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Racial Equity in Action: Rise Together and TEDxSantaCruz

TEDxSantaCruz, which took place April 13 at Cabrillo’s Crocker Theater, was an incredible feat for our community. People from all walks of life joined in a shared space and celebrated the collective resilience and innovation of our community. While the event this past spring moves into our periphery, the legacy and spirit of TEDxSantaCruz lives on in those who attended, presented, and volunteered. But now, a global audience can view the talks on the official TEDx YouTube channel.  
Among the leaders of TEDxSantaCruz were members of Rise Together, a coalition of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color leaders, and a team from the Community Foundation. Rise Together members were the initial catalyst for this event and participated as volunteers, speakers, advisors, and part of the leadership team. Through a partnership with Rise Together, TEDxSantaCruz sought to reach broader audiences and foster discussions around racial equity in Santa Cruz County. The Community Foundation was the proud presenting sponsor for the event. 

Susan True, the CEO of the Community Foundation, spoke to the power of “rising together” even in the face of our greatest obstacles. She explained that it takes more to address inequity than identifying our society’s problems but “understanding the brilliance of people in our community who are building resilience, strength, and power to overcome and to solve.”  

Rise Together Members Grace the Stage 
TEDxSantaCruz saw members of Rise Together, like Esabella Bonner, take the stage as speakers. Esabella, the founder of Black Surf Santa Cruz, presented her talk Values as Verbs: How to Be About That Action. Her speech corroborated our community’s resilience and the power of collective action in the face of inequity.  
Fellow Rise Together members like MariaElena De La Garza and Kara Meyberg Guzman also delivered talks, titled respectively, What Did You Call Me? Unleashing and Redefining the Power of the Latina and The Rise of Tiny News. While MariaElena, the Executive Director of the Community Action Board, reclaimed a derogatory slur and transformed it into a term of feminist empowerment, Kara, the founder and CEO of Santa Cruz Local, illustrated the importance of newspapers in disseminating information and power to the people. 

Jacob Martinez, another speaker, was a founding member of Rise Together. Jacob centered his speech on networking in rural communities in his talk Beyond the Fields: The Transformative Power of Networks. As the founder of Digital NEST, Jacob was able to help initial members like Alex Chavez and Martin Vargas-Vega, who presented with him, gain professional skills that propelled them into fulfilling careers.  
Rise Together Fund for Racial Equity grantees like Luna HighJohn-Bey also spoke. Her talk, How to Follow a HUNCH, shed light on the erasure of Black history in Santa Cruz County, bringing untold stories to the forefront in her role as a shrine-keeper.  
Let’s Keep Rising Together 

Tumultuous times are on the horizon as we enter the latter half of 2024. Civil rights are being called into question, a fraught election season approaches, and rising together in the face of political polarity and increased climate disasters seems increasingly daunting. However, as the Rise Together Coalition and TEDxSantaCruz have taught us, there is plenty of work to be done that we cannot shy away from.  
We must continue to strive to create equity within Santa Cruz County and beyond. This can only be achieved if we work together as a community, advocate for tangible change, and hold each other accountable to continue this fight for social justice. We must rise hand in hand so that everyone has the opportunity to thrive.  
If you want to support the Rise Together Coalition in its mission, please donate to the Rise Together Fund for Racial Equity. Your generosity will go directly to the organizations creating change in our community.  
Serena Ramirez is a Community Engagement intern with Community Foundation Santa Cruz County. Serena’s internship is funded by The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz. Serena is an Intensive Psychology and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies major, minoring in Politics. 
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