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What grassroots activism means: A commentary by Priscilla Enriquez

June 02, 2022

Census_gettyimagesWhen the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States in early March 2020, the James B. McClatchy Foundation was in the midst of hosting roundtables to better understand our community in California’s Central Valley and the organizations serving it. While many foundations engage in this process, we believe these conversations are critical to the impact of our work, as it helps us understand what is happening in our community while building relationships and trust with key partners.

Even as COVID-19 case numbers began to rise and shutdowns were announced, our new chief impact officer, Misty Avila, was deep in the field, hosting meetings with community leaders. As the foundation’s CEO, I felt responsible for her safety in the face of this new public health threat; after a few moments of wrestling with what to do next, I called her and asked her to cancel her appointments and return home.

It soon became clear that this crisis would directly affect our work and our lives. We paused our community roundtables. Rather than just shifting in-person meetings to virtual ones and continuing with our plan, we took a moment to recognize how this global event was impacting the communities we cared about. At the end of March, we convened our community of grassroots leaders and sincerely asked the only question that really mattered: “How are you doing?” I look back at that defining moment as the cornerstone of our work.

At that meeting, one of the leaders shared that by standing in a food line with a client, he was also able to do some census outreach. This act of caring, combined with activism in that same moment, helped me to gain a deeper understanding of what “grassroots” activism means. It means acting on an unselfish drive to seek out opportunities, even in grim conditions, to improve people’s lives, because the future matters. While this leader was helping an elder navigate an unfathomable crisis, he also saw a future in which an accurate census count could help that elder.

And as funders, we need to act in a similar fashion....

Read the full commentary by Priscilla Enriquez, CEO of the James B. McClatchy Foundation.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

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