A New Social Justice
The theme for our 100th issue was inspired by the political earthquake of 2020 and the butterfly model of transformative social justice.
Beloved YES! readers, much gratitude to you for your participation and support during our 25th anniversary celebration in October! We hope you enjoyed YES! Fest and were inspired by the progress we’ve made over the past two-and-a-half decades, and by the sampling of voices on transformative justice we’ll continue to bring to you in the years to come.
Some of those voices and stories are also in the pages of this 100th issue of YES! Magazine you’re holding in your hands—a for-sure keepsake! The development of the issue’s theme, “A New Social Justice,” was inspired by the political earthquake of 2020, when we witnessed a paradigm shift toward racial equity and transformative justice on a massive and collaborative scale unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history. Movement spaces, grassroots organizations, activists, and non-activists—particularly those in historically excluded communities—and even governments, corporations, and philanthropic spaces all responded to the needs of the people during a global pandemic in which systemic inequities were laid bare.
Then in the spring of 2021, during our YES! Presents event “An Ecological Civilization: The Path We’re On,” panelist and Soul Fire Farm co-founder and farmer Leah Penniman inspired our cover for this issue when she likened movement collaboration to a butterfly’s wings.
Drawing from Grassroots Economic Organizing’s butterfly model of transformative social justice, Penniman described the four wings: Resisters: the people in the blockades, the protests, the work stoppages; Reformers: the folks trying to make change from within systems, including schoolteachers and elected officials, like those getting into the prosecutor’s office and working to get sentences lowered; Builders: those who create alternative institutions such as freedom schools, farms, and health clinics; and Healers: the conflict mediators, the therapists, the preachers, the singers, the dancers, the artists—“all the folks that are gonna make us well,” she said.
This image aligned so well with YES!’s foundational belief that resistance alone is a losing strategy that we felt it was perfect to depict the cross-pollination happening now. You’ll read about The Third Reconstruction resolution and movement led by the Poor People’s Campaign to address poverty and its root causes—among them systemic racism and ecological devastation; the Wiyot Tribe’s LandBack movement and how to create just, Indigenous-led futures; what grassroots reparations can look like; wealth redistribution to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities; decolonizing philanthropy; as well as the environmental justice at the heart of climate activism.
We hope this issue will inspire you, and we look forward to having you along with us for another 25-plus years of YES!
Zenobia Jeffries Warfield, YES! executive editor
Sonali Kolhatkar, YES! racial justice editor
Featured photo: “Everything is related. I am related to the trees, to the oceans, to any other living being, regardless of race, class, gender,” Alexis Saenz says, so “one of the things that we say as youth is that we are the land defending itself.”
Zenobia Jeffries Warfield is the executive editor at YES!, where she directs editorial coverage for YES! Magazine, YES! Media’s editorial partnerships, and serves as chair of the YES! Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. A Detroit native, Zenobia is an award-winning journalist who joined YES! in 2016 to build and grow YES!’s racial justice beat, and continues to write columns on racial justice. In addition to writing and editing, she has produced, directed, and edited a variety of short documentaries spotlighting community movements to international democracy. Zenobia earned a BA in Mass Communication from Rochester College in Rochester, Michigan, and an MA in Communication with an emphasis in media studies from Wayne State University in Detroit. Zenobia has also taught the college course “The Effects of Media on Social Justice,” as an adjunct professor in Detroit. Zenobia is a member of NABJ, SABJ, SPJ, and the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting. She lives in Seattle, and speaks English and AAVE.
Sonali Kolhatkar is currently the racial justice editor at YES! Media and a writing fellow with Independent Media Institute. She was previously a weekly columnist for Truthdig.com. She is also the host and creator of Rising Up with Sonali, a nationally syndicated television and radio program airing on Free Speech TV and dozens of independent and community radio stations. Sonali won First Place at the Los Angeles Press Club Annual Awards for Best Election Commentary in 2016. She also won numerous awards including Best TV Anchor from the LA Press Club and has also been nominated as Best Radio Anchor 4 years in a row. She is the author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence, and the co-director of the nonprofit group, Afghan Women's Mission. Her forthcoming book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights, 2023). 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. She reflects on her professional path in her 2014 TEDx talk, “My Journey From Astrophysicist to Radio Host.” She can be reached at sonalikolhatkar.com