A New Social Justice: In Depth

Awakenings: The Collaborations That Create Change

Movements adapt and evolve toward a new social justice.
Nov 15, 2021

Movements for justice, equality, and liberation are adapting and evolving toward a new social justice.

Photo by Joey Scott

The Builders

Chicanx Moratorium Across the Generations

More than 50 years ago, tens of thousands of Mexican Americans marched in East Los Angeles for social justice and against the Vietnam War, proudly identifying themselves as “Chicanos.” Today, movement veterans are passing the leadership baton to young Chicanos and Chicanas, who in turn are adapting existing tools and strategies for modern-day racial justice struggles. Carlos Montes of the Brown Berets, an original participant of the 1970 march, has embraced the involvement of LGBTQI Chicanx people, and his younger counterpart, 23-year-old Isabel Gurrola, has learned that the secret to Montes’ longevity as an activist is to uphold unity while engaging in self-care. —Sonali Kolhatkar

Read the full article at yesmagazine.org/builders

Originally called the National Chicano Moratorium Committee Against The Vietnam War in 1970, the group has since rebranded as the Chicanx Moratorium. Top, the Los Angeles anniversary event on Aug. 29, 2021. Bottom, a Los Angeles protest in 1970. Photo by David Fenton/Getty

The Resisters

Abolition Through the Ages

“To reform or abolish police?” is the question facing racial justice activists—and slavery abolitionists grappled with a similar question. Organizations like Critical Resistance, which have for years taken an abolitionist approach to prisons and policing, are seeing a newfound interest in their work since the Black Lives Matter movement expanded. But, according to the group’s co-founder Dylan Rodriguez, police reforms have been tried—and have failed, since they are “counter-abolitionist.” Just as Black-led abolitionists demanded full racial justice and equality alongside an end to slavery, today’s abolitionist leaders are asking us to rethink the idea of safety and security by imagining a world without police and incarceration. —Sonali Kolhatkar

Read the full article at yesmagazine.org/resisters

The Portland, Oregon-based footwear company Keen Inc. has a brand that supports the environment and social justice initiatives. In 2017, it decided that child care was a necessary part of that. Photo by Paul Dunn/YES! Magazine

The Reformers

Three Companies Change Business-as-Usual for Employees with Kids

Patagonia’s on-site child care center at its Ventura, California, headquarters has been a valuable asset for both company operations and the Patagonia philosophy. The program goes beyond just having someone keep an eye on employees’ children.

“Our child care is in business to raise children who care about our home planet as a complement to also taking care of children while their parents work,” says Tessa Byars, the company’s internal communications manager. 

Patagonia’s Great Pacific Child Development Center was established in 1983 to provide support for mothers, some of whom were still nursing, as they returned to work. The company, which provides both paternity and maternity leave, also encourages fathers to participate at the center. 

The development center has made a tangible difference for the 900 employees at the headquarters. Women now hold about half of company leadership positions. 

“If you’re a nursing mom, you’re really able to go nurse [your baby] anytime throughout the day and be in their classes as much as needed,” says Byars, who also has two children enrolled in the center.  

COVID-19 saw the temporary closure of the center, and Patagonia responded with more flexible hours for parents. The center later reopened with expanded health services, including a full COVID-testing program. 

Home Depot opened its on-site child care program, Little Apron Academy, in 2012 for employees of its Atlanta headquarters and for a few nearby retail stores. The company closed its on-site child care due to COVID-19, but expanded its backup care policy, which provides all employees, including those at retail locations, with 10 days of child and dependent care. During the early days of the pandemic, as employees relayed that they needed to take time off to handle caretaking logistics, the company made these backup days unlimited before later reverting to the original 10-day policy. 

“This goes back to our values, which are the center of Home Depot culture and how we make decisions,” says Caitlin Watts, corporate communications manager for the company. “Those values are doing the right thing and taking care of our associates.” 

Home Depot also provides free access to its Sittercity database for employees, through which they can find care for their children, elderly family members, or pets.

The Portland, Oregon-based footwear company Keen Inc. is a family-owned company with a philosophy of supporting people, the environment, and social justice initiatives. In 2017, it decided that child care was a necessary part of that. 

“This is just a manifestation of saying that if we truly have a family-oriented approach, we want to make working here as family-oriented as possible,” says Keen Vice President Erik Burbank.

The Keen KidsCare Center (now called The Family Center at Keen) had to close temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Lauren Smalley, Keen’s benefits manager, says the company offered working parents more flexible hours. Keen also partnered with the organization Trackers Earth to create Camp Keen, a one-week summer camp for employees’ children.

“We wanted all families, whether their children were enrolled or not, to be able to utilize the center as a resource knowing that we have subject matter experts on parenting, child care, anything kid-related,” says Smalley, whose own children also used the center. 

“Sometimes it is the little things that make such a big difference,” says Erica Waterman, Keen’s senior workplace experiences and services manager. “[The Family Center] has definitely changed the culture of our building and the environment. … It’s a great support system for employees that need it.” —Natalie Peart

“We walk to heal our minds, bodies, and to reclaim the streets of our communities,” says jewel bush of GirlTrek. “We walk to protest racism, police brutality, and white supremacy.” Photo courtesy of Girltrek

The Healers

Radical Healing and Self-Love One Step at a Time

“Have you ever practiced radical self-care?” asks Kamaria Blackett-Munir, a physical therapist in New York. “I have, and all I needed was a set of earbuds and some space to walk,” she says, referring to her journey of mental and physical fitness as a member of GirlTrek. Describing itself as a “movement of 1 million Black women,” GirlTrek promotes self-care and community through walking. According to Chief of External Affairs jewel bush, the organization faced the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racist police violence by building resources for members, such as “100 radical ideas for self-care,” launching a series of conversations on Black women’s health and wellness, and a Black History Bootcamp walk-and-talk podcast. “We walk to heal our minds, bodies, and to reclaim the streets of our communities,” bush explains. “We walk to protest racism, police brutality, and white supremacy.” And, as Blackett-Munir discovered, “The benefits of doing something for me eventually overflowed to my family.” Her husband and children now join her regularly on her walks. —Sonali Kolhatkar

Sonali Kolhatkar joined YES! in summer 2021, building on a long and decorated career in broadcast and print journalism. She is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and host and creator of YES! Presents: Rising Up with Sonali, a nationally syndicated television and radio program airing on Free Speech TV and dozens of independent and community radio stations. She is also Senior Correspondent with the Independent Media Institute’s Economy for All project where she writes a weekly column. She is the author of Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (2023) and Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence (2005). Her forthcoming book is called Talking About Abolition (Seven Stories Press, 2025). Sonali is co-director of the nonprofit group, Afghan Women’s Mission which she helped to co-found in 2000. She has a Master’s in Astronomy from the University of Hawai’i, and two undergraduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin. Sonali reflects on “My Journey From Astrophysicist to Radio Host” in her 2014 TEDx talk of the same name.
Natalie Peart is a 1.5 generation Caribbean-American multimedia journalist and artist living on Lenapehoking lands (Brooklyn, NY). Her work centers on the environment, spirituality, and alternative economies. She is an urban gardener who loves processing food scraps and making windrows that become compost. Natalie is currently pursuing her master's degree at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism where she is studying documentary filmmaking. She is a member of NABJ. She can be reached at [email protected]