On Sunday, October 10th, Catalyst California hosted our second virtual Champions for Equity Awards ceremony! This year’s event honored racial justice leaders, recognized the essential workers who have been carrying us through the pandemic, and celebrated our community’s collective power and perseverance.
The event was a huge success thanks to YOU – the passionate and generous supporters, partners, and donors who fuel our work. Read on for a recap of the riveting and empowering afternoon!
“Solidarity is the only way forward if we truly want a California that works for all of us – regardless of your race, economic status, or zip code.” – Wendelyn Killian, Deputy Director
Our resident rockstar emcee, Deputy Director Wendelyn Killian, opened by laying out the groundwork of the program. The event’s theme, “Power Pivot”, reflects what our staff and partners are doing – and have been doing – before and in the midst of a global pandemic and economic recession: Building power in low-income communities and fighting for a California that works for all residents.
“We need to be clear that, at this moment, the opposite of the right is not just the left – the opposite of the right is to move forward.” – John Kim, Executive Director
Our Executive Director, John Kim, shared an impassioned overview of what we’ve all overcome together these past 18 months – from a baseless recall election to high COVID-19 rates and hospitalizations due to the spread of misinformation and anti-mask, anti-vaccination rhetoric. Despite relentless and sometimes inhumane attacks from the right, the ever-growing power of our multiracial movement for justice fought back, persevered, and prevailed. In the end, we all have a much bigger job here in California – we have a better vision for the future and will put in the work to make that vision a reality. Together, we will write a new American story.
John then sat down with three of California’s most prominent union leaders – John Grant (UFCW Local 770), Cecily Myart-Cruz (UTLA), and April Verrett (SEIU Local 2015) – in a conversation lifting up our frontline essential workers. The impactful and earnest discussion reminded us of everything essential workers have done and are doing to lift us up through our darkest days. We must all stand in solidarity with essential workers to ensure that they get needed support to not only survive this pandemic, but thrive well into the future.
“I just want liberty, equity, and democracy. I just want to believe in the good of society.” – K. Sankofa, Artist and Advocate
Next, LA-based rap artist K. Sankofa performed a powerful rendition of his hit song, “B. Excellent”. Featured on his latest album, Parrhesia, the song is a poignant account of the Black experience and an uplifting celebration of Black culture and community.
“You have the right to want more in your community. You have the right to have a say so in what goes on in your community and what’s placed in your community. Your voice is your power. Use it, please.” - Kimberly McCoy, Project Director, Fresno Building Healthy Communities
We then heard from our incredible honorees: Sandra Celedon and Kimberly McCoy of Fresno Building Healthy Communities. The pandemic has shown us all how important parks and recreational facilities are to our health, community, and quality of life. These powerhouse movement leaders played an integral role in the development, advocacy, adoption, and enactment of the Fresno for Parks Initiative (Measure P) – a citizen-led initiative to provide funding for neighborhood parks, cultural and youth services, urban trails, and more.
Before Measure P, 8 in 10 Fresno parks were dilapidated, run-down, and dangerous. Thanks to Sandra and Kimberly’s leadership, families across the city will now have access to the clean and safe public spaces and services they deserve. And what’s more, the historic Measure P win sets a new precedent that allows activists across the state to more easily achieve transformative change in their own communities.
“We are supporting all the essential workers so that they can continue to move our county forward.” – Esperanza Melo, Child Care Provider
Closing out the program was a special feature on essential child care provider Esperanza Melo, whose clients include Karoly Balderas and Sarai Valeriano. Both Karoly and Sarai work as Nurse Assistants and are thus essential workers themselves. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, child care providers – most of whom are women of color – have served as essential workers to the essential workers, caring for their children so they can report to their jobs in hospitals, schools, grocery stores, and other frontline positions that help keep our families healthy, educated, and nourished. We must ensure policymakers proactively respond to the needs of child care providers like Esperanza, who are such vital pillars in the foundation of our communities.
Throughout the program, we also heard from Catalyst California staff members about just a few of the equity victories we were able to achieve this past year thanks to generous support from folks like YOU.
We hope those who were able to attend the event enjoyed it as much as we did. If you missed out on the live broadcast (or just want to watch your favorite moments again), you can find the full recording below! And be sure to check out the tribute journal for the event here.
Thank you again to our partners and supporters for tuning in, and to our honorees, speakers, and performer who helped make the event memorable. We look forward to seeing you all (hopefully in person) at next year’s Champions for Equity Awards!
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WATCH THE EVENT