Social Justice Leader on Anti-Racism in White Communities and Defeating the

Far Right


Erin Heaney is the Executive Director of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Executive Director of largest white anti-racist organization in US History. SURJ organizes in majority-white communities to undermine the power of the Right and bring more white people into multi-racial, anti-racist movements for justice. She brings over a decade of experience running grassroots campaigns for economic, racial and environmental justice and building organizations to enable transformative organizing.

In her time at SURJ, Erin has shepherded significant growth and strategic shifts including the growth of the SURJ Chapter Network to over 175 local groups working on issues of policing, mass incarceration and immigration, the launch of SURJ’s electoral organizing programs and the robust centering of and expansion of SURJ’s organizing in poor and working class, rural and Southern communities. In 2022, she was awarded the prestigious Atlantic Fellowship for Racial Equity for her work with SURJ.

Prior to her work at SURJ, Erin was the founding director at the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, a multiracial, grassroots, member-led organization that supported front-line communities to win huge victories over corporations that harmed their communities including shutting down notorious polluter Tonawanda Coke and winning millions of dollars for the community, winning green infrastructure investments at major port, and winning a just transition at the Huntley coal plant.

Erin is a queer woman from a white Irish-Italian union family from Buffalo, NY where she lives with her wife Emma.



Building an Accountable and Effective Base of White Communities Working for Racial Justice

Building an Accountable and Effective Base of White Communities Working for Racial Justice

White Americans are directly implicated in the perpetuation of structural racism, and also have much to gain in actively working to dismantle it. Untying Knots sat down with Erin Heaney, Executive Director of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), to discuss the core principles of SURJ’s organizing approach and to learn about how the national organization is working in predominantly white communities to advance racial and economic justice.

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The solution to the violent behavior caused by white people isn’t individual level solutions. It is a collective project. It is creating a different society, a different political and spiritual home for people and a different way for people to feel safety, dignity and belonging.

— Erin Heaney