2017 Tribute to Change to honor leaders who nurture new leaders

Organizers at the 2015 Tribute to Change

“There are very few places you can go to school to learn how to be an activist,” says Kathy Black, a longtime member of the Bread & Roses Community Fund family who is currently serving on the Tribute to Change planning committee. “In social and economic justice movements, it’s inspiring leaders that draw people to the work,” she notes. “Those leaders need to be responsible, competent, and compelling, but they also need to be teachers in order to pass the work on.”

To commemorate Bread & Roses’ 40th anniversary, the Tribute to Change planning committee chose to focus this year’s awards on leaders who nurture new leaders. “A number of us thought about the throughput in leadership that we see in the hands and actions and campaigns and basebuilding from that 40-year beginning through today,” explains Hannah Sassaman, another planning committee member. “Every organizer and activist who’s active now benefited from the grace and vision, patience, and time of someone who wanted to invest in and develop their leadership.”

By acting as educators and mentors, these leaders look beyond their present moment to ensure that movements for change can thrive over generations. They meet people where they are and create spaces where new activists can learn, grow, and make mistakes. “I’m certainly grateful that I’ve had mentors and people who share with me their knowledge and their wisdom and their histories that I have been able to pass on to younger activists,” says planning committee member David Acosta. “It’s always a reciprocal relationship. It should never be one-sided or hierarchical. Older people can learn from younger people as well.”

People who nurture new leaders don’t always get acknowledged for performing this essential role in movement work. “Getting recognition or attending events, that’s a shot in the arm,” says Black. “You need those things to happen to keep up your motivation and your energy. You frequently have setbacks and terrible disappointments, so you have to build in celebrations and rewards to keep this momentum going, to keep you fired up and recharged.”

For 40 years Bread & Roses has invested in movements that invest in people. “Marking the progress of our organizing in Philly and recognizing our history in building power here, even though we have a long way to go, is extremely important in these times of crisis,” says Sassaman. “There’s nothing more important today than building thousands or millions of people who believe in their power to wrest a life of dignity from the jaws of oppression in late-stage capitalism.”