I’ve spent many summers and falls over the last decade registering people to vote. I’ve collected signatures to qualify measures to the ballot. I’ve knocked on doors to help motivate people and get them excited about the issues they can cast their vote for to improve our neighborhoods. I did this, in part, because I kind of like politics, but the big reason is because I am passionate about people and building grassroots power to make systematic change.
During my many years doing grassroots community organizing with women working in low wage jobs, immigrants, and communities of color, I’ve met many families. I have a quote hanging over my desk that eloquently captures so many of their experiences:
“Some politicians don’t know much. They don’t know what it’s like to save for an education and an electric bill. They don’t know second mortgages, second shifts, or second hand. They certainly don’t know the price of macaroni and cheese. Or how tough it is to find a good job, or how tough it is to lose one. At the end of the day, the health care problem isn’t crying in their laps. And the economy isn’t asking them for new sneakers. Violence isn’t attending the same schools as their kids. You’ll see, some politicians don’t know any of these things. It’s up to us to tell them.”
Families across Colorado are struggling to pay for prescriptions for their kids because the cost of rent, transportation, and food are higher than their incomes. Women have lost their jobs because their babies were too sick to go to childcare and they didn’t have paid sick days. Families with family members who have mixed immigration status live in fear of getting pulled over in the car on their way to school. These are the barriers many communities—our communities—face in achieving good health every day.
Historically, we know that segregation has had a defining role in the health of our communities, and its effects continue to ripple through today. Communities of color struggle with segregation or gentrification, the lack of good jobs and affordable housing, and lower access to quality education. These neighborhoods who have perpetually been underserved are seeing the greatest health disparities, and we need to organize in our communities to take action.
At CCMU, we value our communities, and understand that things like income, housing, transportation, and immigration status impact our ability to access health and wellbeing in profound ways. Over the next year, we will continue to build out our grassroots community organizing program, and bring communities together to pinpoint solutions to complex problems. Going into clinics, homes, places of worship, and community centers, and building trusting relationships is an essential path toward improving health outcomes and increasing access to affordable, timely, and quality health services. Most importantly, we believe in working with people who experience unjust health disparities to support their voice and leadership in changing the system. This is what it takes to make sure our health care system is value-based and patient-centered. It’s what it takes to have commonsense public policy that is informed by the communities it will impact.
Some of the most transformational moments I have witnessed have been on a local scale. While statewide and nationwide change are essential, we can have a significant impact at a community level when we come together and commit to finding mutually beneficial solutions that address the realities of life for Colorado families. Now that this election is over and we can all refocus on local issues, I look forward to listening to our neighbors and lifting up their voices in order to achieve health equity and systematic change.