Through community organizing, mobilizing and education, SURJ moves White people to act as part of a multiracial majority for justice with passion and accountability. SURJ was founded in 2009 in response to a call by People of Color and Whites engaged in racial justice work for more White people to challenge the racial backlash after the election of the nation’s first Black president. Organizing ourselves to take action for racial justice was SURJ’s first act of accountability.
SURJ sees accountability to People of Color as a core principle central to the work for racial justice and transformative change. For SURJ, accountability means that we as individuals and as a group are answerable for our decisions and actions. Accountability is built through collaborative relationships and working together. As White people both benefiting from and pushing against racism and White privilege, we recognize that taking responsibility for our work with other White people and being accountable to People of Color is an ongoing process of learning and acting.
From the beginning, SURJ leaders have had ongoing conversations with People of Color about our work. We have continued grow an authentic, effective process that names our expectations of ourselves, what we are asking of People of Color and other White people, what our current capacity is, and how we build accountability over time as our network grows. Accountability is a core principle of our work. For SURJ, accountability means that we as both individuals and as a group are answerable for our decisions and actions. We build accountability through collaborative relationships and working together.
Design by Alison Fornes
1- Personal & Collective Accountability
Members of the SURJ Leadership Team (LT) are active in cross-racial organizations, groups and/or community efforts and have authentic relationships with People of Color through this work. In establishing organizational accountability, SURJ leaders have formalized commitments to personal and organizational relationships in which we are checking in regularly. These conversations are for feedback on our own work as a Leadership Team, and on the work of SURJ organizationally. We recognize that different people will have different perspectives, and it’s possible we may at times get contradictory feedback. All advisors need to support SURJ’s mission and believe in our primary strategy of engaging more White people through base-building, leadership development and campaign work.
Each Leadership Team member has a group of three to five individual contacts with whom they have worked to be part of their personal accountability team with whom they will check in about their work every six months, or more frequently on an as needed basis. The Leadership Team discusses and shares the feedback we have received every six months. SURJ chapters and affiliates** and other SURJ leaders are also expected to develop accountability relationships and check-in with them on a regular basis about their local, regional and national work with SURJ.
2- Organizational Accountability
SURJ has created an Accountability Council as a mechanism of accountability to communities, activists and organizations of color. The AC supports SURJ’s mission to contribute meaningfully and effectively in efforts to build a broader and more powerful multiracial movement for racial justice.
The Accountability Council engages leaders of color, beginning with those who already have current relationships with SURJ (either through individual workgroup and leadership members, current accountability relationships or with the organization’s work). We also plan to include White people engaged in racial justice in conversation about the work of SURJ and the needs of movement building for racial justice.
The relationship between the Leadership Team and the Accountability Council is based on building relationships based on mutual respect, trust and collective vision. The Accountability Council is not a body that the Leadership Team turns to for all of our answers, to tell us what to do, how to think or to give us direction. SURJ is committed to doing this hard work. Instead, this body serves to hold SURJ accountable to its dreams, visions, actions and commitments. The two groups (AC and LT) are establishing mechanisms for communication, discussion, strategizing, information sharing and beyond. The AC is part of the collective we of SURJ.
The SURJ accountability council consists of eight to twelve racial justice leaders of color, as well as two to four White people committed to racial justice. The council will always be majority People of Color. Ideally, terms would be staggered so that no more than 1/3 of the group would be new once the group is established.
- Affirm SURJ’s key shared values, including the importance of White people organizing other White people for racial justice (see SURJ Values Statement)
- Accountable to communities of color engaged in movements for racial justice and movement building.
- Approach this work from an organizing perspective
- Diverse in terms of racial, geographic and age diversity, methods of social change, local regional and national work, etc.
3- Accountability to Organizations, Campaigns & Movements
The next step for SURJ as an organization is building partnerships with People of Color-led organizations through shared campaign work. We are developing these relationship as we speak.
SURJ believes accountability must be grounded in relationships built in our work together for collective change. In the words of the great Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, “we make the road by walking.” We recognize the long history in the US of reinforcing and sustaining racism, colonization, and White supremacy and the different and varied impacts on different populations of People of Color ranging from discrimination and harassment, to murder and genocide. This understanding of history helps guide our work, and underlines our commitment to accountability and to doing the work as White people to broaden and deepen the community of White people engage in racial justice work.
** SURJ Chapters: A chapter of SURJ is a local group that is closely aligned with SURJ and shares a mission, vision, goals and strategy with the organization.
**SURJ Affiliate: A group that existed prior to SURJ but agrees with the mission, goals and strategies of the organization and works with SURJ on campaigns and actions. This may also include groups that are statewide, regional, national or international.
Developed initially by Paul Kivel, Pam McMichael, Carla Wallace, Bernie Schlotfeldt and Dara Silverman with input from the SURJ Leadership Team. Approved by the SURJ Leadership Team on April 18, 2013
Further development and much appreciation to the Accountability Workgroup Maggie Potapchuk, Pam Nath, Becky Rafter, Lisa Albrecht and Bernie Schlotfeldt. Revisions based on both processes and discussions by Leadership Team members Carla Wallace, Maggie Potapchuk, Murphy Stack, Dara Silverman and Pam McMichael.
Approved by the SURJ Leadership Team on April 27, 2014- Lisa Albrecht, Jlove Calderon, Z! Haukeness, Pam McMichael, Maggie Potapchuk, Sean O’Neill, Bernie Schlotfeldt, Murphy Stack, Dara Silverman and Carla Wallace.