Supported Produced with financial support from an organization or individual, yet not approved by the underwriter before or after publication.
Building the Block: Sustaining Culture
Culture is defined by the people who comprise it. But culture is more than just art, music, and tradition—it is the lifeblood of a community, it fuels connection, and it can inspire innovation that leads to transformative solutions addressing the unique challenges each community faces. Historically marginalized communities, in particular, are often eager to protect core elements of their culture, especially because dominant systems see the power of those elements and seek to exploit it.
That’s why community-led efforts to protect and sustain culture are so important. In this original six-part series, YES! explores myriad ways communities are creating culturally sustaining economies that not only protect key aspects of a given culture, but also strengthen those cultural building blocks for future generations, empowering community members to grow, thrive, and deftly respond to challenges, threats, and opportunities.
As a series, “Building the Block” explores several unique approaches to addressing societal ills that often disproportionately impact historically marginalized communities, including Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, and other people of color, as well as immigrants and those living on a low income. From innovative, collective approaches to relieving the debt that can thwart the opportunities of a generation, to collaborative solutions combating the cultural destruction wrought by gentrification, to the rich history and ongoing efforts to restore land to Indigenous and Black people, to the quiet but essential role played by grocery stores that cater to specific immigrant and ethnic groups, “Building the Block” examines how communities are building cultural sustainability in their own neighborhoods and beyond.
Organizing to Cancel Debt Fuels Systemic Change
The elimination of student debt is just the first step in mitigating the pervasive effects of racial capitalism.
By Cinnamon Janzer
Stolen Lands: A Black and Indigenous History of Land Exploitation
Colonization through genocide, land theft, and the imposition of private property has dispossessed Indigenous and Black peoples of their homelands across the continents for generations.
By PennElys Droz
Indigenous and Black Communities Are Finding Common Cause for Land Justice
Historically, Indigenous and Black folks have been turned against each other by colonizers and enslavers. Now, communities are learning from one another and finding solidarity in seeking to reclaim stolen lands.
By PennElys Droz
The Fight for Housing Justice in Los Angeles
From the Los Angeles Tenants Union to Downtown Crenshaw, communities of color in L.A. are rewriting the rules of housing rights.
By Jaisal Noor
A Taste of Home: How Ethnic Grocery Stores Create Community
Ethnic grocery stores have served as a cultural pillar of immigrant communities. Can they survive today’s economic challenges?
By Michelle Chen
The Grassroots Fight for Housing Justice in Baltimore
Tired of waiting for the city to address housing justice, Baltimore’s constellation of grassroots activists and institutions are charging forward to keep residents in their homes and increase availability of affordable housing.
By Jaisal Noor
Healing the Land and Themselves
Indigenous, Black, and queer farmers are buying land with the aim to restore and nourish nature along with their cultures and communities.
By Michaela Haas
This series was funded by a grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation’s AmbitioUS initiative, which encourages the development of burgeoning alternative economies and fresh social contracts in ways that can help artists and cultural communities achieve financial freedom. Reporting and production of the series was funded by this grant, but YES! maintained full editorial control of the content published herein. Read our editorial independence policy.
Sunnivie Brydum is the editorial director at YES! An award-winning investigative journalist with a background covering LGBTQ equality, Sunnivie previously led digital coverage at The Advocate, Free Speech TV, and Out Front Colorado. Her writing has appeared in Vox, Religion Dispatches, them., and elsewhere. She has a degree in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and is a co-founder of Historias No Contadas, an annual symposium in Medellín, Colombia that amplifies the stories of LGBTQ people in Latin America. She is based in Seattle, speaks English and Spanish, and is a member of NLGJA, SPJ, and ONA.