We are writing with a beautiful announcement.
After nearly a decade as Co-Executive Directors of Make the Road New York, we will be stepping aside effective April 1, 2021. The Board of Directors has accepted our recommendation to name three extraordinary leaders – Jose Lopez, Arlenis Morel, and Theo Oshiro – to become Make the Road New York’s next Co-Executive Directors.
It has been the honor of our lives to stand shoulder to shoulder with Make the Road New York’s members, staff and allies. During every minute that we have spent at its helm, Theo, Arlenis and Jose have worked by our side, serving as the true backbone of this organization and building Make the Road into the force that it is.
We have advanced a powerful vision of what is possible; we have held the line against vicious racism and xenophobia; and this year we confronted Covid-19’s devastating impact. This community of love has responded with stunning speed and strength to every moment of crisis. We provide true and trustworthy information in the face of lies from Washington. We provide sustenance, physical and emotional, and life-saving support when families face their most urgent moments of need. And together we have built a home, a space of learning and transformation, where individuals who enter demoralized by injustice emerge as powerful movement leaders.
Each leader speaking out at great personal risk has inspired tens of thousands more. Each time we swarm into the streets to stand for love and dignity, we send the message loud and clear that our communities are Here To Stay.
This decade, we have won dozens of historic victories that will impact the lives of millions and shape the future of this nation. We have expanded to Westchester, launched sister organizations in four states, and tripled our budget and membership. And at this very moment, a 24,000-square-foot structure is rising in the heart of Queens: a new Make the Road community center and beacon of hope – where future generations of leaders will thrive.
We are proud to step aside at this moment of strength and to leave the organization we love in the hands of these extraordinary leaders.
We always felt our role was to serve as the bridge between the organization’s founders and the next generation of leaders from our base. The time has come for those leaders – each with over sixteen years at Make the Road – to take the reins.
Jose joined us as a Youth Power Project member when he was 13 years old after passing by our Grove Street office, seeing his cousins inside, and deciding to walk in to see what was going on. Over the years we have all seen his incredible passion and talent in building out our Youth Power Project and strengthening our organizing department to secure the rights and safety of millions of New Yorkers.
Arlenis came to the organization originally with her mother Cristina, one of Make the Road by Walking’s founding members. After joining our staff, Arlenis has worked to build the powerful infrastructure that supports our collective work, including the sophisticated technology and data system that connects our services and organizing, and the Human Resources department that models how movement organizations can support and sustain incredible staff. As Chief of Staff she steered our strategic plan, has helped coach many of us through difficult challenges, and is truly the glue that keeps our organization running.
Theo joined us in 2005 as our first health advocate, part of a nascent legal team of 4, searching for a place to address the injustices he and his family had faced as immigrants from Peru. He worked tirelessly to build our innovative service departments that now comprise over 150 staff across downstate New York. He led our expansion efforts into Westchester and the founding of Make the Road Jersey, led many of our strongest civic engagement efforts, and helped win crucial local and statewide policy victories.
It is with incredible pride that we share this news today. Our time co-leading this organization, living among this magnificent group of loving, bold, visionary people, has been the joy of our professional lives. We know we can count on all of you to help us prepare Jose, Arlenis and Theo to step into the Co-Executive Director role on April 1, 2021. They will bring steadfast leadership, vision and the deepest possible commitment to our base. We are absolutely certain that they are the right people to guide Make the Road New York into the future.
In love and solidarity,
— Javier H. Valdés & Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Directors