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Passing the Baton Together: A message from CPD/A’s Co-Executive Directors

It is with tremendous gratitude and pride that we write to share that we will be stepping down as co-executive directors of the Center for Popular Democracy and CPD Action in 2021. Ten years ago, CPD/A was only an aspiration. Today, it is a strong and beautiful community of action, anchored by 50 community organizations in 222 cities, 33 states, and Puerto Rico.  As the organization’s co-executive directors, we are humbled, grateful and deeply proud of all that we built together. As we plan to step into different roles in the movement and pass the reins of this organization to two new co-executive directors in 2021, our optimism, commitment and urgency burn bright.

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We have built CPD/A with our eyes set on the promise of a dynamic, participatory, multiracial democracy to create the country of our dreams.  When the four of us came together to lead CPD/A, we anchored our efforts in a shared commitment to nurturing leaders and organizations deeply rooted in communities. For each one of us, the experience of organizing on the ground had taught us everything we knew about building and community, with love at the center. We wanted CPD/A to serve as a national formation to advance an agenda of justice for Black, Latinx and other people of color, immigrant communities and working-class families in the US.

When we started CPD/A, we dreamed of someday being powerful enough to transform our communities and to end our people’s suffering. We could not have imagined how close our country would come to fascism and white supremacist insurrection. But we knew we had a long road to travel. The struggle for freedom and democracy in this land is as old as the country itself. The systems of white supremacy, exploitation and exclusion have been erected to resist the powerful and unwavering yearning for freedom that flows through every human and pulses powerfully in every community, in every generation. CPD/A is our love offering to all that yearn for a country where we all thrive together. We will transition the organization in a period of strength and financial stability, and in a moment when our affiliates are ascending to the height of their power, because we know this beautiful community of action is full of leaders who will pour their hearts and souls into taking our collective work to the next level.

Our work has been animated by the certainty that a new, more just nation is struggling to be born. And that her arrival becomes more possible every time immigrant youth tell their stories and articulate their dreams; every time Black women lead us to victory in a hard fought election; every time low-wage workers win dignity at work; every time someone joins a march for the first time; and every time poor and working class families win better schools, a more inclusive democracy, housing and healthcare. The arrival of a more just nation becomes more possible when the very people who have been silenced and relegated to the margins of our democracy build power together, and use that power to dismantle the structures of exclusion and exploitation from below. 

We knew, too, that people’s organizations—which offer both a space to find community and exercise collective imagination and power—play a crucial role in advancing and sustaining social change. As we look back on almost a decade of work, we are most proud of CPD/A’s efforts to help nurture and support new leaders of color, and foster the creation of rooted people’s organizations in states like Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, New Jersey, Louisiana, Arizona and more. It is the patient work of people organizing with their families and neighbors, building powerful communities of action over years, that is transforming the political trajectory of these states and that ultimately helped make Trump a one-term president.

CPD/A and allies joined in protest against the separation of immigrant families at the Families Belong Together march in June 2018

We are also very proud of helping to seed projects and infrastructure for the broader progressive movement, and partnering with many to win critical policy victories. CPD/A has helped win hundreds of campaigns, impacting tens of millions of people. Our fights have led to better wages, better housing, more freedom and more justice for millions. We have raised and distributed tens of millions of dollars to nourish and build strong, rooted organizing throughout this country, and in Puerto Rico. 

We helped found and support Local Progress, a network of progressive elected officials, who are bringing the spirit and demands of the movement into the halls of power in cities across the US. When Hurricane Maria struck, we jumped into action to launch the Maria Fund which raised millions of dollars to support new organizing work and the Puerto Rican communities hardest hit by climate change  and years of austerity. And with the leadership of our dear colleague Ady Barkan, we helped launch the Be A Hero Fund to resource a people-powered democracy in key states and build a movement to win Medicare for All. 

The election of Donald Trump helped reveal the strength of white supremacy, the mainstreaming of misogynist and racist politics, and the complicity of neoliberal economic forces that benefit from gutting and hobbling our government. The last four years, though, have also revealed the resilience and tenacity of communities under attack, and our collective determination to fight and win the freedom we long for. 

As we look back on CPD/A’s role during that period, we are proud of our efforts to mobilize thousands of people and forcefully elevate the voices of Black, Brown, and working-class people during critical battles in Washington, whether it was to protect the Affordable Care Act and DACA, or to fight back against the GOP tax scam, the separation of families at the border, and the shameless nominations of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

CPD Action activists taking the message of Medicare for All to Congress in 2019

Over these years of incredible movement activity, a whole generation of young people has become activated and politicized, following the lead of women of color who set the tone of the resistance, and pursuing the transformative vision in the Black Lives Matter movement. People have used art, storytelling, digital organizing and direct action to celebrate each other’s courage, to tend to each other’s pain, to elevate collective demands, and to put us on the path towards the greatest advances in generations. Community organizations have provided critical infrastructure in moments of urgent need – from mobilizing bail funds, to sharing information, moving resources quickly or providing legal support. As we look towards the future of CPD and CPD Action, we are excited for the next leadership team to continue exploring how our network can develop even further as a trusted and responsive partner in movement moments.

At every step, and with every battle, we are reminded that democracy, a truly popular democracy, is the mechanism that we have to protect one another. With each fight, we are invited to remember that democracy does not exist on its own: democracy breathes and comes alive when people tell their stories, take direct action, build community and networks of mutual support, register to vote, mobilize their loved ones to the polls, and ensure every vote is counted. 

Our democracy itself is under grave attack. Our work is far from over. And this moment is a critical window to make evident in people’s lived experience that a different kind of politics can, in fact, deliver relief and opportunity. We are confident that CPD/A and our affiliates will continue to be at the forefront of the fight to win badly-needed changes on people-centered COVID relief, climate change, immigration reform, housing and evictions, defunding the carceral state, addressing the growth of white supremacist forces, and more. 

As we prepare to end our tenure as co-executive directors, we are filled with gratitude for the communities that nurtured us and formed us as organizers: for Jen, Black workers in Wisconsin; for Brian, working-class Floridians; for Andrew and Ana Maria, Latinx immigrants in New York. Each one of us worked to imbue CPD/A with the aspirations of the communities that raised us as organizers and welcomed us into the long and beautiful history of struggle for justice in this country. 

Leading together as a team has been a gift, and passing the baton together in a moment of organizational strength is the best way we know to support the new leaders, the organization and the network to move forcefully into the future.

We thank everyone who has worked with us—the staff, the Boards of Directors, every affiliate organization that joined and breathed life into this network, and every donor who invested in our efforts. CPD/A would not be as strong without you. 

Finally, we want to to express our deepest gratitude to movement allies who encouraged us, challenged us, invited us to join in struggle, and ultimately helped us build, and become part of, a growing, rebellious and visionary movement of people determined to live with freedom and dignity, and bring the country of our dreams into existence. 

In solidarity,

Ana Maria Archila
Co-Executive Director
JEAJennifer Epps-Addison
Network President &
Co-Executive Director
BKBrian Kettenring
Co-Executive Director
AFAndrew Friedman
Co-Executive Director