A Letter from Our Executive Director
When I walked into URGE in January 2000 as the Maxine Water Reproductive Freedom Fellow, I didn’t know what it meant for me to be a leader. All I knew was that I wanted to do good work and I wanted to do that in community with good folks.
For me, and for so many others, URGE is a part of that community. From the Abortion Positive billboards in Kansas to the 16 #noborderwall resolutions passed in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to the fight to #BeBoldEndHyde with All* Above All, URGE has shown up in our movement in ways I only dreamed of when I first took over as Executive Director 10 years ago.
We have more than tripled our budget and doubled the number of staff with half of our staff located in the states where we do the work. Registering and engaging voters in Birmingham, Alabama, working to expand the non-discrimination statute in Ohio, and identifying new and young leaders in Athens, Georgia is exactly where we want to be. It is here where we build for the win and invest in local power to sustain justice.
We have come a long way. I am so proud of the evolution of this organization and, while I fully celebrate who we are now, I also know that we have to be and do more. The political and cultural times demand it. The young people we work with expect it. And URGE has strong values and a deep commitment to be the change we want to see in the world.
When I started as executive director, URGE had a majority white staff and constituency and we prided ourselves on being an organization of women and girls. Today, over 75% of the staff and 50% of the constituents identify as people of color. And with each passing year, URGE more explicitly holds itself and others accountable to a gender equity frame that includes genderqueer, transgender, and non-binary folks and young men.
Our work is not done. Our country is evolving. Our movement is evolving. Our communities are evolving. To stay relevant and impactful, organizations must also evolve. URGE is no exception. As URGE moves forward, the organization will be even more intentional and explicit about centering the perspectives and leadership of young people of color. URGE will raise the bar even higher for ourselves to fully integrate a broader gender equity frame that is reflected in our campaigns, culture, and leadership. And we will be even more bold and unapologetic as we organize to eradicate barriers to young people’s ability to exercise their political and personal agency.
As we stand in awe of the butterfly, we know it is impossible to hasten its evolution from a caterpillar, it is futile to judge its process, and utterly ridiculous to mark its imperfections! We can only trust that with the right conditions and in time, it will evolve and stun us with its beauty as it takes flight.
Each of us is also on that journey to realize the greatest expression of our humanity. And so, let us be gentle with one another and exercise patience, passion, and resilience during our personal and movement evolutions. Great beauty awaits us on the other side—and in the journey, too.
In the 18 years I’ve been at URGE, we have built power with young people, in communities of color, and in politically hostile locales. This work is essential to creating the conditions for justice. Let’s reflect on how our words, actions, and strategies can exemplify our intention to bend the arc of history toward justice. And as we falter—which we will—let’s gather the lessons from those moments and leave behind what doesn’t serve our greater aspirations.
If we can acknowledge that it is impossible to be perfect, we allow ourselves and others the gift of space to fail on the path to victory. I can be right. I can be mad. I can be hurt. But at the end of the day, social movements are not built on the success or failure of one leader, or one organization. It is only through community that real change can happen.
As I step away from one incredible organization and join a new one, my own personal journey continues. One of the biggest lessons I take with me is that being a feminist—being a racial justice advocate and a champion for gender equity—does not mean that I ever get to stop learning. I don’t have all the answers figured out and I never will.
As I walk out of URGE on the precipice of a new year, a new season, and new political reckoning, I recognize that the end is just a new beginning. I promise to myself and to all of you to stay forever committed to the success of reproductive justice and in URGE’s role in helping to see justice prevail. I am excited for all the new beginnings and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
With love, gratitude and solidarity,