Spotlight: Char San Pedro from Good to be Good on the Power of Solidarity

Spotlight: Char San Pedro from Good to be Good on the Power of Solidarity

Char San Pedro, Executive Director of Good To Be Good

What are your pronouns?

Char San Pedro (she/her/hers)

Tell us about yourself. The real story! (be as raw and open as you feel comfortable)

What began as an informal initiative of friends donating essential goods for local shelters in place of birthday/Christmas gifts transformed into something bigger than our meet.

GOOD TO BE GOOD grew into a grassroots nonprofit evolving into a community where our small yet mighty acts of kindness turned into sustained action, our responsibility turned into collective impact, and where our love for humanity mirrored empowerment and support for equity-deserving communities.

Through GOOD TO BE GOOD alongside other organizations and past and current movements, I hoped that we could fulfill our duty as compassionate and resilient human beings by directing our attention to every aspect of human suffering because our liberation is bound together. A commitment to ensuring we all do something, together, to build a kinder, more just, equitable world that affords all people, including protecting women's and girls' fundamental rights. And we could do this right now, as we are, with what we have.

Tell us about Good to be Good. What was the moment that it was born?

Good To Be Good is an intersectional, community-wide grassroots nonprofit organization. Our mission is rooted in humanitarian care, advocacy, and most importantly, serving diverse women and communities experiencing forms of marginalization such as gender-based violence, discrimination, poverty, economic oppression, displacement. We have a vision that a gender equitable, compassionate, and sustainable world for all is available to us, if we use an intersectional, holistic and interconnected approach in tackling the urgent and compounded issues of our underserved communities and the consequences of longstanding structural drivers of said issues. Our organization is served by a small yet mighty team of engaged, committed souls, mainly women. We believe that for any all-encompassing change to take flight, we need to depend on a heart and mind that transcends charity as we know it and sees solidarity as a better way and necessity to orient the structures of togetherness. So, for us, building community is vital for staying connected with community members and their experiences and serves as a catalyst for developing and transforming our organization’s programs and services that provide support and care for those in need.

Our mandate is solidarity first; charity second. Our approach is two-fold: we focus on acts of compassion and service and reinforce active prioritization for gender equality through our advocacy, community initiatives, engagements, and programming.

Good to be Good’s mandate of “solidarity over charity” and the perspective that mutual respect and valuing of each other’s contributions towards common goals is a new paradigm with new rules. Can you share what solidarity means to Good to be Good?

I believe that solidarity is a verb not a noun, and it’s something we do, not something we particularly are.

We know traditional charity to be a personal commitment or personal accountability, a way of helping others for the causes one believes in. What we know as philanthropy or charity today also doesn’t address causes, just effects, and sometimes creates and controls the reasons themselves. Charity, at times, can mask itself as an unequal power dynamic and looks to the knowledge of just the giver or organization. In reality, charity is limited in what we can do; it’s vertical in that it happens from top to bottom. Rarely does the act of charity ask, “What are the structures of our institutions that allow wealthy and privileged people to distribute their funds and resources in a donation environment and why? And how might that contribute to systemic inequalities?”

Solidarity goes and sees beyond that, and it’s a bigger vision. Solidarity is rooted in mutual respect, trust, recognition, interconnectedness, total liberation, and a sense of love and care for one another. It speaks to the most valid form of humanity in that we are because of each other.

Solidarity seeks to work alongside one another on equal grounds to look forward to a greater future that encompasses our humanity. The reciprocal act of solidarity aims to work alongside communities, their needs, and the solutions to address those needs. Instead of seeing this work as helping someone “in need,” it sees this work as acknowledging the problem and being a part of the solution. It’s reform rather than a band-aid fix that charity often offers.

As an organization, it means we listen to our community members and partners, centre voices of those with lived experiences, and respect the knowledge and expertise that they have when designing and implementing our programming and services, rather than prescribing it to them.

We are community-focused and don’t subscribe to the mentality that only one type of person, group, class, or education can solve the inequities and barriers facing so many people today.

How many people are involved in Good to Be Good now?

Our team consists of 11 incredible, engaged, ambitious women whose commitment to gender equity and serving equity-deserving communities continues to inspire!

They are mothers, friends, daughters, sisters, working folks, advocates, everyday people who believe that an equitable and kind society is possible if we work together and address the underlying causes of injustice that face women and gender-diverse folks today.

GOOD TO BE GOOD’s work is made special because of Jenny, Marsha, Cathy, Miki, Suzanne, Suha, Mecca, Olivia Sue, Lindsay, Heidy, Karen, and countless volunteers and supporters.

We are a community of people who know that better is within reach. It is intolerable to live in any way that doesn’t allow everyone to lead safe, just, healthy, peaceful, interconnected rights-based lives.

What podcasts, albums, exhibitions or books are currently inspiring you?

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King Jr.

Women, Race, Class by Angela Davis

How to Be Anti-Racist by Dr Ibram X Kendi

Highway of Tears by Jessica McDiarmid

Capital by Thomas Picketty

The Selected Works of Audre Lorde Edited by Rozanne Gay

How can people get involved with Good to be Good?

There are so many ways to get involved in our work. You can donate to one of our programs online, support our advocacy initiatives, share our campaigns, volunteer your time or skills, train to be a Peer Support Worker or mentor, or fundraise for one of our services.

And beyond supporting our work, I would encourage you to: sign petitions supporting gender and feminist policies, contact your local officials and representatives to demand change, accountability, and leadership, participate in letter-writing campaigns, join demonstrations and grassroots movements, support community and social justice leaders already doing the radical work of dismantling racist and sexist oppressive systems.

Also, continue to have critical conversations about race, gender, biases, racism, intersectionality, stereotypes at home, school, and workplaces. Have meaningful dialogues with friends and family members and with people who might not see what you see; don’t undermine the transformative power that vulnerable and uncomfortable discussions can have on us.

These efforts will have the most significant potential impact.

What is the one thing you want people to know about women empowerment + gender equity?

Always remember your fundamental rights. Understand your inherent worth. Know your rights are human rights that extend to all humanity. Then act on your rights. Act on your right to support your community members; to protect the rights of women and girls, act on your right to share in the responsibility of ensuring equity for everyone. Act on your right to hope and work towards a world that truly supports all women and girls. Act on your right as if you were a part of what makes this world good and just, because you are.

Act on your right to be here. And then help build a world that fully realizes that for every woman, girl, trans woman, and gender-diverse person.

When doing your part in advancing gender equity, instead of asking, “What can I do?” we can reframe the question to be more reflective on what is available instead of what’s lacking in us. A question I ask myself is, “What can I bring?” What can I contribute towards systemic and transformative change? Starting from there can help us feel less overwhelmed and more proactive, also helping us feel more anchored to the gifts we already possess and come naturally to us.