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WASHINGTON, D.C.—People’s Action Board Chair Lizeth Chacon and People’s Action Institute Board Chair Afúa Atta-Mensah today announced the hire of Sulma Arias as the new executive director of their organizations.
“Sulma, welcome home,” People’s Action Board Chair Lizeth Chacon said. “Having led the immigration and immigrant justice program for National People’s Action prior to its merger into People’s Action, Sulma knows us well–and we know her. Sulma’s powerful personal story, expertise, and perspective will be instrumental in leading the organizing revival underway in our networks.”
Arias previously served as director of immigration and power building for Community Change and Community Change Action, and before that, as executive director for Sunflower Community Action in Kansas, where she helped lead the fight against Kris Kobach’s attack on immigrants. As a person who migrated from El Salvador at age 12, she brought moral authority and determination against what The New York Times described then as “the ugliest part of today’s Republican Party.”
“We’re honored Sulma came home to lead this organization through the crucial moments ahead in the fight for justice,” People’s Action Institute Board Chair Afúa Atta-Mensah said. “There is no one with more soul and strategy than Sulma. We couldn’t be more proud to name her as our new executive director.”
Arias takes the reins of People’s Action and People’s Action Institute after the departure of George Goehl, the outgoing director who both led National People’s Action and its later incarnation as People’s Action through some of the most tumultuous years in recent U.S. history. Organizing a national network of local affiliates around a long-term agenda and across differences of race and place, Goehl worked with the board, national staff, affiliate directors and members of the nationwide network to create one of the most effective progressive networks operating today.
“To beat back fascism, there are no bank shots or silver bullets,” outgoing People’s Action and People’s Action Institute director George Goehl said. “It’s a question of organizing–can we organize enough people to own the project of becoming the next version of America? In that fight, People’s Action just put their thumb on the scale for democracy, bringing one of the absolute best organizers in the entire country on as the organization’s next executive director. This is good news for the organization and the country.”
Leaders across the progressive movement hailed Arias’s hire by People’s Action and People’s Action Institute.
“So many forces in this country are working to turn us against each other, and if we’re going to get back on a path of healing, we need leaders like Sulma,” author and progressive strategist Heather McGee said. “As an immigrant, organizer, and a fighter for justice, Sulma Arias embodies the spirit and perspective we need from organizational leaders in these times. We can’t wait to partner with her and her team in her new role at People’s Action.”
“At Community Change, we are excited to witness this new chapter in Sulma’s organizing career as she takes the helm at People’s Action,” Lorella Praeli, Co-President of Community Change, said. “Sulma has been a part of the extended Community Change family for more than two decades, from leading a grassroots group in Kansas, to helping to create and build the FIRM network – the largest immigrant rights coalition in the country fighting for justice at the local, state, and federal levels. I am grateful that Sulma’s commitment to building power for immigrant and Black people will find a home at People’s Action. We are all fortunate that her deep love for our communities can continue to flourish in partnership with brilliant organizers across the country.”
“As a new organizer in her beloved Kansas, Sulma dared to dream of a movement that brought together Black and Brown communities to fight for our needs and aspirations,” Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) Executive Director Nana Gyamfi said. “Her love for the people led her to understand immigration as a racial justice issue that necessitates a deep connection to the freedom struggles of Black people in the U.S. Even before the Freedom Summer of 2020, Sulma was working with Black leaders and orgs like BAJI to build Black, Brown, and immigrant power. She’s the leader People’s Action needs in times like this.”
People’s Action and People’s Action Institute are a national network of 40 state and local grassroots, power-building organizations in 30 states, united in fighting for justice. We operate the largest progressive rural organizing project in the country. People’s Action and its member organizations coordinated one of the biggest distributed organizing programs in rural areas last election season.