Rich Stolz was born in Seoul, South Korea. His parents met in Korea, when his father, an American citizen, worked there in the construction field. His mother became a naturalized citizen, and Rich’s family moved to the United States when he was three. Rich grew up in Redwood City, California, where he was raised by his mother. Growing up, Rich was always conscious of his bi-racial identity, which was framed by his and his mother’s experience as new-comers to the United States. From an early age, Rich thought a good deal about what it meant to be a citizen, what it meant to be American, and the consequences of prejudice.
Over the last fifteen years, Rich has worked at the Center for Community Change, a national organization based in Washington, D.C. During that time, he focused on the intersection of policy, politics and organizing across a broad spectrum of issues impacting low-income and minority communities, including jobs and income support policy, immigration policy, infrastructure investment and environmental justice. He has lived and organized in communities as diverse as Portland, Maine; Montgomery, Alabama; Tucson, Arizona; Washington, D.C.; and Seattle, Washington.
Early in his tenure, he focused on the impact of welfare reform and immigration law changes enacted by Congress in the mid-1990s, providing support to community-led grassroots organizing around the implementation of these laws and attempts to reauthorize them in Congress. Later, Rich helped to found and staff the Transportation Equity Network, a multi-ethnic organizing strategy focused on the impact of transportation policy on job access, community development, and environmental justice.
Eventually, Rich returned to immigration policy and organizing as the coordinator of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a national coalition of immigrant rights organizations fighting for comprehensive immigration reform. In that capacity, he helped to organize some of the largest mobilizations and protests in American history, supported the growth of youth organizing across FIRM, managed nonpartisan voter mobilization programs in Arizona and adoption of civic engagement strategies by immigrant rights organization in numerous states, supported the emergence of new immigrant rights organizations and coalitions across the country, and he managed grassroots efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation in 2007. He was later tapped to be the Campaign Manager for the Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign in 2008, a multi-million dollar, cross sector (labor, faith, community, business) campaign with more than 900 organizational endorsers.
Rich first cut his teeth in organizing while a student at Stanford University in California to create ethnic studies programs that would resource investment in research and instruction on Asian American, Chicano, African American and Native American Studies. In 1994, he served as a volunteer in efforts to defeat proposition 187, an anti-immigrant ballot measure in California. Throughout his life, he has been deeply influenced by the civil rights movement and liberation theology in the context of Catholic social teaching, including the centrality of faith, radical love, and human dignity. Together, these experiences affirmed his calling to social justice and human rights organizing and activism. Follow him on Twitter @rstolz11.