For over 30 years, Forward Together has been a leader and innovator in the reproductive justice movement, and for 22 of those years Eveline Shen has been at Forward Together’s helm.
This year, Forward Together entered a new phase of its organizational journey as Eveline transitioned out of her role as Executive Director at the end of July.
Two dynamic directors, Wendy Calimag and Diana Lugo-Martinez, were promoted from within the organization to become Co-Executive Directors. The Forward Together and Forward Together Action boards wrote in a recent update:
“As internal leaders with intimate knowledge of Forward Together’s work, they are well poised to lead the organization through this transition. We’re excited to see the ways they lead Forward Together in new directions around culture shift and power building in the future.”
You can learn more about Diana and Wendy and their leadership superpowers in the following question and answer session.
You are both taking big steps in your leadership at Forward Together and creating a more collaborative structure for the organization. What excites you about becoming Co-Executive Directors for Forward Together and Forward Together Action?
DLM: Being able to live our values of collaborative and shared leadership is beyond exciting. If, as a movement, we are fighting for our collective liberation, then the staffing structure and decision-making structure within our organizations must also reflect this commitment to shared leadership. Our liberation is not tied to any one individual, organization or movement. Creating a future where we all thrive happens when we work together, expand access to channels for change and begin to dismantle the habits of cisheteropatriarchy and white supremacy habits like focusing on one individual’s vision and leadership. Also, I’m just thrilled to continue to build alongside Wendy and the Forward Together team.
WC: I am excited to lead with Diana because our skills and knowledge are very complementary. I am also excited to co-create —with Diana and the staff —an organization where we can experience the liberation that we dream of for our communities even while, as a nonprofit, we are bound to capitalist and patriarchal systems. There is no other person I would want to lead with that can test the boundaries to get to where we are going as an organization and as a movement.
Each of us brings unique gifts to our leadership. What’s a superpower of your Co-Executive Director?
DLM: Wendy’s superpower is her heart and being heart-led. Wendy’s heart and care for our team and community is woven into all elements of creating a vision, strategy and organizational culture that centers the whole person in teamwork and leadership development. From self-care policies to liberated gatekeeping, Wendy grounds us and our work in radical self-love.
WC: Imagine someone who can see everything. That is Diana. She has an immense ability to see a path forward. She looks at a situation or moment, synthesizes the historical framework with what is currently happening, and then sees a path toward the future. And she is always spot on, thinks quickly, and most importantly, brings others along with her to create a shared vision of what is possible.
We know that we can’t achieve the change we dream of by ourselves. We know that it takes many leaders and organizations working together to be strong, successful and supported. Who is a movement leader or partner organization you admire and why?
DLM: This is a hard question. There are so many POC-led organizations that I admire. However, our movement comrades at SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective have been on my heart and mind. SisterSong is a brilliant and visionary organization that has been bringing communities together for 24 year to fight for reproductive justice via leadership development and convenings, organizing, policy advocacy and cultural strategy. One of their recent cultural works is Catching Light, a living exhibit honoring Black midwives and birth workers. If you haven’t seen it, please visit their website catchinglightexhibit.com and do so ASAP. And then become a member of SisterSong!
WC: I have always admired the work of the African American Policy Forum and all that they do to uplift the voices and experiences of women and girls of color, especially Black women and girls, through campaigns and initiatives. I participated in the planning of the Breaking the Silence town hall in Oakland, which was also held in other places nationally,and out of that, I got to know some amazing artivists and organizers in Oakland. Also, their #SayHerName campaign is so moving and powerful in bringing to light police violence that is perpetrated against Black girls and women,which we often do not hear about. The African American Policy Forum’s latest campaign, #TruthBeTold, fights back against the attacks on critical race theory and racial and gender justice education, especially in schools. Check it out if you haven’t already.
Many of our supporters consider Forward Together and Forward Together Action a political home where they can advocate for and invest in meaningful change. What drew you to FT and FTA as a political home?
DLM: I was drawn to Forward Together and Forward Together Action because I saw my family and our communities in the work. I saw my tío who died on the inside. I saw my abuela who overstayed her visa. I saw so many loved ones denied access to care, profiled and struggling to make ends meet. I also saw reports, articles and beautiful images that told the story of my loved ones thriving, living into their power and liberated. I’m here, ready to continue to co-conspire with movement comrades to imagine our liberated future into existence.
WC: I worked with youth from under-resourced communities for a long time before coming to Forward Together and I was always struck by how much the youth I worked with didn’t believe they had a mechanism to change things in their lives. They were ruled by adults and systems that did not care about them and were always told what was going to happen rather then asked what they wanted to happen. So we would show them ways that they did have power to create change in their communities, that they can demand what change looks like and that they can lead it. To me, this is part of liberation and this is what Forward Together is all about. From the staff to leaders to artists, the work that we do is led by women of color, trans and non-binary folks of color and Indigenous people. The policy solutions and cultural strategies come from and reflect and belong to our communities.
Why should someone become a sustaining monthly donor?
DLM: As a sustaining donor to Forward Together, you’re expressing a commitment to continue to grow and learn alongside us. You’re investing in building community power and imagining a liberated future into existence.
WC: As a monthly donor, you are contributing to the liberated futures that our communities dream of. You are ensuring continuity of our programs over time, which allows us to put more time and resources into supporting our artists, leaders and communities.
Forward Together has a strong snack culture. What are your favorite snacks?
DLM: This will come as a surprise to no one. My favorite snack right now is gluten-free coffee cake with a side of coffee. Close second is chocolate, followed by Pirate’s Booty.
WC: Recently, my friend gave me a package of nori popcorn, or hurricane popcorn, and I can’t get enough of it. It is a mix of buttery popcorn, rice crackers, seaweed flakes and furikake. It is so good. You have to try it if you haven’t already.