Reflections, Lessons and Learnings on Multiracial, Cross-Class Movement Building
Dejah Powell, Sunrise Movement & Rebecca Tamiru, Climate Advocacy Lab

Hi! My name is Dejah (she/her) and I’m an organizer with Sunrise Movement, a youth-led movement to stop the climate crisis and create millions of good jobs in the process. Through my organizing work at Sunrise, I’ve been most drawn to the question, “How do we build a multi-racial, cross-class movement to win a Green New Deal?”

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Photo: Sunrise Chicago folks in 2019

Last year, I was a part of the Lab’s Microgrant Program which supports a cohort of organizers to pull and write reflections and learnings from their climate movement work. During the program, I had much needed time to think deeply about our efforts to build a multi-racial, cross-class youth movement. For me, this especially felt relevant, because I was absolutely sure we weren’t going to win Green New Deal legislation both locally and nationally, without taking seriously what it meant to organize everyone -- poor folks, Black folks, Latinx folks, working class folks, etc.

Throughout my time in Sunrise, here are a few ways we’ve tried to build a movement across race in class:

  • Programatically, we’ve launched Constituency Programs with a mandate to organize Black and Latine youth around the Green New Deal and began running a Distributed Victory Squad programs to build a community of black & brown folks who are energized to do the work of electing GND champions and moving electoral action forward.
  • For internal support, we’ve offered volunteer leaders from poor & working class backgrounds financial resources through our Principle 6 Program, built Just Hub guides, and piloted several caucuses, including Somos Sunrise and Sunrise Black Caucus.

We’ve learned so much, and much of those learnings are captured in the microgrant report*, including the strides, failures, and lessons for moving forward. In the full report, you will find:

  • A timeline & definitive history of Sunrise, specifically tracking events that have had implications on our organizing across race, class, justice, equity, and anti-oppression.
  • Snapshots of our demographic data across race and class, collected by our data team. As our former data director says, “A note, as always: These data do not begin to tell the story of the lived experiences of our base. These data do, however, tell a story. To me, these data begin to describe the ways in which we have achieved and fallen short of building a multi-racial cross-class movement. While data can never be the full story, it is still part of the story. I hope you’ll join me in using these numbers to fuel the next chapter of our organizing.”
  • Core challenges we have faced around multi-racial, cross-class movement building from strategy to structure and culture, based on each of these core moments. Each of the moments, events, letters, manifestos, and demands in the Sunrise timeline provide significant insight into the ways organizers, volunteers, and staff within the movement have demanded transformation and change around multi-racial, cross-class organizing.
  • Exciting programs, projects, and resources we’ve created that have worked well. This can be helpful for organizations and movements looking to make interventions around multi-racial, cross-class movement building in your own context.
  • Core lessons, learnings, and recommendations, both for Sunrise and for other organizations looking to incorporate multi-racial, cross-class movement building into their strategy, structure, and culture.

The Lab is deeply appreciative of Dejah and the Sunrise Movement for taking the time to share their insights and learnings with the broader climate community!