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We live in unprecedented and challenging times that speak to our increased interdependence as human beings—from the COVID-19 pandemic to the uprising in defense of Black lives to the intensifying climate crisis. All of these challenges have hit California particularly hard, showing us how and why building toward a world where we all belong is more important than ever.

Recent acute instances of failed political leadership—particularly around the pandemic and an ongoing lack of action to protect Black lives—have shone a bright light on questions essential to our future as a country: Who are we? Who are we becoming? Who must we become if we are to create a different world where everyone belongs?

We founded Blueprint for Belonging to answer these fundamental questions. It was a radical proposition in 2015 to say that we must build a big “we” out of our tighter-knit, smaller “we” identities. Still more ambitious was to make it a “we” that doesn’t dismiss our individual and community identities, and one that doesn’t turn away from or sidestep dynamics like anti-Black racism and immigrant resentment that splinter a broad-based social contract. Racial dynamics impact everything from voter turnout to views on tax reform to support for a Muslim travel ban or border wall. It was radical to say that fear of the other and racial anxiety cross race lines, operate within communities of color, and can get in the way of addressing economic inequality. We proposed that the embedded racist and white-supremacist metanarrative that shapes this country—and that is deployed again and again, strategically—needed to be confronted head-on with a narrative strategy that the project calls “Redefining Who Belongs.” 

Through this project, we create and use narrative strategies to address the growing racialized inequality we see in California that pits the state’s progressive promise against a harsh, unjust reality. Our work is in service to and in partnership with community organizations and movements working tirelessly across the state to achieve a bold, inclusive vision for a California we believe is necessary and possible. 

Everything we do at Blueprint for Belonging is rooted in love and justice. We lift up love because relationships matter. The most effective movements toward transformative change are those which engage in sustained relationship building to develop and advance a strategic narrative of belonging. We lift up justice because we must fight for a social contract where everyone belongs and has a genuine opportunity at achieving and living a new California dream that centers our health and Mother Earth as inextricably intertwined.

We hope this community blueprint can be a resource to bolster our collective efforts by growing our capacity and connections to create a California where we all belong. 

In peace and love,
Olivia E. Araiza, Josh Clark, Sara Grossman, Gerald Lenoir, Miriam Magaña Lopez, and Eli Moore

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