Systems, Power & Action Grantees: Honoring community truth and stories

Systems, Power & Action Grantees: Honoring community truth and stories

We announced recipients of this year’s Systems, Power, and Action grants and invited them to share about their work and what they celebrate within their communities. A common theme we heard from grantees is the importance of amplifying voices that are underrepresented and honoring the different truths and realities that people experience. Below are reflections from Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center, Room One, Washington Gorge Action Programs, and Central Washington Disability Resources.

Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center

Geography served: Kitsap County

KIAC is an immigrant-centered organization that connects immigrants to direct services, including but not limited to legal and family services. KIAC shares a glimpse of their scope of work and what it means to transform power:

“Our work clashes directly with the systems and structures built under white supremacy, informed by xenophobia, capitalism, and patriarchy. We serve and are accountable to those most marginalized by these systems and structures. KIAC offers direct services, provides referrals to trusted partners, and engages in local, state, and federal advocacy alongside partner organizations.

Langston Hughes wrote in his poem “I, Too” about the power that comes from being “at the table,” where decisions are made. Through our relationships, KIAC finds itself with a “seat at the table” in a variety of power-shifting conversations — speaking up for the barriers to access and oppressions faced by immigrants in our community. Our work elevates the voices of immigrants, connects them with the resources necessary for integration and community building, and collaborates with immigrants to advocate for accessibility and equity.”

KIAC notes that the ability to share stories is a precious one and a critical component of what they do:

“Each immigrant that turns to KIAC for support comes with a unique story and set of circumstances. Our role is to connect with the person in front of us, help them prioritize the challenges they’re facing, and empower them with resources and options. We honor the leadership of our clients – in their own lives, their families, and their communities.”

Room One

Geography served: Okanogan County

Room One provides social services and offers one-on-one assistance, educational programs in schools, and advocacy support. They’ve established strong connections and relationships with local partners to create a rural community where everyone can flourish. Room One shares that their strategy centers active listening and decision-making grounded in what people are most impacted by:

“We are committed to co-creating a rural community where all can thrive. We do this by listening, leaning into strengths, and seeking opportunities for people to step into their power and lead others to advocate for meaningful change in their lives. We are conveners and coalition builders, knowing that together, we can shape change. Seeing community members – youth and elders – find their voice and gain audiences and futures they did not previously imagine is our most joyful work.”

Room One also acknowledges that they stand on the shoulders of their predecessors, who primed this community and work for them:

“We honor the many generations who have come before us, who worked together to steward this rural valley and care for each other as neighbors. We celebrate the resilience, strength, and creativity that it takes to live, work, raise a family, and grow old in this rural valley.”

Washington Gorge Action Programs

Geography served: Klickitat and Skamania counties

On the southern edge of our state, Washington Gorge Action Programs caters to communities by aiding people in search of basic needs support for housing, nutrition, energy, care coordination, and more. One truth they want to bring to the forefront is that the region is growing more racially diverse and that this is an opportunity, as a white-led agency, to become a genuine ally to community groups in the region that are led by and serve Black, Indigenous, and people of color. They share that their community is enriched by its array of cultures:

“The region has a rich history of Native people and Indigenous practices. We honor and acknowledge those who came before us and those who made the Gorge their home and added to the fabric of our communities. Generations of immigrants have brought new ideas and talents, shared their languages and cultures, and made the region a wonderful place to live.

We celebrate community members as experts in their lives. We support them to become leaders and advocate for effective and lasting positive change. We invite them to our team, board room, and local committees to express ideas and solutions for underrepresented communities.”

Central Washington Disability Resources

Geography served: Kittitas, Yakima, Grant, Douglas counties

Central Washington Disability Resources has had a presence in their region for over forty years and they continue to advance the empowerment, inclusion, and wellness of all people with disabilities. They’ve consistently achieved this through advocacy, community education, peer mentorship, and skill development. They explain that access is necessary for basic human needs and for independence, which means surfacing everyday experiences to raise awareness and remove as many obstacles as possible:

“We believe that to balance power, we need accessibility in every aspect of life. Central Washington Disability Resources works with individuals with disabilities to ensure that they have accessible ramps at their homes to be more independent and safe, for yard work to be managed and organized, and bathrooms to include grab bars and potential bathroom modifications for inaccessible showers and toilets. This ensures people with access and functional needs can live independently through accommodations and assistance. Breaking down barriers for people with disabilities starts with access to services to modify inaccessible bathrooms and educate the public on the importance of the Fair Housing Act and the ADA to ensure people with disabilities are given equal access in their homes and around the communities.”

These organizations are listening for and sharing stories that underscore what their communities need to thrive at the basic, day-to-day level and all the way to the overarching barriers that require systemic changes. We look forward to seeing how Systems, Power, and Action grants can support their efforts in making sure community voices turn into community solutions. Be sure to read more about other grantees’ work across Washington in the features linked below.