Back-to-School: Building an Inclusive ChapterSummer is coming to an end, and, if it hasn’t started already, the beginning of the school year is quickly approaching. Recruiting members is one of the first and most important actions that chapters can take to build their network and engage other student activists. Planning out how you will conduct outreach and organize actions will help your chapter attract new SSDP rock stars and continue to grow in size and influence. Before you start recruitment, however, it is important to evaluate your chapter and identify opportunities for improvement. This issue of the Monthly Mosaic will answer the “5 Questions an Anti-Racist Organization Should Be Able to Answer” for SSDP as an organization. We hope it will help to illustrate what it means — in practice — to be committed to inclusion. You can get 10 CAT points for each question your chapter answers. Submit your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT ARE THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF YOUR STAFF AND/OR STUDENT BODY?“Organizations need to be upfront about their demographics and consider publishing their data online. This allows candidates of color to either give informed consent or decline an experience of loneliness and depletion.” Every year, SSDP asks its members to anonymously complete a demographic survey. The following information is taken from SSDP’s 2015 Annual Membership Survey, completed by 136 student members:
- 72% European/Caucasian
- 7.5% Bi/multi-racial
- 5.2% Latino/a
- 3% Middle Eastern
- 2.2% Asian/Pacific Islander
- 0.7% South Asian
- 0.7% South American
- 0.7% Native American
- 0.7% Caribbean
- 0.7% Caribbean-African Descent
- 0.7% African Descent
- 48% women
- 46% male
- 4% genderqueer
- Sexual Orientation
- 71% straight
- 13% bisexual
- 7.5% queer
- 1.5% gay/lesbian
- 79.3% between 18-22
- 16.3% between 23-29
- 3.7% between 30-39
- 0.7% under 18
HOW DOES YOUR LEADERSHIP TEAM IDENTIFY THEMSELVES? CAN THEY NAME THEIR PRIVILEGE?“A white leader can be a strong ally, but they need to be able to say, ‘I’m white. I’m privileged. I won’t always get it.’” SSDP recognizes that the drug policy reform movement is an intersectional movement, and that as advocates, it’s important to recognize our privilege. The first issue of the Monthly Mosaic was on Privilege and the Drug War, and we strongly recommend your chapter review it before doing your organizational planning for the year.
HOW HAVE YOU SET UP OR RESTRUCTURED PROCESSES IN THE SERVICE OF INCLUSION?
Accessibility: This year, the DARE committee has taken several steps to increase accessibility to higher-level discussions in SSDP. The committee hosts monthly calls that are open to all members, alumni, and supporters of SSDP. For people who are unable to attend the calls, the DARE committee has an open form for anyone to submit questions, concerns, and suggestions.
Integration: At the 2016 Strategy Summit at UC Berkeley, SSDP students, staff, and board members discussed various ways in which each stakeholder could integrate inclusion work into their various roles within SSDP. Within SSDP staff, each person has taken on the role of DARE ambassador, meaning they are responsible for identifying barriers to and opportunities for more intentional inclusion, as well as providing feedback to the DARE committee.
Inclusion: To incentivize SSDP students to participate in actions and dialogue that feed SSDP’s commitment to diversity, SSDP has added DARE action items to the Chapter Activity Tracker. Students can get points for completing any of the monthly DAREs from previous issues.Join the Facebook group to find out how you can get more involved.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE EXPERIENCES OF PEOPLE OF COLOR IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?“What if you’re not only a person of color, but also queer and radically politicized and the sort of fiery, unpliable spirit that may not last six years in a system of compromise?…If candidates want to do informational interviews, recruiters need to provide a variety of contacts – members who are thriving within the organization and members who are struggling. Not just the success stories. The people in pain, too.” Read some quotes from students of color in our organization:
“Being a member of SSDP as well as a person of color is a both an opportunity and a challenge. There’s an opportunity to offer my voice and experiences to the conversation at hand. The challenge sometimes is getting people to listen or even believe that the drug war is having such a detrimental effect especially when it relates to communities of color. There’s a big difference to the perspective that I can bring versus someone who has only read about heroin addiction statistics in low income urban area or what they’ve seen in “The Wire”. It’s a struggle sometimes trying to educate those about the harmful effects of drugs while living in an environment that basically offers nothing but drug abuse and black market activities. I remember the first tabling I had with my chapter president. We were attempting to converse with two young ladies about the harmful and wasteful effects of the Drug War. One of the girls promptly said to me without hesitation, “Oh the drug war’s over. Not that big of a deal anymore.” Leland saw the look of bewilderment that covered my face after this young lady’s comment. I quickly replied to her that, “Not for people like me it isn’t.” Leland followed with, “Well if he’s four times likely to be stopped more than I am, then there’s obviously something wrong about your statement.” Moments like that make me realize why my voice matters and that I shouldn’t shirk away from educating those about the continuous injustices of the War on Drugs. My black life matters and my voice shall be heard.”Jake Plowden, City College of New York Baruch
“At first I felt disappointed by the lack of diversity and what felt like hegemonic discussions that excluded people and issues that I cared about. However, when I got to meet members from El Salvador, México, and Costa Rica I was really inspired by all the work they do in their communities and was grateful to hear their stories and perspectives. I think if more people understood and appreciated that the drug war isn’t just about harm reduction or legalization, but also about human rights, repression, and transnational corporate interests we can broaden and deepen our discussions and activism.”Anonymous, UC Berkeley
“Although the war on drugs disproportionately affects POC with brown and black skin, I think it’s important to hear Asian voices especially when Asians have a long history rooted in drugs and policy. It feels as though Asians are disregarded/not discussed in the war on drugs and that our role is ignored. Seemingly, this leads to a lack of Asian representation in an organization like this. It’s disheartening when approximately 40% of my school population identifies as Asian, but few of these Asians appear at SSDP meetings and few Asians have headed SSDP chapters.”Anonymous, UC Davis What have been your experiences with SSDP? Get 10 points on the SSDP Chapter Activity Tracker for filling out your experiences with SSDP in this form.
WHY IS YOUR ORGANIZATION INVESTED IN DIVERSITY WORK?“As a person of color, my body is not your public relations tool.” SSDP is a grassroots organization that believes in empowering those working on the ground to overthrow their drug war oppressors. This fundamentally means working to clear the path of institutional obstructions to bring all stakeholders to the table to share their perspectives and knowledge base. From the DARE mission statement:
“Since its founding in March 2011, DARE has taken on the challenges of strengthening diversity in all its forms within SSDP. The committee endeavors to ensure that the range of perspectives & personal experiences of all communities and individuals negatively impacted in the War on Drugs are represented & integrated into SSDP & the drug policy reform movement at large. DARE does this by creating a welcoming, open, & safe space for all stakeholders.”
TAKE ACTION.Do an SSDP DARE (and get 10 points on the SSDP Chapter Activity Tracker)!
- Assess the structure of your own chapter using the 5 Questions. What are you doing well? What needs to change? You can get 10 CAT points for each question your chapter answers. Submit your answers to email@example.com.
- Share the Monthly Mosaic on Facebook or Twitter using #MonthlyMosaic.
- Email a photo of your chapter reading the Monthly Mosaic to your outreach coordinator.
- Send Monthly Mosaic to school publications.
- Have a suggestion for a topic or want to see your chapter featured in the Monthly Mosaic? Submit your ideas, or email Frances at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
- Get involved with SSDP’s Diversity, Awareness, Reflection, and Education committee.
- Know someone you think would find this interesting? Forward them this email and have them subscribe to the Monthly Mosaic.
CONTRIBUTIONSEach Monthly Mosaic is edited by Frances Fu and Kat Murti.
Each month, SSDP’s Diversity, Awareness, Reflection and Education (DARE) committee publishes the Monthly Mosaic, a newsletter dedicated to exploring intersectionality and the War on Drugs. Previous issues have covered topics such as domestic violence, trans awareness, Black Lives Matter, and women’s unique experiences with the drug war. The DARE committee strives to promote inclusivity within the SSDP network, and facilitate collaboration and engagement with presently underrepresented perspectives, individuals, and movements. In order to ensure that the Monthly Mosaic more intentionally and meaningfully reflects these values, the DARE committee is pleased to invite members of our student and alumni network to submit ideas for upcoming issues. If you have any questions, please contact Frances at email@example.com. We look forward to reading your submissions!