Friends and partners,
Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Midwest Academy. As its founder, first Executive Director and now Chair of the Board, it is a gratifying moment to celebrate. The Academy has been a training ground for many thousands of organizers and leaders for justice. As a strategic campaign planning center, it has helped develop many organizing concepts that have fueled the field, including building state based multi-issue organizations, connecting issue organizing and elections, driving campaigns and building power for structural changes in the society. But we all know we are organizing at a profound and perilous moment for our country and for all the Academy stands for.
That is why I am excited to introduce our new co-director, Yomara Velez, who will be joining Eric Zachary after Labor Day to lead the Academy forward. She brings deep experience in building power in Black, Brown, immigrant, working-class, and poor communities, and organizing winning campaigns at the neighborhood, city, state, and national levels.
Yomara began organizing as a young single mother in the mid-90s, fighting for women on welfare to gain access to higher education. Yomara spent the first phase of her career organizing in the South Bronx with organizations fighting for educational justice, tenant rights, affordable housing, policing, and environmental justice. In 2002, Yomara founded Sistas on the Rise in the South Bronx. This youth-led, young mother’s collective created a new model of organizing grounded in transformative practices. After founding Sistas on the Rise, Yomara moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where she spent 7 years organizing in the South with organizations such as 9to5: National Association of Working Women and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. She served on SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective’s board of directors and on the Feminist Health Center’s Latinas’ Initiative. For the last 10 years, Yomara led organizing initiatives at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, building their chapter structure and managing all of the state organizing campaigns. Specifically, she supported affiliates with organizing campaigns to win domestic workers’ bill of rights in states across the country.
Yomara brings the kind of leadership the Academy needs at this moment: an abiding dedication to justice, deep campaign experience, creative training ideas, and a commitment to building democratic organizations and strong social movements. She joins Eric Zachary, who has been the co-director for three years and has helped lead the Academy through the pandemic and the transition to an online training format.
We could not be more thrilled that Yomara is joining our team of excellent trainers and social change makers.
In shared commitment to building the organizations and movement for justice and democracy,
Midwest Academy Board
PS: If you would like to learn more about the Academy or apply for one of our training sessions, you can visit our website: www.MidwestAcademy.com.
And if you believe in our work and want to help strengthen the next generation of organizers, we hope you’ll consider making a donation via ActBlue.