Announcing the 10th Anniversary of Center for Social Inclusion
10 years ago, in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, I founded the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI). The attacks left me appalled, deeply sadden by the loss of life and tremendously proud of the selflessness and sacrifice so many people made in its aftermath. But I was also terribly troubled. The federal government was sending $20 Billion in aid to support recovery, but state and local leaders were directing rebuilding dollars to only two downtown neighborhoods in Manhattan. What about Chinatown and the Lower East Side? And what about all the communities in all five boroughs devastated by trauma, job loss, environmental toxins and the reactionary policing of immigrants and Muslims that swept wage earners into deportation centers, and to countries of birth when the US was home?
My allies and I had been talking about these kinds of issues for years, but the aftermath of September 11th made talking a frivolity. How do you get policy makers to be fair to everyone in their decision making process? New York City was almost two thirds people of color, who were and are a critical part of the region’s future. Race was relevant to rebuilding. Yet far too many were not seeing how. Far too few were working on solutions.
This was the seed that my colleague Jocelyn Sargent and I started to water and fertilize: tilling the soil to collectively grow lasting solutions that recognize race as relevant to solving the nation’s problems. We worked, unpaid, to build research projects with communities of color so that, in partnership, we might find truly transformative policy solutions.
Over the next years our work took us all around the United States, finding partners focused on better schools and economic development in the Deep South and throughout the country. We trained foundations and communities alike on structural race analysis that could show why and how race matters and how to catalyze new strategies for lasting transformation of exclusion into inclusion.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, we had another 9/11 moment on our hands. CSI did “Race to Rebuild” report cards, updated monthly, on equity in post-Katrina rebuilding. We analyzed the advocacy capacity of leaders across the region, issuing a “Race to Rebuild” leadership report on five southern states. We spent two years supporting an informal multi-racial, multi-state leadership network on equitable rebuilding, who now have multiple-state relationships, a shared structural analysis and bigger vision for the region.
A decade later New York is still trying to rebuild. So is New Orleans and communities across three states in the Gulf Coast. And now the entire country faces a “rebuilding” challenge in the wake of a recession produced by the same Wall Street speculators the federal government so richly invested our dollars in post 9/11. The Center for Social Inclusion has been there every step of the way.
At the 10 year mark, CSI has grown into a $2.5 million organization with twelve staff committed to eradicating structural racism. Currently we are working with too many partners to name – over a dozen in over six states – helping them to hone their analysis and strategies and transform inequities into opportunity in their communities.
We’ve also spent five years working on how to talk effectively about race. Over the last two, we’ve been rolling out trainings on communicating more effectively with new and long-standing partners based on our most recent round of Communications Testing — a bold and highly effective response to the race wedge that is being pushed out by the far right.
We are working to help policy makers and other leaders see the opportunity in producing energy independence by supporting community of color innovation in renewable energy. We are working to support policies that get broadband – critical high speed Internet for education, health, economic and social innovation — into digitally red-lined communities. We are working with organizers in Birmingham on policy strategy and multiple-racial coalition building for bus hubs to connect low-income, carless people of all races to jobs, health care and schools. We are also working for better national transportation policy with national allies and incubating ways to create more bus rapid transit.
I am immensely proud of the work of CSI and honored to have partnered with such incredible allies and supporters. You’ve made a dream come true — support for the new majority to govern this nation into a united and prosperous one. But, there is more and deeper work to be done. Our country faces historic economic and social challenges and communities of color stand to carry the burden of these in unprecedented ways and at a time when people of color, particularly our youth, are becoming a majority of the nation. Please support CSI and partner with us as we look to the next 10 years and beyond. Recognize race in all the right ways.
Maya Wiley, Founder and President of the Center for Social Inclusion