Power is the ability to actualize the reality that you desire.
Sage Dolan-Sandrino

A powerful session featuring trailblazers at the forefront of health justice. Their lived experiences drive their work to center communities directly impacted by health inequity. These activists and organizers describe how to mobilize communities to create lasting change and how the “story of self” can transform policies and practices.  

Key quotes and highlights include: 

  • “Think about how society values a Black body, if society doesn’t value Black lives, how are they going to value a Black disabled life?” Ola Ojewumi, founder and director of Project ASCEND, is a disability rights activist and a writer who speaks to the dire need to have people with disabilities at the forefront of our fights for justice. “It is the greatest importance that previous generations learn how to pass the torch, teach and let go.”
  • “Power means recognizing how much power YOU have over your life, once you understand that you need to understand how power shows up in society. We have the power to take action or be acted on.” Jennymarie Idrobo, college fellow facilitator from The Gem Project, Inc., centers her work around creating spaces for young people to lead and organize within their communities. “When we see inauthentic things happen in shows and nonprofits and any type of thing. We have to realize that it can be authentic simply by asking the community what we need.” 
  • “As a community, if we come together, there is so much more power that we are existing in.” Daniella Runyambo, co-executive director – programs and community impact at the Refugee Community Partnership, is passionate about language justice and uses that lens to advocate for more accessible programs and services that address social determinants of health, centering the refugee community. “Working with community, is not about accommodation. It’s [about] creating a space where you are in deep, reciprocal, messy relationship with one another. Flexibility is a necessity to do this work.”
  • “It’s important to work on my community before I work on the world.” Denise Webb, senior youth staff at the Partnership for Southern Equity, focuses her work around equity and a just world for those most impacted by harmful biases. “My community learned to heal themselves not out of convenience but out of necessity.”  
  • “I think a lot of the times the decisions that people in power make to make themselves feel a little bit better, they make without consulting the communities who are most in need. It’s performative, but it’s also in a way that’s not informed.” Sage Dolan-Sandrino, creative director and fellow at the National Black Justice Coalition, utilizes her art form as a tool to create cultural shifts and empower community. “Activism is my art. It is through existing every day as myself, through telling my story and the story of my community that I’m affecting change.”  

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.   

We all have a story to share. Take action by sharing yours here