I get frustrated when I hear community should have a seat at the table. What? Community is the table.
Natalie S. Burke

Afua Atta-Mensah of Community Change leads a discussion with a group of panelists working on a diverse set of issues that probe the nature of power building, inside/outside strategies for change, the need for sustained narrative, organizing and livelihoods in the health justice movement, and more.  

Key quotes and highlights include: 

  • “Power is about action.” Afua Atta-Mensah, chief of programs at Community Change, sets the table ahead of leading a discussion centered on power and community building, noting that… “individual lives are changed through collective action.” 
  • “If we don’t have people making decisions who reflect their states and communities, we will never create the world we want to create.” Lee Storrow, senior director of external affairs at Community Education Group, speaks to how COVID-19 opened a doorway for policy that addressed some of the broader issues of health inequity (financial support, Medicaid enrollment, etc…) and the need for movements to think beyond their community and state lines. “We need to break state lines, rethink boundaries because they are not reflective of people’s reality.” 
  • “We need to continue to be extremely concerned with the way that [voter suppression] is being played out in creating the rollback of our rights.”Breana Lipscomb, senior advisor of maternal health & rights at the Center for Reproductive Rights, speaks to the need to allow ourselves as a movement to dream, imagine and rework how we approach the issues and go about the work of dismantling health inequities. “We are locked into a mindset on how to change policy when we can look at other ways to change.”
  • “We have, in a very clear way, dismantled the interdependence in our communities.” Natalie S. Burke, president and CEO of CommonHealth ACTION, speaks to the need to invest in the health justice workforce and the need to rebuild community interdependence and interaction to increase the way that we value each other and fuel our pursuit of health equity. “How do we redesign our relationships and our communities to get the results we want to have?” 

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.