Ashlee Marie Preston and her YouAreEssential organization initially planned to be a one-off campaign in response to coronavirus. Since its inception earlier this year, the response quickly showed that it was here to stay. “As we began developing relationships with grassroots organizations all across the country, it became clear that we were building a national coalition that could bridge the gap between donors/funders and grassroots orgs year round,” Ashlee, who is the first trans woman to be an editor-in-chief of a tells HOLA! USA.
Keep reading to learn more about their future plans and the best part of forming such an amazing organization.
What was your mission when launching YouAreEssential: Our mission is to help protect the dignity and well-being of vulnerable communities all across the country through social impact campaigns and micro-grants that support grassroots organizations on the frontlines.
How has it grown: Initially, YouAreEssential was a one-off campaign in response to the COVID-19. We just wanted to raise money to address food insecurity and housing instability among those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Best part of forming it: The best part of forming YouAreEssential was in building relationships and partnerships with Revolve Impact, an L.A.-based social impact agency and The Town Hall Project/Mutual Aid Hub. Working with other passionate organizers and thought leaders is a great source of social support on days where it all feels overwhelming. Teamwork makes the dream work.
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LGBTQ Pride Month is still Black History Month, and Black History Month is still LGBTQ Pride Month. Black Queer womxn are at the helm of the Black liberation movement ( @blklivesmatter ), Black Trans womxn are at the helm of the LGBTQ rights movement (Marsha P. Johnson at Stonewall) AND the Black liberation movement (Frances Thompson, a former Black trans slave and her testimony before a congressional committee during the Memphis riots of 1866). We owe you nothing, yet give you everything.✊🏾🌈 . . . . . . . . . #BlackLivesMatter #BLM #PrideMonth #Pride #Trans #transgender #lgbtq #blacktranslivesmatter #blacktranswomen #intersectionality #protectblacktranswomen #protectblacktranswomen #blackwomen #blackgirlmagic #socialjustice #activism #racialjustice #equality #justice #humanrights #dignity #respect #francesthompson #blackhistorymonth #intersectionality #queens #solidarity #LosAngeles #LA #tbt #throwbackthursday #blackfeminism
Uplifting message for the future: I’m constantly reminded of a quote by Margaret Meade in which she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Grassroots organizations may not be comprised of many, but they are mighty, nonetheless.
Who uplifts you: I feel uplifted and inspired by volunteers and activists. It’s a thankless, labor of love they’re affording society—and yet they move forward with dutiful purpose. They remind me that there’s still so much beauty left in the world, and that even my own efforts aren’t in vain.
Who do you hope to uplift with your organization: We hope to uplift any and everyone who’s ever been robbed of their ability to envision a future without strife; a future in which they possess full agency and autonomy over their lives—with all the necessary resources at their disposal. That’s my extended definition of, “freedom.”
Future goals: Not only do we hope to spread abundance throughout our respective communities; we also seek to heal the divide. If we can heal generational trauma and bridge the divide between other communities who share our common goal—together, we can become an indomitable force.