Building Coalitions Across Perspectives
November 22, 2021
By Kenny Garcia, Associate Librarian
When the question of “what changes are necessary to advance racial and social justice” was posed to me, I immediately thought of the important organizing tenets in social justice work and landed squarely on the need for and the role of coalition building.
Coalition building is the idea that various groups or organizations work together on a specific project or campaign. One local example at CSUMB has been the formation of employee affinity groups (EAG) at CSUMB and the collaborative nature that these groups have taken on to address concerns and issues regarding justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion impacting CSUMB faculty and staff. Currently, the EAGs include LGBTQ+ Affinity Group, Asian Pacific Islander Affinity Group, African American Heritage Faculty & Staff Alliance, CSUMB Latinx Faculty and Staff Colectiva, Native American Council, Veterans Affinity Group, and Muslim Affinity Group. The affinity groups work together to address common issues faced by all of the EAGs.
In this regard, diverse groups self organize around topics and areas of interest. While many groups are aligned by racial and ethnic identities, other groups are organized around other social identities and in response to campus concerns. These coalitions don’t necessarily have long-term commitments, but organize to build community between and among themselves. The key is finding values that are shared by all of the organizations or finding a common cause that all of the organizations can agree to work on together. Social justice work is multifaceted and involves short-term and long-term goals. Some goals are temporary while others are more permanent. Some projects include reformist and revolutionary organizations working together to address a community concern. One example of this kind of work can be found in the Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) coalition that includes thirty voting organizational members, thirty seven supporting organizational members, and one hundred thirty three organizational partners. Each organization brings in an important perspective and expertise that provides community support for various campaigns. These organizations have found a common cause to work together on.
One strategy is to find commonality in various group’s issues. Beautiful Trouble is an online resource that shares tactics, theories, principles, and methodologies that support social justice movements and projects. One of the principles shared in this toolkit is “One no, many yesses,” which recognizes that in order to build a powerful and diverse coalition, multiple constituents can put forward different yesses by uniting under one major no. The example given is family farms, indigenous water rights, and lower emission campaigns organizing under a Stop the Pipeline campaign. As members of one or multiple employee affinity groups, membership across all of the EAGs have the power to push the campus towards a more equitable and asset-based work environment for all employees. It’s time to hold each other accountable and take collective action based on the justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion values that the campus has been striving to achieve through its Inclusive Excellence plan.
Along with the EAGs, CSUMB is fortunate to have a local campus affiliate of the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI), which provides diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training for individuals to gain skills in resolving interpersonal and organizational issues. Keep an eye out on future workshops to support your personal growth and skill building through NCBI and the Office of Inclusive Excellence.