This post was written by Maggie Gómez, a former member of our team.
When I began organizing in Denver in 2008, I had the opportunity to work with and learn from one of the few women of color-founded and -led nonprofits organizing in the metro area. There, I saw firsthand how critical grassroots leadership development is for sustaining movement building work. I also saw burnout and what my future could be if I wasn’t careful. Over the next four years, I became a paid organizer working with an organization that was for women of color fighting for economic justice, but at the time was led by white women. As white women with less education and experience than me were being hired for higher titles and more money, I realized that I would need to secure leadership and professional development opportunities for myself.
In 2012, I became the Board Chair of the immigrant rights organization, Rights for All People (now Colorado People’s Alliance), that I started organizing with in 2008. In this role, I learned a lot about nonprofit financials and governance. I also began to connect more deeply with other women of color who were organizers, and we all spoke from the heart about the challenges we faced with the lack of professional development opportunities, the burnout, and the lack of representation in executive positions. We shared how hard it was to watch the few women of color in those roles struggle, and put their own health and personal lives on the line for the work. We didn’t want that for ourselves or each other, so we began to imagine how our reality could look if we did things differently. Together, we founded the Organizers of Color of Colorado and set up fundraising and financials training. We held healing circles and strategized how to support each other in meetings where we were often dismissed by people in power who didn’t share many of our identities.
A few years later, after some of these organizers became executive directors and joined forces with other directors and funders, the picture of what nonprofit leadership in Denver looked like began to shift. I was accepted into the second cohort of the Transformative Leadership for Change (TLC) program and was eager to be in community with people who wanted to increase representation in leadership like I did. Over the course of 2019, I had one whole day a month to do sacred inner work, uncovering my own experiences and seeing how they hold me back in the ways I truly want to lead. I got coaching to dig into my gifts and privileges, and learned how to use these assets to grow the ecosystem of leaders campaigning for racial equity and health justice. This program and the comrades in it gave me life last year, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to hone these skills in service to our collective liberation. My next step was to attend Rockwood Leadership Institute, which proved to be another incredible opportunity for me to focus on my purpose, vision, resilience, and other leadership skills.
This year, I’m putting all of this together as I step into my new role as Center for Health Progress’s first-ever Deputy Director. After being the first Director of color here, I’m excited to now focus on statewide alignment among all our organizing and advocacy strategies. As we expand across multiple issues, offices, and regions, my role will center on providing overall strategy, planning, development, and oversight of our campaigns—local and statewide. I couldn’t be more thrilled to bring my experience, talents, and connections to our recent and anticipated expansion.
In our organization and across Colorado, I hope to see leadership continue to shift to be more reflective of the people whom we organize alongside in the streets, in homes, and at the Capitol. Our state needs leaders with lived experiences in health equity, racial justice, and immigrant rights, so we need more infrastructure that recruits, builds, and supports leaders, and complements their lived experiences with opportunities to deepen their skills. I look forward to creating more of those opportunities for the incredible leaders we’re meeting every day, and I know it’s cliché but true—we can’t make the progress we need without your support in 2020.
Please contact me to meet and explore how we can renew or deepen our connections and strengthen the multi-racial movement for health justice and racial equity.