If you haven’t heard of Solana Rice, co-founder and co-executive director of Liberation in a Generation, you may want to read up on her. A Soros Equality Fellow, Solana has a rich history of supporting low-income communities of color and has worked at the local, state, and national levels, including recent policy director roles at Prosperity Now and PolicyLink. A few years back, Solana teamed up with Jeremie Greer to launch a different type of policy-support organization: Liberation in a Generation.
Liberation in a Generation is a national movement-support organization—working to dismantle economic oppression, secure power for people of color, and set a clear policy pathway towards economic liberation for historically oppressed communities. Founded in 2018 and incubated by PolicyLink, the organization unites communities and campaigns to transform how the economy works and who it benefits. Through their work, they are tearing down systems of structural exclusion and building toward fully realized inclusion, so that BIPOC people can prosper—within one generation.
At Common Future, we’ve also had the privilege of working with Solana and Jeremie on developing Radical Pragmatism, a framework to guide the path to economic liberation. This framework is both radical in its aspirations and practical in its strategic approach, grounded in the material realities of people of color. Solana also guides our work through the incubator, through her position as a Steering Committee member for the program. Last December, we were also honored to have her come and speak to us for an Ask Me Anything (AMA) through the policy incubator. Below are her edited answers.
Common Future (CF): What inspired you and Jeremie Greer to start Liberation in a Generation?
Solana Rice (SR): Jeremie and I have a long history working in and on behalf of communities, including previous work in multiple rounds of federal government (through Jeremie) and local government (through my history in St. Louis). We also have experience in nearly every area of impact, such as housing, family asset building, economic development, health equity, infrastructure equity, etc.
Things really changed when we were working within a national organization, and they developed a scorecard centering big data about financial outcomes for BIPOC folks and built a team focused on addressing the financial wealth divide. In order to make an impact on our current reality, we knew we had to do something big—something different. We realized that changing folks’ hearts and minds wouldn’t be enough.
We started writing and started having conversations with people we knew and trusted and asked if building Liberation in a Generation was something we needed to do. There was a lot of appetite for an organization like this. We then built our theory of change around two things, centered around a way of working that is far too uncommon in the national organizing space:
- Tell the story that we know is true–racism is profitable and by design
- Tell a different story—not just what is happening but where we’re trying to go. We wanted to focus our policy platform on those policies that were really going to help us get there.
The Liberation in a Generation Theory of Change (ToC) is to provide support in policy, economic analysis, and visioning to grassroots organizers of color to be the policymakers—directors, public office, advocacy and influence, etc—themselves.
CF: What does your work with community organizers look like?
SR: We work with folks who are organizing and leading campaign fights to support them in the work they are already leading. We’ve gathered folks to engage in literature and we talk to actual organizers, working on campaigns and policy reform, because that’s what they do every day. For example, with the Dream Defenders, we are providing them with talking points, policy numbers, and policy analysis each time they take on a new issue.
Because we are sitting in abundance, we don’t charge these organizers for our support. Instead, we have a memorandum outlining an established relationship so that we can then ask funders for operational support—in order to support these organizations without putting them at risk. We want to be abundant and free with our time and that’s what we’re providing to grassroots orgs.
We also focus on building trust instead of building a base. We first thought we may be consultants to grassroots organizations. But, when we asked them if they wanted this, they said no. We don’t dictate to them the support we think they need—we ask them; “How can we help you prepare and how can we support you?” We encourage organizations to name the top 3-5 things they want in their movement and start from there.