11. Celebrating and Documenting Your Win

A party featuring activists celebrating their victory in winning Right to Counsel

Celebration and commemoration are important parts of your campaign. When your coalition wins, it is momentous! Even if you know your organizing will be ongoing, it is important to mark your victories. Take the time to have a party, celebrate your coalition and tenant leaders, and thank your allies. It is also important to document your win, both for your internal purposes and to ensure that the story of your campaign is told through your own words. Often after major organizing wins, the public narrative focuses just on what was won (that a Right to Counsel was passed) and not on how it was won or who fought for it. It is important for your campaign, and for the broader tenant movement, for your organizing story to be told. Ask yourself some questions about what you want to document. What worked well that got you to this point? What is the story you want to tell about the campaign? How does your campaign fit into a larger narrative of tenant activism? Take the time after your win to develop materials that you can use to tell your story and continue to engage others.

Once we won the campaign, we had a huge party where we mostly danced! There isn’t a tool for that but we did get the space, food, DJ and other costs donated by coalition members. We had a very short program led by two tenant leaders (no other speakers) who acknowledged all of the coalition members and then we ate and danced!

In this section we share examples of our work that celebrated and documented our win. Included are:

  • Facilitator Guide for Teach-ins on Right to Counsel History: Celebrating a Tenant Movement Victory: A guide to meetings that tell the history of our campaign and ensure the story of Right to Counsel is told from the perspective of the tenant movement.
  • Creating an Interactive Timeline of Your Right to Counsel Win: A component of our teach-ins, this interactive timeline allows community members to participate in telling the history of Right to Counsel.
  • Teach In Facilitation Guide for Tenants on how Right to Counsel works: A guide and agenda for facilitating a workshop on how Right To Counsel works.
  • What We Have Won Through Activism: Documenting Tenant Movement Wins: A visual representation of key moments in the history of tenant activism, situating Right to Counsel as part of a larger movement.
  • Documenting Lessons Learned From Your Campaign: A document memorializing key organizing lessons from the campaign.
  • Our Documentary about our campaign: “Our Rights! Our Power! The Right to Counsel (RTC) Campaign to Fight Evictions in NYC!”

Activity on Right to Counsel History: Facilitator Guide

As part of celebrating and memorializing the passage of the Right to Counsel bill, our coalition developed a facilitation guide and an exercise to be used to teach people about Right to Counsel’s history.

This activity was part of a larger meeting. It can be used at a workshop, tenant association meeting, an outreach training, a community meeting, an orientation for new lawyers, etc. You can make the meeting last 20 minutes or 40 minutes, depending on which activities you choose to facilitate. The goal of having an activity about our history was to be able to incorporate our history into many different forums, ensuring that the story of Right to Counsel would be told from the perspective of the tenant movement, with emphasis on organizing efforts and opportunities. It was also a way to really celebrate and acknowledge our victory as we prepare for the work ahead!

Interactive Timeline of Right to Counsel Win

In documenting and celebrating your win, an interactive timeline of your coalition’s progress can be used in celebrations, presentations, member education nights and more. A timeline documents the pivotal moments in your campaign– when you first introduced the legislation, held town halls, garnered press and more.

This timeline was made for use in our interactive presentation of RTC history. The pages of the timeline are numbered and distributed to participants, and each person who receives a page of the timeline comes forward to read it. In this way, the community takes part in assembling our history and celebrating our victory.

We have included our timeline here, which you can adapt to celebrate your own win!

Facilitation Guide for Teach In on Right to Counsel

After the passage of our bill was announced, many people were left with questions about how Right to Counsel would work and how it was being rolled out. We organized teach-ins on RTCNYC’s campaign history and the implementation and roll out process. These teach-ins were important to share the story of the right to counsel from the perspective of the tenant movement and to mitigate disillusionment people might feel about implementation challenges.

This teach-in was developed by our coalition for tenants, organizers and legal service providers who weren’t yet familiar with Right to Counsel. It gives an overview of our coalition and the history of our organizing efforts, contextualizes Right to Counsel as a right that can build tenant power, explains the role of Right to Counsel, and motivates people to get involved in our organizing efforts. Sharing the history and progress of the campaign was also useful in mitigating public frustrations with the pace of winning the right to counsel; these wins and the roll out take time and it’s important to make that clear!

Our guide can be adapted by your coalition for similar engagement purposes.

What We Have Won Through Activism: Documenting Tenant Movement Wins

In addition to documenting the history and wins of your Right to Counsel organizing efforts, situating Right to Counsel as part of a larger history of tenant activism is a powerful way to draw connections to larger organizing efforts and position Right to Counsel as one component of a larger fight for tenant power.

A simple and clear visual representation helps show this history and the power of the current moment. Our poster, focused on New York tenant movement wins, dates back to winning a rent freeze, the right to a habitable home, the right to organize and the right to shelter in the 1970s, through anti-discrimination wins and more, culminating in the win of Right to Counsel. Your coalition’s timeline will center on your own local or regional history.

Documenting Lessons Learned From Your Campaign

After we won the Right to Counsel, we started getting questions from people in other cities about how we won and what lessons were learned throughout the campaign. Before there was even a toolkit, we created this particular document to share with groups like yours across the country who are interested in working on Right to Counsel. In fact, developing this document is what inspired us to create this toolkit! As you run your RTC campaigns and learn new lessons, documenting key lessons learned along the way is an important part of celebrating your win and planning for your next phase of organizing as well as for continuing the movement!

We have included our coalition’s lessons learned document, which is hopefully useful to you as you navigate the toolkit, and it can also be a basis on which you can model your own. Please share yours with us! We are happy to add new lessons learned documents from other cities to the RTC Campaign toolkit!

At the end of 2020, we premiered our Documentary, “Our Rights, Our Power: The Right to Counsel Campaign to Fight Evictions in NYC!” which tells the story of how low-income Black and brown community members dreamed big, fought hard and eventually won the landmark Right to Counsel (RTC) legislation, guaranteeing  tenants the right to a free lawyer when facing eviction in housing court.  We hope you can use it for your campaigns for Right to Counsel! The documentary is 52 minutes long with spanish subtitles and closed captions.