Recap: Upswell 2020 / Day 2
// By Christian Clansky
As this year has reminded us so frequently, there’s no substitute for being together in person. Yet there is a silver lining to Upswell 2020 being entirely virtual: we can record things.
Day 2 of Upswell felt like an experience of hardwiring oneself directly into the collective mind of the social sector. It was a pure state of wisdom and knowledge – filled with so many “a ha!” moments that one could be forgiven for hoping for a slower pace.
But the gravity of our shared work calls for us to move at this furious speed.
That’s exactly what the Upswell community delivered today. Fortunately, not a moment was lost in the urgency — and we now have an invaluable archive of power to which we can regularly return.
Here are just a select few highlights:
On the Main Stage
- Researcher, journalist, organizer, and professor Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika on racism: America focuses on the individual – including the individual’s explicit and implicit biases. But we must also view individuals through their shared culture – including the shared culture of law enforcement – and that culture’s impact on bias in policing. “It is very possible for a racist structure to be fully operational under a ‘woke surface.’” He notes that people doing the radical work of transformation are “the real optimists trying to bring people together to make the country something it has never been before.”
- World Series Champion and GRAMMY Nominated artist Bernie Williams on music and social change: “Using music in a positive way to uplift spirits can help us be who we truly want to be. No amount of home runs I could hit can compare to the legacy I can leave to make the world a better place.”
- 2020 American Express NGen Award Winner Terence Lester on being a changemaker: “Social impact work was not a choice. It found me.” And, “Lean into your communities, and seek to build and collaborate, and be proximate and present.” As Terence says, “Choose your struggle, and give your life each day to overcoming one thing about that struggle.”
- 2020 John W. Gardner Leadership Award winner Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center on activism: “My father and his siblings were plaintiffs in a case that desegregated Knoxville schools. So my work is grounded in values and lessons I learned at a very young age.” She says, “We are in a time when we see the most powerful women in society subjected to what we see women subjected to every day, and we are learning that the confines of sexism and racism hurt all of us.”
- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II on fighting – and understanding – racism: If we are to be the promise of America, we must understand how systemic racism interlocks with poverty and other challenges facing our country in all of their manifestations. “Institutional racism isn’t just about injustice, or police brutality, or even overt hate. It is about power.” Rather than a reckoning, he said, we need “a third reconstruction; not just new policy, but new people engaged. We need a moral revival, a poor people’s campaign that brings all people together. We need to resist a ‘one moment’ mentality, and build a movement.”
- Sholanna Lewis of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation on the power of racial healing circles: “Through storytelling and deep listening, we can see each other in different ways — and that’s the foundation of changework.”
- Yvette Shipman of MOTEASA led a guided meditation session by talking about acknowledging worries and regrets – and knowing how “to lighten the load” by letting them go: “Three deep breaths will change a state of mind.”
- Krystle Stavis of Weave: The Social Fabric Project on building trust in the U.S.: Diversify what you’re taking in. Consider how you can add new perspectives. That way, when you meet someone who is different, you can dig deeper into the information you’ve gathered for yourself and show up differently for that person.
- During a panel with Latina TechForce, participants talked about COVID-19, the diverse Latinx community, and centering digital civic and nonpartisan voter engagement efforts on Latinas and youth. “Latinas, in our community, are pillars of our culture, of our families,” says Yadira Sanchez of Poder Latinx, which has created a virtual art gallery, comics, and a music video to increase voting.
- Shamyle Dobbs of Michigan Community Resources: Black women are expected to use the language of the oppressed; and here’s the thing, we often have to check the way we use that language to make sure that we do not offend.
- On the unique challenge of being a leader of color at a nonprofit: There’s tremendous pressure to not fail, made exponentially harder by racial bias that creates low expectations from staff, funders, and board members.
- On nonprofits fitting equity into their policy work: You can’t do it from a distance. “As we talk about equitable policy agendas, it requires being in relationship with one another,” says Carly Bad Heart Bull of Native Ways Federation.
- Dr. Shannah Tharp-Gilliam of Homewood Children’s Village considered front line nonprofit leaders during COVID-19: “How do the heroes stay whole? That’s the place where collaboration makes a big difference.”
- How’s the health of the nonprofit sector? Hurting, like the rest of the nation: 1,000,000 jobs lost due to the pandemic, with 7% of the sector’s organizations projected to permanently close.
Today’s bottom line comes from Love Beyond Walls’ Terence Lester:
“Service is not an event. It’s a lifestyle.”
Let’s keep living it.