The 100th issue of YES! Magazine explored the emergence of “A New Social Justice,” seeking to understand how today’s most promising movements for equity, sustainability, and liberation are building on the foundations of those that came before them. Online, we asked YES! readers to tell us where they find inspiration to build a better world, starting in their own backyard. Read on for a sampling of the personal and professional organizations and movements that help fellow YES! readers stay engaged, organized, and activated.
“Coming out,” as in discovering myself and learning what it means to be a lesbian, was my first real encounter with social justice issues and concerns. It first seemed that help arrived “out of the blue” as I learned that “I was not alone.” Then slowly, helpful allies pointed me toward helpful people and groups within the context of “mainline” church, specifically the United Church of Christ.
Very early on, someone helped me encounter what was then the United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian/Gay Concerns. I attended the second National Gathering of the Coalition in 1982. We were a small, nationwide group of supportive people of faith, describing ourselves then as lesbian, gay, and straight allies. The UCCCL/GC advocated for full inclusion, first within the UCC, and through the UCC, in society at large. …
I learned by participating: showing up in protest marches, in the halls of legislatures, in large gatherings of church folk both within the United Church of Christ and in ecumenical settings, such as the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
At first, “my issue” was focused on lesbian/gay concerns within the church. Over the ensuing years and decades, I’ve learned that love calls us to create justice in all places and times where human failure to love creates harm. I’m still calling legislators, preaching, and advocating in many ways and places. —Rev. Alice O’Donovan, Tolland, Connecticut
I’m 78 and very tired of organizations that see me as no more than a checkbook—as if at this age, I have nothing more to offer. That’s why, when Bill McKibben announced he was returning to activism and intended to launch Third Act, an organization for “experienced” Americans—over 60!—I joined immediately. Third Act is committed to climate activism, supporting the leadership of young people and Indigenous Americans, and to protecting the vote. I have loved being a part of it. I’ve dusted off my organizer chops, and reached out to others locally and across the country. I feel great! —Susan Chandler, Reno, Nevada
The East Side Freedom Library was founded in St. Paul’s most diverse and most economically challenged neighborhood in 2014 with the mission “to inspire solidarity, advocate for justice, and work toward equity for all.” Based in a city-owned historic Carnegie Library building, ESFL has collected thousands of resources (26,000 books, visual art, recorded music, videos, and DVDs) and curated programs (poetry readings; musical, dramatic, and dance performances; panel discussions; film screenings; Karen women’s weaving; oral history projects) to facilitate projects that share stories to build empathy and bridges among the East Side’s diverse and historically
Over the past seven years, the ESFL team—board, staff, and volunteer collaborators—has learned to work by empowering our neighbors to define their needs and goals, employ our resources, and shape their own projects. We have also discovered the value of partnerships, collaborating with district councils, immigrant organizations, labor unions, public libraries and recreation centers, art galleries, and other East Side nonprofits. We have learned that the means we use to advance our work shape the ends we attain. —Peter Rachleff, St. Paul, Minnesota