Just last March, twenty leaders from underrepresented and communities of color graduated from affiliate Puget Sound Sage’s Community Leadership Institute, part of our 1000 Leaders Project. These local leaders have been seeking placement on Regional Boards and Commissions in hopes of advancing an equity agenda in Seattle and underserved South King County. So far, four participants have found positions on boards or commissions.
Recent graduate Laurie Rocello Torres is now a member of the Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee, which serves as a vital mechanism of accountability monitoring revenue, expenditures and program and project implementation.
“Thanks to the support and knowledge given to me from our workshops and the opportunity to do a practice interview with [Sage Staff], I felt prepared and able to speak on how my analysis and experience would prove to be an asset to the Committee by helping make sure that the race and social equity lens would be applied to the decision making around funding transportation around the city,” said Torres. “I really believe in transparency and community accountability and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to develop skills that will help me work more effectively to ensure that happens.”
Puget Sound Sage’s Community Leadership Institute (CLI) program first began in the Spring of 2015 through a rigorous recruitment process. Once the first cohort of twenty fellows was formed they began their six month CLI training program in October by attending monthly eight hour Saturday training sessions and two hour Wednesday panel discussions. Drawing from its coalition and community organizing strengths, Sage brought in more than 50 facilitators and presenters from grassroots campaigns, non-profit organizations and local governments to teach and build with CLI fellows.
More than 100 people attended the CLI graduation, including the evening’s speakers Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez and WA State Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu. Justice Mary Yu, the daughter of immigrant parents, was the first in her family to receive a college education. She is the first Latina, the first Asian, and first member of the LGBTQ community to serve on the Washington State Supreme Court.
“If you look up the word ‘cohort’ in any dictionary, you will find that it was a way to define a legion of warriors, defined by a number who collectively together were strategic in what they were doing and when you stop and think about it, that is what you have become -- a cohort developing strategic purpose and vision being strong in moving forward and for that reason I congratulate you.” Justice Yu told the graduates during her address.
Sage’s CLI has prepared these leaders to serve as the next generation of appointed officials who are representative of and accountable to the region’s communities of color and other underrepresented populations. Each cohort member brought a different intersectional identity and approach to our common social justice work, which further strengthened the content of the program and the group’s framework for policy work moving forward.
Together, these graduates are the CLI’s first alumni cohort and embody the power of the equity movement as it continues to grow and shift. The power behind each of these twenty future advocate commissioners expands beyond their individual representation to a truth-telling voice of the communities from which they are rooted.