowman’s district is overwhelmingly white. Lattimer and those who fund him are going to use racist dog whistles in an attempt to peel away white support for Bowman. So SURJ will be intervening to move voters to reject racism and show up to protect the movement-aligned bloc in congress. 

To win on issues we care about, like Palestinian liberation and climate justice, we must protect Rep. Bowman’s seat and not lose it to a centrist, far-right funded challenger.

Join SURJ in conversation with Rep. Bowman to hear about why this race matters and why we need white people across the country to show up.

Join us in Showing Up for Jamaal! Read More »

Showing Up for Summer Lee!

SURJ members and staff are on the ground in Pittsburgh celebrating Rep. Summer Lee’s overwhelming victory in the Democratic Congressional primary yesterday! A majority-white working class city just reaffirmed that an unapologetic progressive and PA’s first Black Congresswoman represents their interests. 

400+ SURJ members knocked on more than 6,000 doors, called more than 150,000 voters, and held 12,000 one-on-one conversations with white voters in Rep. Lee’s district to mobilize support for her justice-aligned agenda. I’m proud that SURJ ran the largest phonebank program outside the campaign. And that our members came from chapters across the country to knock doors alongside our partners at PA United and Seed the Vote.

Can you give a gift today to celebrate this victory and help us win the next campaign in New York?

Lee’s opponent attacked her for being “too extreme” on issues like police reform and supporting a ceasefire in Gaza. This is where SURJ’s members shine: holding successful persuasion conversations about race and other “controversial” topics with white people. 

A long time SURJ phone banker Sarah shared, “I spoke with a man whose initial response to hearing Summer Lee’s name was ‘I heard she wants to abolish the police.’ But when I engaged him around what he cared about (urban blight and jobs), he emerged as a Lee supporter.”

Throughout the rest of the year, other members of the progressive bloc in Congress called “the Squad” like Rep. Jamaal Bowman in New York and Rep. Ilhan Omar in Minnesota will be challenged in their Democratic primaries, facing a historic $100 million pledged by AIPAC and other billionaires who fund the far right. Rep. Lee is the first Squad member to face these odds– and her victory is a testament to the fact that multiracial grassroots organizing for movement-aligned candidates can overcome billionaire’s efforts to buy election results.

White people will continue to plan an important role in these primaries– and SURJ will continue to show up to move white voters to reject racist attempts to villainize members of the Squad, and instead to see their shared interest in the social justice agendas these Congresspeople champion.  

Can you give a gift to help us get there?

Showing Up for Summer Lee! Read More »

Take Action with us to Defend Progressives in Congress!

In one week, Democratic Congresswoman Summer Lee is up for re-election in her Pittsburgh area district. This is the first primary where a Congressperson who has openly called for a ceasefire in Gaza will face opponents backed by the retaliatory $100 million pledged by the pro-Israel Super PAC AIPAC and other conservative funders.  

To win, we’re harnessing people power to support Rep. Summer Lee’s social justice-aligned agenda and to ensure that our elections can’t be bought and sold by billionaires. 

Show up for Summer Lee >>

You already know that Rep. Lee, alongside the rest of the Squad, is one of the most social justice-aligned candidates in Congress and crucial to advancing our agendas– and holding back far right authoritarianism– at the federal level.

The conservative Israeli Super PAC AIPAC recruited Lee’s Democratic challenger and pledged a historic $100 million against Squad members like Summer Lee in an attempt to silence their leadership on a ceasefire and other progressive issues like police reform. 

Lee’s Democratic opponent has received massive contributions from a GOP mega donor and Pennsylvania’s richest Republican billionaire, who has also funded far right candidates like Donald Trump, Dr. Oz, Herschel Walker, and other election-deniers.

In these times of climate catastrophe, rising authoritarianism, and genocide, we need progressive leaders who will stand up to the far right and billionaires, not collaborate with them.

In her primary two years ago, Rep. Lee was facing similar opposition– $5 million in attack ads backed by conservative PACs– and won by less than 1,000 votes. Candidates like Rep. Lee rely on grassroots organizing, not corporate money from the far right.

We’re proud to be contributing to that effort. SURJ has already made 100k calls to white voters in Rep. Lee’s district. And in our conversations, the truth about who is funding her opponent is what’s resonating with voters most. No one wants billionaires buying and selling elections. 

Next Tuesday is our movement’s first big test to show that people power can beat billionaires, and that progressives can take a stand for a ceasefire and win. Rep. Lee has continuously shown up for racial justice. Now, it’s time for us to show up to protect this racial justice champion.

Our next phone bank is this Wednesday, and then we have banks every day Saturday until election day on Tuesday. Can you join us?

Can’t make bank? Can you give a gift in gratitude to the more than 200 SURJ members who have shown up for Rep. Lee? 

Take Action with us to Defend Progressives in Congress! Read More »

The Tennessean: Shelbyville and Bedford County Residents Demand Renter Protections from the Feds.

Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) should quickly adopt safeguards for renters in Tennessee and across country.

By: JoAnne Vasil, Pat Marsh and Shane Reeves

Key Points:

  • JoAnne Vasil lives in Shelbyville and is a long-time organizer with the Bedford County Listening Project.
  • Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, represents District 62, Bedford County, in the Tennessee House.
  • Sen. Shane Reeves, R-Murfreesboro, represents District 14, Bedford County, in the Tennessee Senate.

Read the entire article here!

The Tennessean: Shelbyville and Bedford County Residents Demand Renter Protections from the Feds. Read More »

More in Common

One of the most common questions we get at SURJ is: “How do I talk to other white people about racism?” The truth is, you can read all the books and conversion guides you want to, but nothing beats good old-fashioned practice.

I am proud that SURJ’s organizing programs have trained thousands of white antiracists with powerful organizing skills to engage deeply with other white people, move them to support our cause, and win campaigns across the country.

Our organizing programs engage millions of white people every year. Today, we’re launching a new video, “More in Common,” that shares a taste of what it’s like to organize with our national programs.

Ready to plug in? As you’ve heard, we’re currently organizing white people in Pittsburgh to show up to support Rep. Summer Lee, an unapologetically progressive Black Congresswoman who has championed racial justice bills and public education. 

Our next phonebank for her—–and your next opportunity to hone your organizing skills—–is April 6. Can you join us?

In solidarity,

Erin Heaney

SURJ Executive Director

More in Common Read More »

How We Win the Civil War: Securing a Multiracial Democracy and Ending White Supremacy for Good

How did we get here, and how do we get out of this mess to build towards the multiracial democracy all of us need? Join Steve Phillips, national political commentator and author of “How We Win the Civil War: Securing a Multiracial Democracy and Ending White Supremacy for Good,” and SURJ ED Erin Heaney for TWO discussions on March 14. One on IG Live at 12 ET and an extended conversation on Zoom at 8 ET.

How We Win the Civil War: Securing a Multiracial Democracy and Ending White Supremacy for Good Read More »

Bring People With Us!

“We had a phenomenal gathering with sixteen people. ALL signed up for at least one action. Two are making the trek from Massachusetts to Pittsburgh to door knock for Summer Lee. A few are going to host their own watch parties!” 

— Debby, SURJ leader and watch party host in MA

We’re proud that SURJ is a political home where thousands of white people find community and take action for justice. We know there are thousands more looking for a home base like ours, so as we move through this big year of action, we’re reaching outward and bringing more and more of our people in.

Building off of our 1,000-person strategy launch in early February, after Super Tuesday over 700 SURJ members came together in local gatherings for our “Grow the Movement Livestream” watch parties. Leaders in 130 locations (some pictured above) invited 3+ friends to tune into our livestream, engage in deep discussion about this political moment, and commit to action together.

Parties happened in a local thrift store in the Hudson Valley in New York, public libraries from Santa Cruz to Western Massachusetts, a UU Church in Boulder, and dozens of living rooms from Maryville, Tennessee to Antigua, Guatemala! 

All of us know someone who, looking out at the state of the world, feels a deep desire to do something but is unsure where to start. Part of our work this year is to bring our people through the paralysis of uncertainty and into our community of action.

We have two new weekly events focused on bringing in new people:

1. Call other SURJ members at “Turnout Tuesday” weekly phonebankswhere we connect about what’s going on in people’s lives, and then invite them into action with us. Our next Turnout Tuesday call is TONIGHT, March 19, at 6 pm ET. Can you join us?

2. Then, on Wednesdays, we’re hosting “Welcome Wednesdays”—a weekly event for people new to the SURJ community where they’ll get oriented to who we are, engage in political education about this moment, and get oriented to our work this year. Our next Welcome Wednesday call is tomorrow, March 20, at 8 pm ET. 

We won’t stop authoritarianism or keep progressives in office this year—or win racial and economic justice in the long term—without more people power on our side. This is the GROW part of our “Build, Block, Grow” strategy this year. 

Can you join us tonight—or next Tuesday—to bring in more SURJ community members to this work?

Bring People With Us! Read More »

Opinion: New York’s Reparations Commission is a Beacon of Hope for all Races

A white New Yorker on how this is an opportunity for the state to reckon with its history and move beyond divisive narratives.

In a transformative move towards healing and unity, New York state’s Reparations Commission emerges as a beacon of hope for all its residents – Black, brown, and white. Across races, backgrounds, and generations, most New Yorkers want to make this a state where all people can live with dignity, freedom and equality. Yet for centuries, a handful of people in power have used anti-Black racism to dehumanize people, divide working people and to consolidate rule for a wealthy, white few. 

Opinion: New York’s Reparations Commission is a Beacon of Hope for all Races Read More »

White People: We Have Work to Do!

Feeling your heart rate rise over the chaos of 2024 already? Don’t face the fear and dread alone! One of the surest ways to cut through the anxiety of these times is taking action together in community: join SURJ members in conversation about our plans for 2024 to stop authoritarianism, defend the election, and go on offense in 2025 to advance an agenda of racial and economic justice.

White People: We Have Work to Do! Read More »

Post-Super Tuesday: We Need Your Help!

Trump handily swept the GOP primaries yesterday and is now the de facto nominee for president. The power of the far right, racist agenda he supports is stronger than ever—from school boards to the Speaker of the House. 

A MAGA victory over the presidency and Congress in 2024 will be dangerous for all of us and threaten the very existence of democracy in this country. As white people who care about justice, we are clear that undermining white support for Trump is critical work this year. 

But an authoritarian victory in November isn’t inevitable—beating Trump will take smart strategy and committed organizing. We have a plan to win this year—and we need you to help us pull it off. 

Can you give a gift today to help us pull off this work in 2024?

Alongside Trump’s victory last night, hundreds of thousands of Democrats voted “uncommitted” or abstained from a Biden vote in protest of his administration’s policy on Gaza. Since Oct. 7, over 30,000 Palestinians—one-third being children—have been killed by the Israeli government. Nearly 2 million have been displaced from their homes, millions more starving and lacking access to clean water or basic healthcare. What’s happening is morally unconscionable, and it isn’t good for any of us. Our government pours billions into this war and then defunds schools, healthcare, and housing. 

Changing course on Gaza is part of what it will take for Biden to defeat Trump. We should not underestimate Trump’s support and electability. To defeat him, Democrats need to harness the same historic coalition that came together to beat him in 2020 to defeat him in 2024. 

I’m proud that SURJ is working on both fronts. We have already begun our work to reach 12 million white voters in strategic swing states to block Trump from the Presidency. And alongside our partners, thousands of SURJ members across the country will continue to take action to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Palestine. 

In solidarity,

Erin Heaney

SURJ Executive Director

P.S. Tomorrow night, thousands of SURJ members are tuning in to a livestream at 7 pm to make sense of this moment. Register here to join them!

Post-Super Tuesday: We Need Your Help! Read More »

Scroll to Top