December 2022 – January 2023
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” Maya Angelou
As we close the month of November, we must honor Sonoma County’s Indigenous People, the Wappo, Southern Pomo and Coast Miwok in celebration of Indigenous Heritage Month. I hope you were able to take part in the various events and learning opportunities made available throughout Sonoma County. There are also an abundance of online resources and tours by appointment to the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center.
Reflecting on the rapid pace in which December is now upon us, I am humbled and grateful by the continued efforts our branch leaders have made to keep the movement going. Our committees remain steadfast in their pursuit of social justice and community engagement. The last few months have been filled with continuing to build up our branch, develop and rejuvenate operational systems, programs, and be as responsive as possible to member & community inquiries and support needs. It is hard to often remember how much has happened over the last several months.
In addition to the technical, operational, financial and programmatic work we’ve been engaged in, the executive committee has continued to make important decisions focusing on the sustainability of the branch, and I have been invited to join with other community organizers to build a collaborative of programs to envision a stronger, better connected and cooperative community with workspaces and resources to support all members of the community and wealth building.
Along with the optimism and hopes for the year ahead, gratitude has grounded me. I am grateful for all of the difficult conversations that I have had the fortune to have in the last month. As a DEI practitioner, feedback and difficult conversations are a part of my daily “language” and they are some of the biggest gifts we can offer one another as humans. I wrapped up October with the quarterly meeting with the West County School District Leadership. As many of you know, we have been working with them since March 2022 advocating for families and then helping the district navigate the fallout from the racist “promposal.” While we would all love to focus on this district’s challenges, I must be frank, ALL Sonoma County schools are struggling to address matters of race and the bias of discipline and the negative impacts trickle down on Black students as young as 1st grade. Ms. Carter, Superintendent elect has her work cut out for her, but she has demonstrated a willingness to have open and difficult conversations and we look forward to her tenure.
In mid- November, I was finally able to have a follow up conversation with the Executive Director of Sonoma Raceway to talk about the June 2022 incident in which a confederate flag was displayed on an attendees camper trailer. This conversation was long overdue and productive in hearing how the Raceway team has reviewed the situation, handled staff training and how they will continue to be proactive with their event weekend vendors and partners to address any confederate displays. There is so much more we can continue to learn collaboratively together as a larger community from this situation.
I returned to West County in mid-November, along with Herman G., member & Executive Director of Los Cien, and spoke on a panel at Analy High School. This community event was organized by the West County High Activists group and spotlighted the historical issues and patterns of racism and current students shared their experiences. The conversation was the first of many, and I emphasized the important responsibility the school has to foster a better sense of safety and belonging for students. There were only two para teachers participating – that in and of itself is a sign that their peers in the classrooms need to engage more deeply to help shift the culture. The students and administrators cannot do it alone.
As we’ve covered in General Membership meetings and the State of Black Housing workshop series, we are engaging deeply on the Housing Element process and providing feedback to all municipalities. Many are really struggling to inculcate the feedback around tenant protections and concrete programs to increase access and affordability to housing, especially for Black residents. This is a long haul, but we will not let up in the process. Each city and county must reckon with the truth; the racist practices and policies are how we got here and we need to see programs with “teeth ” in order to get us back in shape. To date, we are 17,000 units short of the demonstrated need. Members of Permit Sonoma’s Planning Commission must prioritize their efforts to increase new builds in the county that are multi-family units especially in the unincorporated areas. Housing access and affordability is a basic human right.
I look forward to the close of 2022. I hope you will continue to remain active in your membership, or have considered taking the step in joining us officially. Our committee leaders are amazing and could use every helping hand and skillset out there in the move towards a more equitable and inclusive Sonoma County.
“Let’s stand together, stick together, and work together for justice of every description. Racial justice. Gender justice. Immigrant justice. Economic justice. Environmental justice.” – Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago.
Kirstyne Lange, President