It’s been two years since COVID-19 first appeared and transformed virtually every aspect of our daily lives in abruptly traumatic ways.
At Communities of Color Coalition (C3), staff and volunteers are still witnessing the pervasive and harmful effects of both the pandemic and the oppressive systems which were further highlighted through the upheaval that COVID-19 caused. That’s why, in 2021, the exponentially growing C3 team remained flexible and adaptable to address the critical and emergent needs of the community.
“While we continue to focus on systemic change and advocacy for more equitable, just systems, our organization also ensured the immediate needs of the community were met and that self-care and prosperity were prioritized for those who deserved rest and respite,” says C3 Executive Director Jacque Julien.
In light of the incredible work the C3 team was able to accomplish this year, they wanted to share some of these achievements with the community.
Most notably, C3 wanted to highlight and uplift those staff who championed their ongoing rental assistance in coordination with Volunteer of America. Here’s some highlights of their rentals assistance service:
- Through the federally designated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, Washington State appointed Volunteers of America to sub-contract with various organizations across the state to respond to emergent needs of Washington State residents through the Treasury Rent Assistance (TRAP) and Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance (TERA) Programs.
- As a by/for organization who centers those closest to the problem when addressing systemic reform, C3 was selected as one of multiple sub-contracted organizations to process applications and review eligibility. Staff ensured the thousands of Snohomish County residents who needed support from these programs received the financial compensation they deserved.
Direct Service: Wellness & prosperity for Communities of Color
“We believe it is essential to abolitionism work to practice self-care as a way to sustain our energy and deny the harms of racism and oppression,” Jacque Julien says.
C3’s work towards healthier and brighter futures for one another includes distributing free produce as a way to strengthen food sovereignty and promote communal care in partnership with Modest Family Solutions, who receive such splendors from Black, Indigenous, Farmers of Color in Washington State.
They were also able to secure funding through Verdant Health Commission which allows C3 to center and prioritize prosperity through their Verdant Wellness Series, where they partnered with various service providers to promoted Health & Wellness. Some of this work has included:
- Drop-In & Decompressionwith Dalisha Phillips, LMHCA, who has provided several different virtual group sessions to promote mental and emotional health for Snohomish County community members.
- Zumba Fitness Classes which are happening throughout December and into the new year every Wednesday from 5:30-6:30 through January 19th at Verdant Health Commission.
- Mindful Art Class provided through The Hue of You team which provides creative outlets and artistic exploration through mixed medium platforms to promote healing and wellness.
- Free Family Photos with Ashley Kay Smith, Founder and CEO of Last Forever Images who is providing a medium which can not only act as an outlet (as demonstrated by her Beyond the Shutter youth activist photography course) but can also preserve the memories and legacies which honor past and present loved ones that our future generation may cherish and remember for generations to come.
Related to this mission of wellness and prosperity is C3’s ongoing research studies around health disparities for BIPOC communities.
- One such effort is their current Prostrate Cancer Research, as the health concern disproportionately affects Black Men who have historically and contemporarily been barred from accessing the resources necessary to prevent and treat the disease.
But C3 goes beyond providing reactive supports to uplift and prepare community to uproot oppression and implement systemic reform.
- This is demonstrated through their the launch of the first annual C3 Leadership Academy which is provided in partnership with Courtney Wooten, local coach and activist with Suburbia Rising, to support community leaders in creating liberated systemic change.
C3 has also been intentional and mindful about centering youth who are often the instigators and leaders of change in their respective communities.
- This includes the first ever Youth Advocacy Committee, put on in conjunction with the City of Marysville, to ensure students are able to identify and develop the curriculum which is most relevant and supportive of them becoming liberators and change-agents. C3 hopes to continue expanding this framework beyond Marysville and into other school districts in the upcoming years with the support of community and additional funding.
- Similar efforts include C3’s partnership and collaboration with the North Sound Indigenous Futurity Alliance who hosted their 2nd Annual Indigenous Youth & Young Leaders Conference, a time and space which seeks to imagine health and wellness in terms of future prosperity through emergent, radical indigenous ideologies.
Beyond all of this incredible work provided by the organization over the last year, perhaps C3 is most well-known for their annual North Puget Sound Conference on Race.
- Communities of Color Coalition was grateful to host their 9th Annual North Puget Sound Conference on Race virtually for the first time given health considerations in the midst of the pandemic. This year, the conference featured guests such as Emmy-Nominated spoken word poet, Christian Paige and UW School of Medicine’s Dr. Edwin Lindo, both establish and up-and-coming change-agents in the Pacific Northwest area who seek more liberated futures for BIPOC communities.
Systemic Service: Disruption & Advocacy
In addition to immediate needs, C3 has worked to disrupt oppressive systems and create lasting change.
“While we’ve provided culturally and contextually relevant programming to address the immediate and emergent needs of the community, we’ve also been working extensively to disrupt oppressive systems. We’ve created policies, processes, and procedures which are more liberated and ensure that the full humanity and sanctity of Communities of Color are recognized and respected,” Jacque Julien says.
“We believe it is critical to address both of these areas, but are clear that white supremacy culture makes it especially difficult to engage in proactive systemic change which would eliminate the need for responsive and emergent services. That’s why it’s all the more important to intentionally focus on eradicating oppression from the roots.”
Some of the ways C3 advocates for this systemic change is through strategic partnerships which places the organization in positions where they can advocate for change and disrupt oppressive decision-making processes. Find some examples of this intentional work below:
- As a sub-contractor of VOA to distribute ARPA funding, C3 is uniquely positioned to provide direct feedback to both VOA and Washington State about the barriers and harm that exist in the current distribution structure.
- Related to this effort is coordinated efforts with Participatory Justice and Punks in the Park to attend local council meetings and advocate on the equitable and mindful distribution of funding while advocating for more transparent, accessible, and just decision-making processes with emergent and adaptable considerations for community needs.
- C3 is also in conversations with strategic school districts and higher education institutional partners to ensure there is equitable financial investment in both K-12 and Higher Education per the Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Act which releases millions of dollars to the education sector across Snohomish County through 2036.
- The grassroots organization has also been part of critical conversations with the established Vaccine Equity Partnership, a group of healthcare providers and partners ensuring the equitable and mindful distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and accurate disbursement of information regarding vaccinations and public health.
- Additional advocacy efforts include coordinating with Snohomish Health District and other community-based organizations to address barriers to health access and address the ostracizing jargon and rhetoric which creates unnecessary barriers to critical healthcare, especially for those communities which already experience discrimination in the medical field.
- And throughout the year, C3 has worked closely with Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative and the Washington State Department of Commerce, specifically the Office of Homeless Youth, to establish and maintain a strategic advisory committee comprised of lived experts on youth homelessness and those who’ve experience marginalization to address the complex and compounding barriers that exist in securing stable and supportive housing options, especially for BIPOC youth. C3 is collaborating and having internal conversations with the coordinating organizations to ensure this work is sustained into and beyond next year to create communities and systems where homelessness is prevented, rather than responded to.
How you can take part in this critical & necessary change
“Our overarching goal is this: a community free of racism and intolerance. Or, in other words, addressing the root causes of the issues rather than responding or reacting to the critical needs that arise out of these neglectful and harmful systems,” Jacque Julien says.
“We remain a small, grassroots non-profit seeking to create radical change which uproots and dismantles these systems and we cannot do this work alone. We need your support to ensure we have the capacity and resources necessary to sustain our fight for liberation and justice for our communities.”
While C3 understands that requests for support traditionally have focused on financial donations, they’re also interested in expanding their understanding of support to include the volunteering of time, labor, expertise, and wisdom of lived experience.
“We’d love to learn more about who you are and the kinds of work and support you’d like to provide, whether that’s the knowledge you bring, your labor power, or monetary contributions, to see how we can collaborate to continue supporting anti-racist work.”
“We are so grateful for the continuous care and dedication our community has shown C3 and the ongoing communal effort to uproot racism and oppressive systems,” Jacque Julien says. “We’re honored to be the caretakers of the land, collectively we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to do meaningful work together, and we look forward maximizing our impact for the future wellbeing of all people.”