Arena was founded as a place to bring together progressives for conversations that challenge us to do more. Particularly in this moment, I want to share a conversation I had with a valued member of our community who has been on the front lines of this work for a long time.
In this episode of Arena’s podcast, I share my thoughts on recent events and where we as a community go from here. I also speak with educator Stacey Shells, a longtime member of the Arena family and CEO of ReGeneration schools, who talks about the change she wants to see.As CEO of ReGeneration, Stacey educates thousands of mostly Brown and Black kids from Chicago and Cincinnati. We speak about how we stand with those who demand justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. People like Curtis Flowers, who has been tried six times in the state of Mississippi for a murder he did not commit. Or the many Black people whose names are less well known but who’ve faced violence and death because of the color of their skin.
You will also learn about what we as an organization will do in the weeks, months, and years ahead to play a part in reversing injustice. Here’s where we’re starting:
- Support Black political staffers. Arena Academy has always prioritized equity and inclusion. To date, we’ve trained over 1,100 staffers, over half of whom are women and people of color. As part of that work, we’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships. We also include a mandatory unconscious bias training as part of the Academy. We plan to hold an additional 11 trainings between now and the election and reserve at least half of the seats for people of color.
- Support Black elected leaders. We will continue to support Black elected leaders, as we did in 2017 and 2018. As President Obama recently remarked, we will need many more of those leaders and their allies in office if we hope to make fundamental changes to our criminal justice system and society as a whole. So, in the weeks ahead, we will be announcing our plans to support more Black local candidates in our priority states.
- Support criminal justice reform. For the past six months, we’ve been incubating a new organization that provides a novel solution to the problem of post-incarceration employment. We are founding the organization in partnership with seasoned practitioners in the criminal justice reform space who participated in our Five Borough Future Fellowship program. In the weeks ahead, we will announce the new group and explain how you can get involved.
Stay tuned for more information about our future plans. In the meantime, we encourage you to support organizations doing critical work to make a more just society. Here’s one that we’ve had the privilege of collaborating with over the years — and which does amazing work:
Woke Vote empowers individuals to fight back against policies that are antithetical to our shared values. By meeting people where they are and teaching the fundamentals of congregation and community organizing, we are altering the political landscape as we know it. We know that these hidden faces and voices — our faces and voices — have the power to reshape our democracy, influence and lead movements, and invoke lasting change.
The folks over at the Obama Foundation have put together a super helpful comprehensive list that includes many other groups. Check it out here.