Scaling Up for Social Justice

February 27, 2020


February may be the shortest month of the year but our partners are making the most of it. They’re speaking out for immigrant rights and racial justice, using art and popular culture, research and personal testimonies to challenge injustice.

The Immigration Hub and its partners SEIU and NILC Immigration Justice Fund organized a webinar earlier this month to share findings from public opinion research by Global Strategy Group on immigration and the economy. Among their recommendations, they suggest “Always present a contrasting point of view to show that there are real alternatives to Trump’s immigration worldview.” Watch the Webinar Recording, check out the Immigration and the Economy Deck and read their Short Memo.

Many of our partners made their mark at the Sundance International Film Festival in Park City, UT this year. Bridgit Antoinette Evans (CC ‘19), Executive Director of the Pop Culture Collaborative, participated in a panel entitled Us Vs Them: Narratives That Divide Society And How We Can Overcome Them. Pop Culture Collaborative also worked in collaboration with Planned Parenthood and Blackbird to present In Defense of Black Women: Challenging White Supremacy and Patriarchy Through Movements and Media. In the panel Native Voices Rising, Crystal Echo Hawk (CC ‘17) of Illuminatives and other Native artist/activists discussed amplifying contemporary Native stories for new audiences. You can watch the panel here. Define American’s founder, Jose Antonio Vargas (CC’12), moderated a sold-out panel discussion, Moving the Needle, about the portrayal of immigrants on screen. During the panel, Sarah E. Lowe, Define American’s Head of Research and Impact, provided a sneak peek at some groundbreaking findings from their latest entertainment study to be released in March 2020. The full study is due out in mid-March. You can register for updates on the research from Define American’s Creative Initiatives Team.

In early February, several immigrant rights organizations held a hearing on Capitol Hill entitled From the Muslim Ban to New Attacks on Refugees, Black Immigrants and Iranians: How the Administration Targets Communities of Color and How We Fight Back Together. Staff from the National Immigration Law Center, Oxfam America, Undocublack Network, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration testified at the hearing, as well as Representative Judy Chu, about how the Trump administration’s policies have torn apart families, shut the door on vulnerable refugees seeking safety, and subjected more people to unjust profiling at our borders and airports. They also discussed the NO BAN Act which the House Judiciary Committee approved for a vote on the House floor in the near future. Take 2 minutes to call Congress to vote on a #NoBanAct with no amendments.

Along with major cultural institutions in New York, Kemi Ilesanmi (CC ‘12) and The Laundromat Project participated in the 100 Years | 100 Women Symposium at the Park Avenue Armory on Feb 15 to explore the complex legacy of the 19th Amendment 100 years after its ratification. A second day talks and performances by noted artists, thinkers and cultural leaders part of the initiative will be held May 16.


Last week, Sue Obeidi (CC ‘17) and MPAC’s Hollywood Bureau selected seven screenwriters selected to participate in this year’s Children’s Media Screenwriting Lab in partnership with Practice Wonder. MPAC writes, “These writers shared stories that amplify empowered, reflective characters for young viewers.” In the lab, they will have their scripts workshopped, perfect their pitches, and liaise with a network of industry professionals to guide them in their writing careers.


Caty Borum Chattoo (CC ‘17), director of the Center for Media & Social Impact, and Mik Moore (CC ‘14) of Moore+Associates are bringing back the Yes, And... Laughter Lab for a second year. They are now accepting applications. They'll choose 20 finalists and 10 winners. If you have an idea for a scripted comedy or stand up show or digital series or satirical newspaper or sketch show or short film or animated series or whatever (as long as seeks to inspire social change), learn more here and apply!

Andrew Friedman (CC’17) and the Center on Popular Democracy launched The Maria Fund to provide relief in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The initiative has spun off but CPD continues to work very closely to raise money for earthquake relief. The Maria Fund has been coordinating relief efforts with artists such as Spike Lee, Lemon Anderson, Anthony Ramos and many others. CPD’s lead Puerto Rico diaspora organizer is planning a work solidarity trip down to the island with CAA and Sean Penn's organization.


Earlier this month in Des Moines, Iowa, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and RAICES created installations reminding Caucus-goers of migrant children being held in cages. Using the hashtag #DontLookAway, the advocates are urging everyone to endorse the Migrant Justice Platform and help start a new conversation about immigration.

Several of our Creative Change partners were among the 77 artists, organizers, movement leaders, and culture changers who co-created the story platform for gender justice, Story at Scale, to develop and test a new cultural strategy to advance gender justice. Using big data and a collaborative, creative process, Story at Scale delivers audience research and a narrative foundation to guide artists and campaigners in telling stories that reflect the world we seek: a joy-filled life in a gender-just future. Story at Scale’s tools are designed for practical use by those working on issues ranging from reproductive justice to sex- and gender-based violence to LGBTQ+ rights and more. The platform held a launch event in New York, which The Opportunity Agenda staff attended.

Erin Potts (CC ’10 & ‘11) wrote for Medium about how artists can build a new kind of power in the 2020 Election. In her article, “Let’s Make History,” Erin writes that there's much that artists can do to “continue the trend of historic turnout that started in the 2018 midterms to ensure turn out on November 3rd.” She points out this election isn’t just about the White House (and all that goes along with who sits in it), but also about 35 out of the 100 Senate seats, all 435 seats in Congress, 11 state governor seats and ballot initiatives in at least nine states around marijuana legalization, criminal justice, voter rights, redistricting and more.

Thanks to Hari Kondabolu (CC '16), Hank Azaria has decided to no longer voice the character of Apu on The Simpsons. Hari's call out of the Indian caricature & his tireless work to educate the public about stereotyping shows us all that we CAN change hearts & minds! Check out the article in the New York Times.