Rinku Sen is the President and Executive Director of Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation and the Publisher of the award-winning news site Colorlines. Race Forward brings systemic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity through research, media, and practice.
Under Sen’s leadership, Race Forward has generated some of the most impactful racial justice successes. One example is the groundbreaking Shattered Families report, which changed the immigration debate with research on how record deportations of parents were leading to the placement of thousands of children in foster care, often separating them permanently from their families. Sen was the architect of Drop the I-Word, a campaign for media outlets to stop referring to immigrants as “illegal,” resulting in the Associated Press, USA Today, LA Times, and many more outlets dropping the i-word, affecting millions of readers every day.
A visionary and a pragmatist, Sen is one of the leading voices in the racial justice movement, building upon the legacy of civil rights by transforming the way we talk about race, from something that is individual, intentional, and overt to something that is systemic, unconscious, and hidden. Prior to her work at Race Forward, Rinku served in leadership roles for over a decade at the revolutionary Center for Third World Organizing (CTWO), where she trained new organizers of color and crafted public policy campaigns. Sen’s cutting edge book Stir it Up, read widely by community organizers and taught on campuses across the country, theorized a model of community organizing that integrate a political analysis of gender, class, poverty, sexuality, and other issues.
Sen’s second book The Accidental American: Immigration and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization told the story of Moroccan immigrant Fekkak Mamdouh, who co-founded the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York in the aftermath of September 11 and is currently being made into a film.
Rinku is the Co-Chair of the Schott Foundation for Public Education and sits on the boards of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Working America, and the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity. A highly sought-after keynote speaker for colleges Sen has spoken at Harvard, Brown, University of Michigan, Penn State, and was the Commencement Speaker at Antioch New England.
Sen received a B.A. in Women’s Studies from Brown University and an M.S. in Journalism at Columbia University. A native of India, Rinku grew up in the northeastern factory towns, and learned to speak English in a two-room schoolhouse.