By Maria Zamudio
In January Causa Justa::Just Cause’s (CJJC) member leaders and staff began our first three-month political and organizational learning process, the Universidad Assata Shakur. This is a way for member leaders from San Francisco and Oakland to deeply engage with the goals, work and structure of our organization and be able to be even stronger leaders and decision-makers within it.
The weekly two-hour sessions ranged from presentations on the structure of the organization since the merger between St. Peter’s Housing and Just Cause, overviews on economy and our political framework, as well as skills development and practice. Participants connected to different aspects of our work based on their specific interest by joining one of our established committees. These include the Tenant Clinic committee, the Civic Engagement committee, the Immigrant Rights Campaign committee, and the Housing Rights Campaign committee. In these committees members were able to connect our ideological frameworks and organizational structures to the work that we do, as well as practice some of the facilitation and leadership skills they were developing.
As Carlos Lola, a member leader from San Francisco says, “through the learning process and discussions that we have at Universidad, members are able to deepen and solidify our skills and understanding so we can go into our communities and share what we have learned and do the work more effectively, and at the end of the day that is the goal.”
Additionally, members built relationships and closer ties, getting to know each other both personally and politically. As a merged organization with a much larger and growing membership in two different cities, it is crucial for members to build connections with each other consistently and in deep ways. “Being able to get to know and come together with the San Francisco members and understand and work towards a common goal is such an important part of Universidad and helps strengthen our leadership as members in the organization” shares Ms. Hiba Sherry, an Oakland member.
There were many highlights and powerful moments throughout the three-month process. One member leader from San Francisco recalls the session on different leadership styles and effective communication practices: “I really liked that we talked about all the different types of leaders that there are and being able to see which one I connected with. As someone that is not as outspoken as other people it’s really great to know that there are many different ways to be a leader and that they are all important.”
>Through our collective commitment to learning and growing, staff and members from both San Francisco and Oakland have already done so much work in the Universidad, and our foundation and capacity are only getting stronger.