What is your organization’s issue focus?
Texas Freedom Network was founded in 1995 by Cecile Richards as a counter to the growing influence of the religious right in the state, initially as an educational advocacy organization. Since then, our reach has grown to encompass organizing and advocacy work on a broad range of issues from textbook censorship and book banning to LGBTQ+ equality, reproductive freedom, climate justice, criminal justice, and voting rights. We ensure that progressive voices — especially voices of young people, BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ folks, and progressive people of faith — are at the table. This takes the form of political endorsements, legislative organizing and testimony, robust advocacy campaigns focused on the issues that impact Texans.
What is something your organization is currently prioritizing? Can you tell our readers a little about the goals of the campaign/project?
Last year, TFN launched a Teach the Truth campaign, a multi-tier grassroots campaign to tackle the politicization of schools and children’s education, especially as it relates to race and LGBTQ+ representation. Our campaign includes online organizing and digital campaigning strategies – in collaboration with over a dozen other state and national organizations – to build a well-informed and mobilized community of Texans. Texans are witnessing a growing assault on public education and on teaching an accurate historical truth in our classrooms. During the 87th Texas legislative session, lawmakers pushed forward a narrative around a theory of education used in only a few higher collegiate courses to limit how race, slavery, and history are taught in Texas schools. The hyper-fixation on school censorship by politicians continues as we see moves to ban books from school libraries. The books in question mostly deal with race or LGBTQIA+ people.
Via our campaign, we’re utilizing in-person and digital strategies to provide parents, teachers, and other advocates with tools and resources to swiftly take action at their local school board meetings. Our Teach the Truth coalition believes that students of all ages, races, and backgrounds deserve an accurate, honest, and quality education that allows them to see themselves represented, access truthful information, and learn from our past in order to build a better future for themselves and our country.
Do you have an “Advocacy Tip” to share or “Lesson Learned” while organizing this or other campaigns? Do you have any general words of wisdom that you’d like to share with other staff engaged in advocacy.
When speaking about educational advocacy, it’s key that we put students first. This holds true when we’re messaging against textbook censorship, book banning, or for an honest and accurate education that doesn’t whitewash our history. We’ve also found that framing your values statement around what is best for students works when speaking against school vouchers as well. In terms of organizing folks around education advocacy, by putting students first, we can make sure not to alienate anyone or make people feel like we’re pitting them against someone else. Teachers are not the problem. Parents are not the problem. We won’t fall into that false messaging used by politicians hoping to pit us against ourselves. We are working to obtain what’s best for our students so they can have a better future, and we won’t be tricked by politicians using education for political gain!
Many of our member organizations work with both our Bolder Advocacy initiative and our Justice program. How has either or both most helped you? How have you worked with either or both?
Texas Freedom Network has had a long history of work with AFJ – in fact, our partnership probably spans about 20 years! AFJ has been pivotal in helping groups like ours navigate compliance as we dive into complicated C3/C4 distinctions during cross-organization projects and tackle political advocacy goals. For example, in 2015, TFN and AFJ partnered to create a fact sheet for churches and houses of worship to clarify what they could and could not do in their advocacy supporting the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
Who inspires you??This can be an inspiration to you personally or an organizational inspiration.
[from Imelda Mejia, Director of Communications for Texas Freedom Network] Speaking for myself, personally, I am inspired by Kimberlé Crenshaw. As a young college student learning more about the world and diving into civil rights and equity, her teachings around intersectionality and how social identities overlap and therefore must work together to end systems of oppression solidified my desire to work in this space. Texas Freedom Network is a multi-issue organization, and as the organization knows fighting for our freedoms every day, we see how each issue intersects and how we’re all tied together in trying to achieve a better Texas.
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