Washington Black Lives Matter activists raise their fists and cheer a colleague who is speaking to the Women's March on Oct. 17, 2020. Image via Shutterstock.
Washington Black Lives Matter activists raise their fists and cheer a colleague who is speaking to the Women's March on Oct. 17, 2020. Image via Shutterstock.

Amid a crushing tide of obstacles, organizers and activists have continued working for a more equitable world. We asked them what they’re grateful this year.

This year has been, to say the least, an absolute nightmare. 

When the year began, the United States was on the verge of war with Iran and President Donald Trump was facing an impeachment trial. Fast forward 11 months and the US has been ravaged by the devastating coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than a quarter of a million American lives.

To live in the US in 2020 has meant witnessing a crushing economic collapse, skyrocketing poverty and hunger, devastating wildfires across the West, an exploding mental health crisis, a dangerously divisive election, a hamfisted attempt to subvert democracy, and the continued destruction of Black bodies.

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But amidst all that chaos, there have been bright spots.

More than 150 million Americans voted in 2020, the highest level of turnout in more than a century. Mutual aid groups stepped up when the government didn’t to help communities weather the pandemic. Climate activists pushed Democrat Joe Biden to propose the most ambitious climate agenda of any presidential nominee.

And perhaps most notably, a resurgent civil rights protest movement has dramatically changed the conversation around policing and criminal justice reform in the United States. 

Much of that work has been accomplished not by elected officials, but by organizers, activists, and communities working together for a more equitable world. For Thanksgiving, COURIER asked some of these activists and leaders about what they’re thankful for this year. 

Here’s what they had to say. 

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti-Police Terror Project and executive director of the Justice Teams Network

The Anti Police-Terror Project is an Oakland, California-based, Black-led, multi-racial, intergenerational coalition that aims to end police violence in communities of color. The Justice Teams Network, also based in California, works to connect groups and organizations across the country that share the common goal of ending state violence carried out upon American communities. 

I’m grateful this year for the power of the people. For the tens of thousands who marched, rallied, organized and put their bodies on the line for Black life. I’m grateful for the victories seen and unseen as a result of this political moment. I’m super grateful to the squad I organize with who inspire me every day to give more and do better. But mostly, I am grateful for my daughter and her generation. The way they are standing up for what’s right and just. Their powerful analysis and the zero f’s they give when it comes to speaking their beautiful minds. They are why I get up in the morning. They are why I continue to fight. They are why I know we are winning.

Seft Hunter, Director of Black-led Organizing, Community Change

Community Change is a national organization that works to build the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, to change the policies and institutions that impact their lives.

This Thanksgiving holiday, I am most thankful for the strategic vision and tenacity of the millions of Black, brown, and immigrant people who showed up to vote in record numbers in the primary and the recent general elections. We did this despite unprecedented voter suppression efforts, misinformation campaigns, a raging pandemic, and long lines in swing states. We did not expect that all of our issues would magically be addressed immediately after the election, but rather, the defeat of President Trump creates the condition where we can rejoin the conversation about how to make this country more equitable and more just.

Mike Nichols, Volunteer Coordinator at Restoring Justice

Restoring Justice is a nonprofit organization in Houston, Texas that provides legal representation to marginalized members of the community facing criminal charges and aims to end mass incarceration.

Growth and impact are what every nonprofit organization is hopeful to experience in any given year. Sustainability is what they pray for during a global health crisis throughout a third of your year. Our Team at Restoring Justice have so much to be thankful for. Not just for sustainability in this challenging year, but the continued growth and impact of our mission. People were more generous in giving and serving to further our mission. And more importantly, the continued fight for the freedom of our clients and those in need.

Kristin Urquiza, co-founder of Marked by COVID

Urquiza launched Marked by COVID after her father, Mark, passed away from COVID-19 this summer. The grassroots movement collects stories of people who have been impacted by COVID-19 to ensure that the human aspect of the pandemic isn’t forgotten and to hold lawmakers accountable for their response to it.

This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for the courageous Marked By COVID community who continues to push for COVID justice despite the incredible personal suffering, loss, and sacrifice they have endured. Every day they remind me there is so much good in the world.

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