When we build power like that, we know that we can effect change.
Erica Andrade

Community leaders working to mobilize and build power locally and across their state came together in this plenary focused on community-driven health justice strategies. The panelists discussed their work to build leadership, power and autonomy in communities without being extractive. 

Key quotes and highlights include: 

  • “It is now the time to bring everyone into our movements. We cannot be siloed anymore.” Katherine Riley, policy director at the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) moderated the panel that delved into cross-movement collaboration and shifting power to people and communities without being transactional. “There is such incredible work being done in community to move us toward health justice.” 
  • “The word that comes to mind for me when I think about community power is safety.” Lela Ali, co-founder and co-director of Muslim Women For, speaks to the need to center people with lived experience as Muslims in visioning for what our communities can look like, while remembering the very real harms community members are experiencing. “There are shifts that are happening that are really beautiful that I am celebrating in this moment.” 
  • “Disparities based on race are a result of policy decisions.” Pareesa Charmchi Goodwin, executive director of Commission on Racial Equity in Public Health within the Connecticut General Assembly, gives an important perspective on how government agencies can look to advocates and community members when making process decisions that will affect people they serve. “Not all wins come in the form of a law.” 
  • “Pandemic funding is slowing down and going away, but the power and strength that we showed united is not going away.” Erica Andrade, president & CEO of El Centro, speaks to the coalition building that happened during the COVID-19 pandemic and investing in community with a focus on language access, a culture of humility, and empowering and training community leaders if you truly aim to work with community. “When we build power like that, we know that we can effect change.” 
  • “That’s community power. You don’t walk away when you don’t feel it was your win. You’ve got to stay involved.” Margarethia G. Bledsoe, director of marketing at The Family Health Centers of Georgia, Inc., speaks to being in community for the long haul, providing services and support to each other. “I don’t leave my office on any given day that we didn’t win. We win every time someone comes through our doors for services.” 

This is part of a six-part series capturing plenary discussions from Community Catalyst’s 2023 annual convening, Building Power for Health Justice. Our focus on power is a recognition of the need for us to leverage and build power together to create a health system rooted in race equity and health justice, and a society where health is a right for all.