Systems, Power & Action: Interrupting systemic oppression in Washington

Systems, Power & Action Grantees: Interrupting systemic oppression in Washington

Today, we announced the new Systems, Power, and Action grant recipients. As we’ve become acquainted with these organizations, we’ve had the honor of witnessing the unwavering passion with which they fight for the rights of their communities as well as the tenderness necessary for providing community care during delicate and vulnerable moments.

These groups work hard to advance their communities’ priorities by impacting the institutions around them, shifting power dynamics and prevalent frameworks, and catalyzing action despite facing challenges that come as a result of racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, and a whole host of insidious forms of systemic oppression. We asked this year’s grantees about how they’re approaching their work and invited them to share reflections on their community. Here are some of the things we learned from four organizations: Lavender Rights Project, Nuestra Casa, La Resistencia, and Gender Odyssey Alliance.

Lavender Rights Project

Geography served: King and Pierce County, Statewide

Lavender Rights Project is a Black trans-led organization advancing the civil rights of Black gender diverse communities across Washington. They firmly believe in this wisdom offered by Black feminists of the Combahee River Collective: “If Black [trans] women [and femmes] were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all systems of oppression.” To be safe and protected, Lavender Rights Project wants to ensure Black gender diverse people are fully seen, heard, and invested in. This requires critical policy shifts that they approach in the following ways:

“Lavender Rights Project is shifting the balance of power in Washington through by-and-for Black trans advocacy that is informed by the lived experience of our clients, community, and the wisdom of Black feminism. Right now, we are strategically organizing around housing justice, economic justice, and gender-based violence prevention in order to create a safer world for Black gender diverse people throughout Washington. Our staff is currently pushing for state-wide universal income for all, safe and affordable housing that centers those most impacted by houselessness, and the immediate removal of trans and non-binary people from jails and prisons in the South Sound. By achieving major policy shifts that unequivocally protect Black trans life, we are taking back our power and creating a new world where all of us are truly free.”

Nuestra Casa

Geography served: Lower Yakima Valley

Nuestra Casa provides citizenship classes, adult English classes, workshops on financial literacy, and other services that reduce immediate barriers and address inequities. They emphasize relationships as the foundation for building trust and confidence to ultimately encourage members of their community to run for elected office. They shared how they created space for this in their region:

“Nuestra Casa celebrates and honors building balanced relationships. For us, being trusted to provide a service is only a way to welcome immigrants to this larger intentional community built on shared dreams, experiences, values, respect, and trust. Nuestra Casa is not only the meeting place for us immigrants and our families to connect with others living similar realities and learning opportunities but is also a vessel to reclaiming our voice, power, and roots. Nuestra Casa honors, celebrates, and prioritizes lived experiences being led by those who we serve, offering us opportunities to build leadership and advocate to remove barriers. We encourage and support individuals to not lose view of their personal goals and celebrate each other’s milestones with community and in community.”

La Resistencia

Geography served: Pierce County and across Washington

With a headquarters in Pierce County and an increasing presence across Washington, La Resistencia is a grassroots and undocumented-led movement aiming to end the detention of immigrants and stop deportation in the state. They support, work, and follow the leadership of people directly impacted by the systems that uphold immigration detention and deportation.

“Our organization has always put first the leadership of those directly impacted by the systems of oppression. Our work has been guided by our belief that, ‘solo el pueblo salva al pueblo,’ or ‘only the people save the people.’ La Resistencia has created a political space that grassroots undocumented communities didn’t have before: We pushed to create a space for us at decision tables in our state, and our expertise is now recognized by elected officials and decision makers. This allows our movement to work for a real meaningful change instead of reforms that maintain the status quo.”

Additionally, La Resistencia works to shift narratives around immigration by using an abolitionist lens in their approach. La Resistencia shares that while mainstream discourse around immigrants that position “good” versus “bad” immigrants exists, their work also involves honoring lived experiences and elevating nontraditional immigrant narratives:

“We honor our communities when we have a sustainable space for them to take leadership and guide the work, and we recognize their wisdom and experience. Although our expertise is based in the pain of having our loved ones imprisoned, vanished to other countries, and permanently separated from their loved ones, we don’t allow for the exploration of our stories or further victimization. We are not victims, we are warriors fighting for our families and our communities.”

Gender Odyssey Alliance

Geography served: Washington state

Throughout Washington, Gender Odyssey Alliance works to create a world of support for transgender and gender diverse youth. They accomplish this by providing connections for trans youth, offering a virtual hub for caregivers, and constantly improving best practices. Their primary focus is to continue advocating for trans youth by holding institutions accountable to the young people they serve in the following ways:

“Our long-term goal is to see a world where transgender/gender diverse (trans) children and their families thrive, and most especially, that trans children feel joy, rather than fear, as they grow up. Our approach to meet families where they are means parents can move through their feelings at the rate they need, free of judgement, while youth get the support needed to thrive. Our efforts to facilitate this shift extends to health professionals, educators, youth-serving agencies, and the systems they represent. An important part of our programming is designed to address the systems, such as schools and healthcare, that trans youth move through.”

Ultimately, Gender Odyssey Alliance strives to make sure trans and gender diverse youth feel fully loved and supported as their genuine selves:

“We are resilient, we are strong, but we are also joyful, and the world needs to see that trans youth and their families experience joy in our lives.”

Although these organizations have unique priorities and approaches to achieving their goals, it’s important to note that they’re also taking time to celebrate the beauty, creativity, hope, and levity at the heart of their communities. This is one of many ways that we’ve been able to find meaningful alignment with grantees. We are proud to support the work of these four organizations and invite you to read more about other 2022 Systems, Power, and Action grantees: