In the wake of the election, organizing and advocacy groups around the country have grappled with how to best take on the Trump administration and its policies. For statewide groups like New Virginia Majority and New Florida Majority, both of which focus on grassroots organizing and building power through strategic electoral work, they have doubled down on local campaigns and issues. For them, building local power and winning local campaigns is what will set them up for long-term, transformative victories.
“We’re clear that we’re not an organization that’s going to be centered on Trump,” said Jasmine Leeward, 2017 ReFrame mentee and the communications associate at New Virginia Majority. After the election, New Virginia Majority “made the decision to only respond if there’s a way we can center our folks on the state level,” Leeward added.
That doesn’t mean New Virginia Majority hasn’t been running campaigns that target the policies pushed by the Trump administration — since January, the organization has campaigned on everything from the need for immigration reform and the attack on DACA, to criminal justice reform, to environmental justice campaigns that target companies in the coal industry.
“We’re clear on who it is we’re fighting for, and who our audience is,” Leeward said. “We’re building a movement and building an electorate that can be sustained for the long-run.”
Renee’ Mowatt, the communications coordinator at New Florida Majority and a 2017 ReFrame mentee, has a similar mindset.
“Part of the good thing about New Florida Majority is that we don’t disappear once the election cycle is over,” said Mowatt. At New Florida Majority, their focus has been on local organizing campaigns, with an emphasis on affordable housing and climate justice. At the end of July, one of their campaigns scored a victory when a bond initiative the organization had been pushing for was added to the November ballot. Known as the Miami Forever Bond, the proposal would, if passed, earmark funds for both affordable housing and climate resiliency programs in Miami. Getting this proposal on the ballot has allowed New Flordia Majority a seat at the table as they look to ensure that the potential funds don’t further facilitate gentrification in Miami neighborhoods.
According to Mowatt, crafting a communications strategy that highlighted the relationship between climate change and gentrification was critical in pushing that campaign forward and shifting the debate around climate mitigation in Miami. “A lot of times, what I’ve seen in Black and Latino communities is that people don’t necessarily see the links between climate change and their lives,” she said. “Making the link between climate change and gentrification has made the biggest impact.”
Spotlight: Responding to Hurricane Irma
When Hurricane Irma hit the Florida coast, New Florida Majority was prepared to respond. In 2016, they had already begun working with residents of low-income communities like Liberty City to prepare them for future hurricanes. In the days before Irma landed, New Florida Majority worked with organizations to create talking points and other communications materials. And immediately afterwards, they sprang into action, using communications tools like text messaging services and social media to both identify communities that were being neglected by local and state disaster relief authorities and to recruit volunteers to help with recovery work. Mowatt explained: “As the storm was happening, we started using the text platform to run polls and ask people if they were okay. And afterwards, using data from the poll, we set up in those vulnerable communities and sent people to those areas. We also ran social media ads to get volunteers and used our text platform to see who wasn’t in crisis and who could help out.” Those efforts had some impressive results: over the course of a few days, more than 300 volunteers showed up and knocked on doors, serving meals to more than 21,000 people across the state.
Through the door-knocking, said Mowatt, “We found a lot of people didn’t have the means or the transportation or the resources to get to a shelter. People didn’t have money to board up their homes, to buy food, to buy water, so we’re really holding up equity as the solution.” In the long-term recovery work, New Florida Majority will be pushing for more equitable disaster response and climate change mitigation policies. “The work that we did was great and awesome, but it’s not work we should have to do,” Mowatt said, adding that local, state, and federal agencies need to do more when it comes to preparing and strengthening low-income, immigrant, and Black and Latino communities in the face of increasing climate change. “We filled a gap that we shouldn’t need to fill. And that’s the narrative we’re pushing — not that government agencies did nothing, but that they didn’t do enough. We’re really trying to hold them accountable for both what happened and for ensuring that they have an an improved plan for the future.”
To donate to the Hurricane Irma Community Recovery Fund, go here: http://newfloridamajority.org/wp/get-involved/donate/irmacommunityrecoveryfund/.
The support of ReFrame has been essential in deepening their strategic communications skills. “The way we think of how to integrate communications has shifted in my organization,” Leeward said. One example is the campaign that New Virginia Majority is running targeting Norfolk Southern, a Fortune 500 company based in Norfolk that has a coal processing plant near a Black community. Where previously, they might not have thought of their media work strategically, they are now coming up with tactics that will directly put pressure on the company’s CEO. “We’ve thought differently about where to place articles. instead of the local paper, we’re thinking of journalists in a national business magazine, where that might be more important to him,” Leeward said.
Both organizations are also gearing up for upcoming local elections. In the case of New Florida Majority, they’ve been pushing voter registration, hosting neighborhood forums, and creating candidate surveys. “We’re tired of our elected officials being dominated by money and business. It’s time for us to invest in candidates that represent our communities and have our communities’ best interests in mind,” Mowatt said. And New Virginia Majority is rolling out a targeted media strategy highlighting the importance of mobilizing the Black and Latinx electorate and ramping up their get out the vote efforts.
“We were here before Trump, and we’ll still be here after Trump, fighting the same fights,” Leeward said. “This isn’t just a fight that’s going to be over in one day.”
more blog posts from reframe
What is Safety Really? Organizing for a New Way
Jenny Lee and Damon Motz-Storey were in a six-month fellowship run by ReFrame in partnership with the Northwest Health Foundation. We took a few minutes to check-in on how they are doing.
Ukraine, Democracy and the Far Right
The TL;DR - How the meme of a Ukrainian granny with a gun hides a far right secret OR the fog of war is murky, beware of the far right OR, the fight for multi-racial democracy at home and abroad.
Collective Bargaining for Stronger Communities
As we grow the narrative power ecosystem we need to win we are taking moments to highlight the awesome strategists we get to work with. Luo was a participant in the ReFrame Summer Academy and we took a few minutes to check-in on how she is doing.
What the South Taught Me About Predicting Narratives
The God's honest work and lineage of organizing in the South taught me that understanding not just the political terrain but the narrative landscape is essential to building power. Our movements can contend for power at the level of ideas, beliefs, and values and set the narrative arena in which we organize.
The Promise of ReFrame
ReFrame’s Executive Director, Joseph Phelan, recounts his time as a communicator and organizer at Miami Workers Center as part of the inspiration for the vision and promise of ReFrame to build narrative power at scale. “I could see a future where we were touching these contacts with targeted messages and stories that overtime lead to a shift in worldview.”
Through The Looking Glass: 2022 Narrative Predictions
SAVE THE DATE: Through The Looking Glass - 2022 Narrative Predictions
Shifting the Culture of Crime and Punishment
As we grow the narrative power ecosystem we need to win we are taking moments to highlight the awesome strategists we get to work with. Talia Gad is a participant in the Northwest Health Foundation Fellowship and we took a few minutes to check-in on how she is doing.
ReFrame x NWHF Narrative Fellowship
ReFrame and Northwest Health teamed up to train leaders in community organizations in the Pacific Northwest to engage in narrative work to win.
THE RONA REPORT: THE ECONOMY, WORKERS & UNEMPLOYMENT
Exploring the narrative weather of Covid-19. The Rona Report is a project of ReFrame and Solea Signals. COVID time is confusing. It can feel like light speed and sloth slow all at once.
GOTV: Tools for Fighting Disinformation NOW & Beyond
Many who believe in justice are fighting hard for victories at the ballot box. However, our opponents are spreading disinformation that threaten the just future we are all working towards.
Threat Modeling & Swot Planning
At ReFrame, drawing from our experiences inside of other crisis moments, two of the tools we’ve been using to coordinate our team in the time of COVID-19 is individual and organizational threat modeling & SWOT planning.
A Movement Moment: Narrative in the Time of Corona
We are here with you. Our hearts and thoughts are with everyone who is struggling right now.
Creating an Ecosystem for Narrative Power
The political landscape is shifting by the week. What we need to stay above the current is what will allow us to build narrative power for the long-haul.
A Spectacular Start to the 2019 Reframe Program
The fifth class of the ReFrame Mentorship kicked off in May with a spectacular Opening Convening in Denver and Breckenridge, Colo.
5 Minutes With Power California’s Jung Hee Choi
Jung Hee Choi is a Senior Advisor and mentor for ReFrame and the Associate Director for Communications and Policy Strategies for Power California.
Introducing the 2019 Reframe Mentorship Cohort
At ReFrame, we envision national and international movements buoyed by hundreds of thousands of strategists who are collaborating to develop and advance deep narratives that bend the long arc of history toward justice.
Black Panther: The Movie About Blackness That Reflected Back Gold
First things first, if you have NOT yet seen Black Panther, stop reading right now and go watch it. Yes, RIGHT NOW. Then come back later and read this.
ReFrame Gives Me Hope (Video)
Some of the ReFrame mentors reflect on their mentees and the hope they have for the future.
It’s Humanizing (Video)
Shanelle Matthews, ReFrame mentor and Communications Director at Black Lives Matter Global Network, reflects on why learning and collaborative spaces like ReFrame are humanizing and powerful for oppressed communities.
Build The Story (Video)
Brandon Hill, who works with Cook Inlet Keeper, talks about why he applied for and participated in ReFrame.
We Have a Responsibility to Our Ancestors (Video)
Fresco Steez, who works with BYP100, talks about the importance of story and the responsibility of building power towards action to end oppression for all people.
Hope & Liberation (Video)
JaNaé Bates, who works with ISAIAH, talks about shifting narratives away from fear and towards hope and liberation.
ReFrame For Our Future (Video)
The ReFrame Mentorship is a six-month program that builds the next generation of strategic communicators in social justice, and supports organization to integrate communications as a core strategy.
Lessons From the Field: Fighting Trump’s Deportation Machine
Immigrant rights organizations like Juntos, a Latinx grassroots group in Philadelphia, have been mobilizing powerfully in the months since Donald Trump took office. For Miguel Andrade, the communications manager at Juntos and a 2017 ReFrame mentee, strategic communications has played a critical role in their organizing work.
Lessons From the Field: Climate Change Organizing in the Trump Era
For 27 years, Cook Inletkeeper has worked to protect Alaska’s waterways and the life and people that they sustain. According to Brandon Hill, the organization’s Communications Director and a 2017 ReFrame mentee, that work is always an uphill battle.
Lessons From the Field: Winning the Fight to Save the Internet
Fake news, corporate control of the internet, digital surveillance, law enforcement agencies using big data to target communities of color — all of these issues have taken on increasing importance in recent years. The Center for Media Justice (CMJ), founded in 2008, is at the forefront in ensuring that communities of color are at the center of the debate and policy solutions to these critical problems.
Lessons From The Field Strategic Communications For Statewide Organizations
For statewide organizations that work on a variety of issues, it can often be difficult for their communications staff to manage and plan strategies to effectively get the word out about all of their organization’s work.
Lessons For The Movement
When we launched ReFrame in 2015, we had one mission in mind: to develop the next generation of strategic communicators — leaders rooted in grassroots movements who understand how to shape and control the narrative and stories about the issues they work on and, equally importantly, have the strategic thinking and skills to do so.
Dream of Where to Go
Reflection and evaluation allows us to understand if we are on the path to realizing our dreams. Heading into our third year of building the next generation of social justice communicators, we took time to reflect on what we have done so far.
Why Add Communications to Organizing Strategy? (Video)
Aquilina Soriano Versoza, Pilipino Workers Center
Fighting Disinformation, Building Narrative Power
We are organizing and telling stories on an uneven playing field, where the underlying narratives have long been shaped by highly conservative forces. This is the playing field on which mis-and-disinformation is spreading. So how do we combat it?
Announcing the new Disinfo Defense Toolkit!
Curated by ReFrame and PEN America for the Disinfo Defense League. Powerful tools to push back while continuing to advance our work for justice
We Came To Win: Reflections on Narrative Power in the 2020 Election
How key strategists built narrative power in 2020 during a global pandemic, the rise of the largest demonstrations for racial justice in US history, the highest rate of voter turnout and a significant defeat of Trumpism at the polls.
Defanging Disinformation: 6 Action Steps Nonprofits Can Take
Disinformation has become more effective at generating chaos and seeding doubt in reality. As part of our work with the Disinformation Defense League, ReFrame and This is Signals have committed to sharing lessons learned with the field and action steps on how to slow the spread of disinformation.