I knew early on that Forward Together was consistently innovative, risk-taking and really grounded and rooted in community-based organizing. That’s probably why I wasn’t totally surprised when our executive director Eveline Shen went out on a limb and hired me.
It went something like this:
Eveline, along with Moira, the deputy director at the time, were like, “Hey, what do you think about piloting New Mexico to be a state-based site with Forward Together?” And I was like, “Yes, I definitely would love that.” We talked to local partners, and with them ready to come on board, Ev told me she could give me a year to see if it could work.
What could I say? Eveline’s ability to take risks and be innovative and try what’s best for our families is still what has me here, thankfully, seven years later.
At that time, Forward Together was actually helping me with a succession plan out of my previous executive director role at Young Women United. Through that succession process, they were also helping me find what was going to be my next move. Coming on as the New Mexico Field Director at Forward Together, I fit right in with their age-old strategy of just doing good old-fashioned organizing. It’s really the Forward Together approach. We are a national organization but we rely on the states and the expertise of people’s lived experiences in the states we work in to actually shape what our work looks like and where we can help make movement.
Back then, Forward Together had what we called anchor organizations, reproductive justice organizations from across the country that anchored us to the states that Forward Together worked in. We realized that we wanted to access more folks across the country, but in order to do so, we needed to expand the work and talk about our issues in a way that our communities could understand. We were trying to open up the field to all of our families and communities, especially unlikely voters, communities of color and families. You know, regular folks who didn’t necessarily all relate to the terminology of reproductive justice.
We wanted to push back on the right’s claim that family values is a tenet of their policies and show how we are strong families, how we build strong families every day, and really lift up our stories. So we created the Strong Families network, and it has been amazing.
I love and appreciate that Forward Together is led by women of color. We are lifting up the voices of queer, non-binary, Indigenous women, and women of color from communities all over. We are connecting and centering our people, which can sometimes be difficult to do in the movement.
For three decades, Forward Together consistently put its resources directly into the community. Many organizations put money into expensive things, or equipment, or media firms to try to persuade decision makers and get them on their side. Well, we put our investments in the actual community, so that they can be part of sharing their own voices and stories. We put resources into making sure communities, families and people have what they need to actively participate. As a result, people view Forward Together and Strong Families as their organizing home because it’s a place where they are valued. Our approach has actually increased people’s participation in their own democracy.