Equity is justice. Equity is lifting one another up. Equity is including diverse needs and understanding the necessity to work collaboratively. But what does equity look like on a daily basis?
This question can be answered no better than by the Rise Together coalition. An initiative of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, Rise Together is a group of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color leaders. Their central focus is on advancing racial equity within Santa Cruz County. Members of Rise Together pursue change through a variety of settings including social services, health care, education, and the cultural arts. Each of the members invests in creating opportunities and providing resources for underserved communities. As an intern at the Community Foundation for the academic year, I have learned from these inspirational leaders and had the honor of profiling each of the new 2022-2023 cohort leaders, and sharing their work with the larger community.
A Celebration of Transformative Action
Going into my internship, I recognized that equity was the central focus of Rise Together. But I did not really understand what equity in action looked like. I caught my first glimpse of what Rise Together is truly about at the public celebration in October 2022. As I helped set up the event, streaming papel picado and creating parking signs, I was unsure what to expect. Pretty quickly after the event started, I was totally amazed. With Rise Together members representing Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian American communities, a celebration of culture, experience, and inclusion was at the forefront of the night. The Santa Cruz community was welcomed into the event, there was a feeling of collective joy as individuals were inspired to do their part in creating a more equitable community. Performances, food, and music set the tone for the evening, showing that even through the challenges of equity work, there is joy in creating it.
Throughout the night, I recognized the Rise Together environment as unique from anything I had seen before. The leaders, alongside the Community Foundation, had fostered a space of inclusion and support, with an uplifting energy rooted in their relationships with one another. Through their investment within Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities, Rise Together created a collective power essential in combatting systems of inequity. This collective power allows for necessary funding, representation, and awareness, allowing equitable outcomes to be continually sustained. This night was just the beginning of my journey with Rise Together, as I welcomed a period of growth in understanding the many ways equity is created within our community.
A Closer Look at Equity
In developing the Rise Together Leader Spotlights for the new cohort, I met with each of the members, hearing first-hand their experiences as a leader within the community. The members shared the changes they wished to make locally, and many shared the inspirations behind their work. During each interview, I was in awe of the transformative efforts of each member. Often driven by personal experiences or passions, the Rise Together members channeled their challenges and perspective on community issues into creating solutions. I heard stories of resilience, creativity, empathy, and a collective desire to serve those in need. Especially during difficult times, including ongoing racial violence and the challenges of COVID-19, the Rise Together leaders prioritized community needs. These leaders have worked tirelessly to create opportunities, resources, and safety for BIPOC individuals to thrive within Santa Cruz.
In highlighting the accomplishments of Rise Together members, I developed a micro-biography for each of the new members who joined the coalition last year to share out on the Community Foundation’s social media channels. Through these stories, I hope you can share in learning about their continuing efforts within our community.