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 »

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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 »

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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 »

Understanding Christian Zionism

What is Christian Zionism, how is it showing up in this moment, and why is understanding it important in our efforts to demand a ceasefire and an end to the violence in Gaza? Join SURJ and Jewish Voice for Peace for a mass teach-in about Christian Zionism. We’ll hear from an expert panel– Palestinian Christian activist Jonathan Brenneman, Jewish researcher and writer Aiden Orly, and scholar of pentecostalism and the Christian far right Elle Hardy– who will share their analysis of how we got here and how our strategies to demand a ceasefire and fight for Palestinian liberation can be aided by a deeper understanding of the forces we’re up against.

Understanding Christian Zionism Read More »

Fight Like Hell for Kentucky 2023

In the 2023 Kentucky gubernatorial election, SURJ National organized to support the re-election of Governor Andy Beshear in our Fight Like Hell for Kentucky campaign. SURJ has deep roots in Kentucky, and this electoral work added to the people power we built in 2022 in contributing to a statewide effort to beat Kentucky’s anti-abortion Amendment 2. We recognize that no one politician can fix the struggles of Kentuckians, but we are committed to building power in a variety of ways – including in meeting electoral political moments. In our campaigns with white voters, SURJ works to break the power that the far right wields over working white people by meeting them in their material struggles, while not avoiding “divisive” issues– like trans rights and abortion. Spoiler alert: we won, and we won big. 

Daniel Cameron, Beshear’s MAGA-aligned opponent, was Attorney General at the time of Breonna Taylor’s murder by Louisville police. He even called her killing “justified,” and he was instrumental in the coverup of her murder. Cameron is also a large part of the Republican Attorneys General Association, who sent out robocalls to rally people to come to January 6. And, he lied about it. His campaign messaging included supporting SB 150, the controversial anti-LGBTQ+ bill that regulates pronoun usage, bathroom usage, and lifesaving healthcare for young people in Kentucky. More than anything, Cameron’s campaign centered around completely blocking access to reproductive justice in the state of Kentucky – the year after Kentuckians voted to protect abortion access. This elevated conversations around this election to a national stage, and this election became a projection of how talking about abortion fairs for far right politicians. This election is also proof that the divide-and-conquer strategy of the far right is not a water-tight strategy with working white people.

We talked to tens of thousands of white, working class Kentuckians, and we repeatedly had conversations with folks about how Andy Beshear has addressed people’s suffering. From the pandemic, to the floods of Eastern Kentucky, to the tornadoes of Western Kentucky, to accessibility to good jobs, people felt like Beshear’s platforms reached them in their material reality. Further, Beshear did not shy away from talking about issues like abortion, COVID-19, and trans rights. As both parties vie for white working class voters, it was further confirmed in this election that the answer is not to ignore the “difficult” topics, but instead to meet people in their real suffering, focus on what matters, and expose the far right’s tactics as nothing more than a divide-and-conquer distraction from their abandonment of working people.

We organized over 600 SURJ members on the ground in Kentucky and across the country reached just shy of half a million voters, had 71,000 conversations, and secured over 10,000 commitments to vote. We talked to voters in majority-white, working class counties who were either unlikely to vote or unlikely to vote for a Democrat. Compared to his first run in 2019, we expanded Beshear’s win in four counties, most notably Letcher – a highly rural, old coal mining community where we ran billboards and knocked doors. In 2019, Beshear lost Letcher County, but this year, in large part due to our efforts, he won by 5 points.

By winning this election and doing our part by bringing in white, working class voters, we expanded our movement. On a national stage, we showed that these folks are worthy of relational conversations. We showed that, when invited, white people will enthusiastically join us in fights for racial and economic justice. 

We showed that when we fight like hell for Kentucky, we win. 

Fight Like Hell for Kentucky 2023 Read More »

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