One of the most powerful reflections I’ve read about the COVID-19 pandemic came right at the beginning of it by one of my favorite writers, Arundhati Roy. She urged us use the pandemic as an opportunity to break from our flawed and broken society and use it as “a portal, a gateway between one world and the next…[that] we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” This poetic call for transformation got me continually thinking about what we could leave behind from the past world and possibilities for the world anew, both for me personally and for the institutions and systems that control opportunities for our communities.
With this guiding spirit, Center for Health Progress underwent an intensive strategic planning process in 2020. We aimed to let go of baggage we didn’t want to drag through the open portal and got clear on the tools and commitments we know we need prioritize to boldly create a new world where our communities are healthy and free from oppression. The foundation of our new strategic plan is community power building. Over the next four years, we aim to significantly grow our base of Coloradans who have clear personal stakes in fighting against the current status quo and to build relationships rooted in a deep understanding of self-interest to know why we’re in this fight together. We plan to organize with this base to set, win, and govern a collective agenda that transforms the health care system in the fight for health equity and justice.
These are big words and ideas, but we know what this looks like in practice, because we’re already building and leveraging power in a profound way. It’s immigrant women coming together to demand more from a COVID-19 vaccination system that doesn’t care about them, and working together to create alternatives that put their needs at the center. It’s health care providers speaking up for putting patients ahead of profits and increasing access to insurance for immigrants, even in the face of powerful industry pressure and threats. It’s Black women showing up every day to do the hard work of creating equitable policies, even in the face of constant trauma and racism. It’s white men, like me, fighting to transform a system that advantages our material gain at every turn, because we’ve come to understand the personal stakes we have in dismantling a system that deprives us of our full humanity and is ready to spit us out when we can no longer produce for those at the very top.
Community power building works because it is powerful. It’s powerful to know who you are and why you show up to fight for change. It’s powerful to develop deeper relationships with people in your community and to uncover common values and dreams. It’s powerful to stand with your people and win structural change that gets us one step closer to the world we wished we all lived in. We’re excited to step through the pandemic portal with this renewed clarity and commitment to building this power. Come with us.