Lessons in Solidarity: Building Each Other Up to Dismantle Systems of Oppression

Reflection on Lessons in Solidarity gathering

By Massomeh Spahr, Managing Director

The most important legacy that we leave behind is one that betters the lives of the generations beyond us. Our responsibility as social changemakers is to continue to forge pathways and build bridges to carry on the lessons of our elders. One of our organizational forebears in Washington state was the Minority Executive Directors Coalition (MEDC) in the 1980s. They were pioneers in creating spaces of solidarity across BIPOC groups and providing a safe haven for leaders to build connections, learn from each other, and organize their efforts as one. 

The BIPOC ED Coalition, a multicultural, cross-sector collaborative of more than 240 BIPOC nonprofit leaders across Washington, is inspired by the legacy of MEDC. We had the privilege of honoring former leaders of MEDC at our Lessons in Solidarity gathering on April 27th.

As a participant of this event, I felt a sense of reverence for the wisdom that MEDC members shared with us. I was fired up with the spirit to strive harder for equity for all. Below are just a few lessons gathered from the event:

Lesson #1: ​​Prioritize each other’s humanity and common goals over ideology. 

“[We] really didn’t get too much into ideology, but we were always able to work together, if you dig what I’m saying, and that led us to easily build MEDC.” ~Larry Gossett

Lesson #2: Connect national to international liberation struggles.

“The liberation struggles that were happening in Africa and Asia and Latin America that people were taking a stand in those countries, they were an inspiration to us that you could make change.” ~Estela Ortega

Lesson #3: Build strong relationships and honor each other.

“… joining forces with other communities of color made the impact much more powerful, but the key of it all was the deep respect and trust and friendship that emerged. It was to me: work hard, play hard, and have each other’s back.” ~Theresa Fujiwara

Lesson #4: Get community members to the table as decision-makers to make policy changes.

“Our position is to be able to assist our members to gain access and impact policy, as well as putting a lot of the members into those policymaking committees …” ~Richard Mar

Lesson #5: Create spaces to be seen, loved, and nurtured.

“For me, it was a sanctuary really. It was a place where I could go and be with other people of color and feel like I was with people who actually understood the work I was doing and supported the work that I was doing.” ~Cheryl Murphy

As we near the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, as well as the anniversary of the BIPOC ED Coalition, our hope is that we all take a moment to reflect on these lessons, deepen our bonds with one another, and take action today to shape a better future for the generations to come.

Watch the recording above to revisit our conversation with former leaders of MEDC: Cheryl Cobbs, Estela Ortega, Josephine Tamayo Murray, Larry Gossett, Richard Mar, and Theresa Fujiwara.