The urgency of the moment calls for resolve, courage, and a vision that we believe is possible.
Leading a national organization like Demos in these daunting times when our fragile democracy is being tested every single day is no cakewalk. The urgency of the moment calls for resolve, courage, and a vision that we believe is possible. And community is one of those things that I relish more than anything—especially when it gets lonely in these leadership posts.
This year’s Inclusive Democracy Project (IDP) in-person convening gave me a chance to join an incredible community of Demos’ partners and leaders in the movement[...]
Leaders feel pressure to make a difference and perform for stakeholders and funders—meanwhile navigating their own humanity, family, personal, and professional responsibilities. Whew, it’s a lot. This year’s Inclusive Democracy Project (IDP) in-person convening gave me a chance to join an incredible community of Demos’ partners and leaders in the movement, which encouraged and energized me in a way that far exceeded my expectations. More importantly, it gave me a chance to be seen and see other leaders grappling with the weight of the moment yet renewed by the strength of the movement and each other.
Since its inception in 2015, the IDP—a cohort of mostly Black and brown representatives from 24 organizations in 12 states—has been a source of leadership development, technical assistance, and financial support for state-level grassroots leaders working to move this country toward becoming a just, inclusive, multiracial democracy. Through its annual convening, Demos provides a space for these leaders to connect and collaborate during a multi-day series of panels, breakout sessions, and workshops. At this year’s event in Detroit, 36 participants from IDP member organizations joined Demos staff to dream big and brainstorm strategies for pursuing racial equity. The call to ensure our democracy is inclusive in our generation continues to reverberate in my ears. This urgency is real. There is so much at stake.
While the IDP convening is a special event, the hunger for it this year was especially palpable. We were all desperate for community. Shortly before we headed to Detroit, a white supremacist had murdered 10 Black people in a supermarket in Buffalo, NY. Then, on the second day of the convening, news broke of another shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX, where a gunman had killed 19 Latino children and two of their teachers. The convening ended on May 25, which also marked 2 years to the day since George Floyd’s tragic murder in Minneapolis. All of this while the pandemic continues to ravage states across the country, an inflation-plagued economy forces people to struggle to pay for gas or food, and the political climate puts the rights of many in this country under attack.
With so much heaviness in the world, hope often can feel far away. A community like the IDP helps keep it alive.
With so much heaviness in the world, hope often can feel far away. A community like the IDP helps keep it alive. As we processed our collective pain, I found strength in the presence of leaders from across the country whose work is founded on the belief that—no matter how dark our situation may be today—we have the power to create a brighter tomorrow.
Coincidentally, Michigan itself is emblematic of why the IDP’s work is so essential to the future of our democracy. Due to recent redistricting, election maps reflect a significant reduction in the number of majority-Black districts in the state, which Black lawmakers have challenged. Also in Michigan, anti-voter entities have launched a campaign to enact voter ID laws, a blatantly racist tactic designed to dilute the power of Black and brown voters. In 2021 alone, 19 states passed 34 laws designed to make it harder to vote. This context made the convening even more important; it became a site of healing and a chance to be with folks who could hold space for multiple truths: for grief and anger, but also power and joy.
That joy is a testament to the years of work IDP partners have invested in their mission. Having come to Demos after 20 years of state-level policy work in Georgia, I’m encouraged by IDP partners’ work in states like New Mexico, Florida, and Texas. We know that states are a laboratory for federal legislation, which is why I’m eager to continue working with the IDP to build toward a 50-state strategy that provides technical, legal, and financial resources on a state and local level to advance laws that expand power for Black and brown people. Opponents of voting rights and supporters of racist policies have written model legislation for years, at both the national and state level. To win, our strategy must include a plan to counter those bills with ones that expand—rather than restrict—who can vote and direct resources to the people who need them most, rather than keeping them in the hands of the 1 percent.
The movement must lead the way.
I’ve said it since Day 1 and feel it even more after having come back from Detroit: The movement must lead the way. As president of Demos, I’m committed to ensuring that this organization is a champion of our IDP partners—both in their state-level work individually and as a collective. These leaders know what needs to be done; they just need the resources to do it. Whether in convening discussions or getting to know each other through a little karaoke after the official day was done, the IDP gathering provided opportunity around every corner to deepen connections, dream, and strategize. Although the convening may now be over, there’s no end to the power building spirit of IDP. America’s future is more just, more equitable, and more inclusive with these brilliant leaders in it, and I look forward to following their lead, coming alongside where necessary, and championing our strategic vision for an inclusive democracy and an economy that works for all.