Invisible No More: Native Movement Building summit and celebration gathered nearly 200 partners and allies in Los Angeles on May 6, 2017. Completely transforming the space at The Underground Museum with Native American artwork and a photo gallery of Native American history and movements, we were honored to celebrate with co-hosts Dr. Bob Ross of The California Endowment, Max and Vicki Kennedy, Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, America Ferrera & Ryan Piers Williams, Ty Stiklorius, Ernie Stevens, Jr., HollyCook Macarro, Twila True, and Heather Rae.
Honoring the tribal land that we were on, the Chairman for the Tataviam Tribe of northern Los Angeles County, Rudy Ortega, Jr., led the opening blessing. Opening remarks by Edgar Villanueva, Vice Chair of NAP’s board and Schott Foundation’s Vice President of Programs and Advocacy, and by Sarah Eagle Heart, CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) kicked off the event, welcoming our guests and speakers into the space for a dialogue about the movement of movements, and efforts to build power across communities.
The first panel helped set the conversation for the day with ‘Building Bridges & Dismantling Pipelines: Wisdom from Our Youth’. Moderated by Dr Ross, the panel looked at unifying movements towards well-being, healing, and resiliency. Our youth panelists included Alli Moran, Native Youth Leadership Alliance; Lacy Mae Jackson, True North Organizing Network; Abraham Medina, Santa Ana Boys and Men of Color; Alonzo Hunt, Black Lives Matter. The youth discussed the importance of intersectionality in advocacy and the power role social media can play in movement building. Their individual and collective stories showed that organizing that is inclusive or youth-led helps save lives, heals trauma, and strengthens communities. Ali’s powerful call to action to our communities reminded us that words aren’t always enough to motivate change. “‘Our children are sacred’ needs to be more than just a saying. It needs to be put into action,” she said. Dr. Ross encouraged philanthropy step up its role in empowering youth, stating, “If philanthropy is not investing in young people, it’s not doing its job. Young people are leading our movements.”
Attendees broke out into storytelling session on various topics including:
Natives Against the Wall: Tohono O’odham; Inside California Missions and Indian Boarding Schools; Standing Rock is Everywhere – Los Angeles Indigenous Movement Building; Indigenous Women Rise (IWR); and Education is the Answer for Social Change. The smaller breakouts provided an opportunity to go deeper on select issues that exemplify narrative change and movement building.
Representation, Innovation & Social Impact: Lessons From the Field was the second panel of the day, sharing personal lessons from Native American leaders working in various fields on the importance of having Native representation across all sectors. Chrissie Castro of Native Voice Network moderated the conversation with panelists Twila True, True Family Enterprises/True Sioux Hope Foundation; Heather Rae, Film Producer/Director/Actress; and Kevin Killer, State Senator, South Dakota. The journeys stressed the lack of Native representation in their fields and the importance of Native peoples advocating for our communities, no matter what role we take on in life. The advice and wisdom from their experiences encouraged attendees to change the narrative through normalizing resistance and restorative social justice.
Our last panel of the day looked at intergenerational trauma, structural challenges, systemic discrimination Native Americans and other communities face in the criminal justice system. ‘When Will We All Know Freedom? Indian Boarding Schools & Mass Incarceration’ panelists included Ty Stiklorius, Friends at Work; Deborah Parker, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center; Morning Star Gali, Restoring Justice for Indigenous People; Mark-Anthony Johnson, Dignity & Power Now, while NAP’s Sarah Eagle Heart moderated the discussion. Emphasizing that our stories are all related and the need to help in raising each other’s voices, Deborah Parker put out the challenge to the group to “Warrior Up”, and not waiting for a crime to be committed before actively providing the healing our children need.
Inspired by the day-time conversations, the celebration portion of the event started off with an energetic performance and blessing by Danza Azteca Anahuacalmecac and their Indigenous youth dancers. Marya Bangee, Director of Programming & Development at HARNESS spoke on the organization’s commitment to power change by helping to raise the voices of social justice warriors. Michael Strautmanis, the Obama Foundation’s VP of Civic Engagement reinforced President Obama’s commitment to the Generation Indigenous (#GenIndigenous) work. He also encouraged the current moment to be an era of community and to build on progress through training young leaders, stating, “It’s going to be our young leaders who work together across boundaries to make change.” Guests were treated to several moving spoken word pieces by Tazbah Rose Chávez before enjoying the Virtual Reality Experience: “Rainbow Crow” by Baobab Studios, a SelfieStation booth, DJ music by Emcee One, food and drinks.
Thank you to all those who added their voices to the movement with us as we joined forces for the day to honor the spirituality, resiliency, voices, and priorities of Native Americans, helping to make #InvisibleNoMore an incredible success! We encourage you to keep sharing your thoughts and inspirations from our time together on social media by tagging us or using the hashtag #InvisibleNoMore. Download photos from the SelfieStation here.