As I scroll through my inbox in these final days of 2020, I’m bombarded with emails loaded with reflections, roundups, and other recollections of the last 363 days. It’s an odd moment to start in a new position and to join an organization in ruminating on its past and planning for its future. And yet, this is the position in which I have found myself as we close out one of the most momentous years on record and lean into the hope and promise of a new year.
I’m honored to be joining the Empower Missouri team as its new Executive Director. Over the last fifteen years, I have worked for a myriad of nonprofit organizations, first a full-time employee and then as a consultant. I have worked for criminal justice reform, better care for our veterans, and improved public education. I have supported organizations working for quality early childhood education, access to job training, increases in adult literacy, expanded opportunities for women’s leadership, and the pursuit of racial equity.
After years of working for direct service organizations, I came to understand that the nonprofit sector can only do so much to create a brighter future for generations to come. Many of the injustices that nonprofits rally against are rooted in long-standing public policy failures. And while direct service organizations play a critical role in supporting individuals, children and families to obtain basic needs, there is much work to be done to change the systems and structures that perpetuate cycles of poverty, violence, and injustice. This change can only happen in partnership with elected officials who are committed to fairness & justice for all of their constituents.
Empower Missouri and its multitude of coalition members play a critical role in Missouri, bringing the voices of those directly affected by biased systems into our statehouse and to the attention of our local governments. In the year ahead, we will be working to expand our coalitions in each of our key areas– housing, food security, and criminal justice–bringing additional geographic diversity to each of our teams. We will continue the fight against legislation that decreases access to food assistance programs, when 12% of Missouri households lack access to adequate meals. We will work to protect tenants’ rights and expand affordable housing. We will modernize Missouri’s outdated and medically inaccurate HIV-specific policies. We will work to decrease our prison population through elder parole and decreasing recidivism through expedited expungement and expanded work opportunities for the previously incarcerated. And we will drastically expand our advocacy training program, sharing strategies and resources with organizations around the state to build our collective capacity for grassroots lobbying and legislative advocacy.
I look forward to meeting and working with many of you in the weeks and months ahead in order to further our mission of securing basic human needs and equal justice for every Missourian. Please don’t hesitate to call on me or any of our incredible team members– Rico Bush, Sarah Owsley, and Christine Woody– if you need assistance or are interested in building your partnership with Empower Missouri.