Exciting transitions ahead for Grassroots Leadership

Dear friends and family,

In the spring of 2020, after seven years as executive director at Grassroots Leadership and more than 16 years on staff, I will transition out of my role. I’m deeply honored to have been a part of an organization of people who are bold, unafraid to rise up, take on cutting-edge work, and speak truth to power. 

Over the years, we’ve grown into one of the nation’s leading groups fighting criminalization at the intersection of mass incarceration and deportation. We’ve transformed into a nationally impactful organization that is also building power in impacted communities, and we’re fighting and winning changes on the front lines in Texas — one of the most important places in the country to do this work. I also take pride in our commitment to center and build the leadership of people who have been impacted by mass incarceration and immigration detention to make the changes these systems need. 

Led by the people

Grassroots Leadership Board and Staff, June 2019

Grassroots Leadership has been my political home my entire adult life. In 2003, I was hired by our founder Si Kahn as a student organizer to co-coordinate a national student prison divestment campaign. 

When I look back at my time at Grassroots Leadership and beyond, I see an organization that has evolved in direct response to the changing needs of our community. We published ground-breaking research, and defined issues like the Treatment Industrial Complex and the interstate transfer of prisoners. We helped mainstream the idea that for-profit prisons have no place in a dignified society and that migration should not be criminalized. 

Together, we won local changes that have deeply impacted people’s lives like the Freedom City Policy in the wake of Texas’ anti-immigrant SB4; Fair Chance Hiring; and our recent, successful effort to begin decriminalizing homelessness in Austin. We fought alongside immigrants in deportation proceedings, closed prisons in Texas, and prevented new immigration detention centers from opening. We won even in the long odds of the Trump administration, amidst the barrage of bad policies and onslaught of terror. At Grassroots, we’ve built a strong and growing base of people directly impacted by the racist, oppressive systems we seek to transform. 

Policies do not create long-term change alone; building power and transforming systems do. At Grassroots Leadership has transformed our campaigns to be led by those communities so deeply impacted by mass incarceration and deportation. We are invested in organizing projects like Texas Advocates for Justice and ICE Fuera de Austin that are led by people impacted by these systems. Our staff, board, and members are now deeply reflective of these communities and are showing the world who the true experts are.

Thank you to our volunteers, members, and supporters who continue to push the bold vision beyond bars and borders, where systems are transformed by the people society once deemed disposable. We’ve won seemingly impossible victories in Texas and set the tone for grassroots organizing nationally. I also want to thank the leaders on staff and board who are creating routes for the next generation of leadership to step in and new ideas to flourish.

Rooted in transformation

Taken after the Williamson County voted 4-1 to end its contract to operate T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, June 2018

I know the next chapter of Grassroots Leadership will be even greater. I see this change as an opportunity to affirm our commitment to community and boldly reflect the change we seek more of locally, nationally, and in the world. 

The first step in this transition will begin October 1st as I take a long-planned, three-month sabbatical. I’m proud to share that Annette Price and Claudia Muñoz will be stepping into the roles of Acting Co-Directors during this time. We have engaged the consulting firm NPAG to guide our organizational process and leadership search and I will remain on staff until the spring of 2020 to support the transition to permanent new leadership. 

I remain the biggest supporter of Grassroots Leadership’s powerful and impactful work, and your continued support is critical. 

In the weeks and months to come, our board — led by co-chairs Darwin Hamilton and Barbara Hines — and staff will share exciting updates about what’s ahead. I believe deeply in the future this organization is building. My ask is that you join me in celebrating as we continue along the trajectory of powerful, courageous, community-led change.

In deep appreciation for what we’ve accomplished, in great hope for what is next, and in solidarity always.