The engine of social justice paves the way for change

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I want to share an impactful change model.


For 27 years, Virginia Organizing has quietly — and not so quietly — pushed for equity and social justice in and around Virginia.

And for 20 years, Environmental Health Sciences, publisher of EHN.org and DailyClimate.org, has been part of the VO family. VO is our fiscal sponsor, managing our accounting and finances.

But VO does so much more, pushing us to account for environmental justice and fight against climate and environmental inequalities as we strive to inform the world about the science of our planet and health.

Today, Friday, is our last day in this VO house. EHS has grown: tomorrow we are taking our first steps as our own independent non-profit organization.

Virginia’s Organizing Model for Change

VO made these steps possible.

In an era of Twitter campaigns and online petitions, VO has focused on grassroots activism, showing up at city council meetings, building its presence in the community, and listening to community needs.

Each year, the organization conducts a “power analysis” – looking at who holds power on issues that matter to their constituents, then determining how to leverage their networks to shift the balance of power toward justice.

It’s a remarkably effective approach.

  • VO reformed criminal justice in many localities and in the state of Virginia with successful box ban campaigns.
    • Removing the stigma of an arrest record or conviction that disproportionately affects minority communities.
  • He has built coalitions that:
    • Tax relief granted to more than 150,000 low-wage people,
    • Extended Medicaid,
    • Stop Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

To be copied: the convictions of VO

There is another area where Virginia Organizing serves as a model: Their statement of beliefs.

The 12-point checklist keeps the organization focused like a laser on its goal of social equity, racial justiceand responsibility of those in power. They all speak to me, especially this one:

We believe that community, economic, social and environmental policies should be developed with the greatest input from the people they are meant to serve, and that policies should promote, celebrate and support Virginia’s human and natural resources.

I admire them all – and when EHS set out to write its own statement of beliefs, we stood on the shoulders of VO.

A legacy of advocacy and justice

So while VO ostensibly did our accounting, in reality their values, for 20 years, have permeated every aspect of EHS, from how we treat employees to the accountability we demand of those in power.

We leave VO today, but we bring with us VO’s fierce and clear-headed focus on justice, fairness and a healthier world.

Photo montage courtesy of Virginia Organizing, via Youtube.

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