Police Accountability: Organizing and Philanthropic Strategies


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The uprisings in Ferguson, MO, in response to the police killing of Michael Brown, have awakened national attention to racially biased policing. This has occurred amidst a growing national consciousness that the criminalization of people of color and low-income communities is a mechanism of the racial and economic injustice that prevents the full civic participation of communities of color in their communities – in education, jobs, housing, and elected representation.

Following are resources that might be helpful when considering how your philanthropic institution might support racial justice movements, including organizing for police accountability. To recommend additional resources, please write to us at nfg@nfg.org.


Current Opportunities for Funders

Ferguson Legal Defense Committee Issues 48-Hour Emergency Call To Action & All-Points Bulletin. If you would like to donate to the legal support fund, please do so here.

FergusonOctober - Voices from the Ground: viewpoints on the weekend of actions, this moment in organizing, what lies ahead, and what the critical resource needs are right now. With accounts by Bukky Gbadegesin, Organization for Black Struggle (OBS): oagbadegesin@gmail.com; Jeff Ordower, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE): jeff@organizemo.org; Rashad Robinson, ColorofChange.org: rashad@colorofchange.org; and Sherrilyn Ifill, Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., sifill@naacpldf.org. October 16, 2014.

State Infrastructure Fund and Shelby Response Fund -- Last call proposal to funders interested in participating 

There is an urgent need between now and November for nonpartisan, civic engagement groups to turnout Rising American Electorate voters and ensure their votes get counted. Minority, low-income, youth and women voters historically “drop-off” in non-Presidential elections, just when key decisions are made regarding issues that will directly impact their communities. The task of voter mobilization is always more challenging in midterm elections, but this year we have a perfect storm brewing: inequality is rising; more money is coming from post-Citizens’ United sources; and state and local structural barriers to voting are being implemented that had been blocked by the Department of Justice before the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by last summer’s Supreme’s Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Recent polling estimates that there will be an almost 30% decrease in voting between 2012 and 2014 (from 135 million voters to a projected 85 million voters). We recall from 2010 just how important it is for RAE voters to be civically engaged in non-presidential elections.

Every dollar invested in turnout in 2014 matters! We must ensure that all those who are eligible to vote get the chance to cast their ballots this November and in future elections!

Posted October 1, 2014. 


Resources for Philanthropy

Affinity Groups, Funder Collaboratives, Organizations, and Tools

ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities: ABFE is a membership-based philanthropic organization that advocates for responsive and transformative investments in Black communities. Partnering with foundations, nonprofits and individuals, ABFE provides its members with professional development and technical assistance resources that further the philanthropic sector’s connection and responsiveness to issues of equality, diversity and inclusion. Established in 1971 as the Association of Black Foundation Executives, the all-volunteer organization was credited with many of philanthropy’s early gains in diversity. It since has evolved into a fully staffed, influential network. In 2013, the organization shed its descriptor and adopted the simpler ABFE (ab-fee) to better reflect its broadening membership.

Building a Beloved Community: Strengthening the Field of Black Male Achievement is a newly released report that maps the landscape of work in the area of black male achievement and offers recommendations for what it will take to strengthen the field moving forward. Based on interviews with 50 leaders in the social, academic, government, and business sectors, the report takes stock of the major sectors engaged in the field and examines opportunities for other constituencies to become more involved.

Bolder Advocacy advances and protects the role of nonprofits in influencing public policy. We use our expertise to ensure that the legal and political environment in which organizations operate is fair, balanced, and open to hearing them. By tracking and responding to legislation that affects nonprofit advocacy, fighting for the rights of nonprofits and foundations to conduct advocacy, and responding to potential threats to nonprofit advocacy, we lay the groundwork for more nonprofit organizations to advocate effectively on behalf of their communities.

Center for Popular Democracy: The Center for Popular Democracy works to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact base-building organizations, organizing alliances, and progressive unions. CPD strengthens our collective capacity to envision and win an innovative pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda. One of CPD's primary program areas is Combating Biased Policing Practices.

ColorofChange.org: changing the color of democracy. Follow CoC for ongoing campaigns for police accountability, in Ferguson and nationally. ColorOfChange.org exists to strengthen Black America's political voice. COC's goal is to empower its members - Black Americans and allies - to make government more responsive to the concerns of Black Americans and to bring about positive political and social change for everyone.

The Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation (FCCP) exists to promote civic participation as a key to making our democracy work. FCCP serves leaders in the philanthropic community working to further this vision with heightened attention to issues of equity and historically disenfranchised and underrepresented communities. FCCP's members support non-partisan efforts to engage voters, eliminate structural barriers to voting, advance reforms to improve government and electoral systems, and inspire public involvement in civic life.

The Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE) is a multiyear initiative intended to increase the amount and effectiveness of resources aimed at combating institutional and structural racism in communities through capacity building, education and convening of grantmakers and grantseekers.

The Security & Rights Collaborative (SRC) makes strategic grants to protect and restore the civil rights of individuals whose communities have been targeted for profiling, surveillance, hate crimes and discrimination in the post-9/11 security environment of the United States. Our focus is on local advocacy within America’s Muslim, Arab and South Asian (MASA) communities, and supporting their partnerships with allies in the civil rights and racial justice movements to build an inclusive rights movement that addresses the root causes of race-based discrimination.  

Blogs, Articles, and Reports

Behind the curtain: one theory of social change, by Jee Kim, Program Officer, Increasing Civic and Political Participation, Ford Foundation.

Grant Makers Should Seize the Moment to Seek Racial Justice Solutions, by Shireen Zaman, Security & Rights Collaborative, and Laila Mehta, former Director of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy’s Civic Engagement Fund. A Letter to the Editor published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy: "As grant makers who have supported minority populations impacted by civil-rights violations after September 11, we have seen time and again that the solutions to these deeply entrenched problems [like police accountability] require connecting the dots—focusing on community-led strategies and funding both within and across communities."

L.A. RISING: The 1992 Civil Unrest, the Arc of Social Justice Organizing, and the Lessons for Today’s Movement Building  
“This report is our attempt to unravel at least part of the story. It is a long and complicated tale, which partly explains the many pages we take to tell it. Even at this length (and the full report on which this summary is based is even longer), our  telling is necessarily incomplete. There were so many actors, so many turning points, and so many skirmishes in the fight for justice. But we try to capture parts of the puzzle, offering key lessons to activists, social movement observers, and funders from our review of the literature, our knowledge of the history, and the perspectives offered in a unique set of interviews with twenty- three of the top organizers involved in the last twenty years of movement building in Los Angeles.” - Liberty Hill Foundation, Los Angeles, CA

Movement Strategy Center Bog: Seven ways that funders can support racial justice 
Number 1: Fund organizing as core to racial justice.

Leveraging Limited Dollars: How Grantmakers Achieve Tangible Results by Funding Policy and Community Engagement. This report distills findings from more than 400 pages of research amassed over three years as part of NCRP’s Grantmaking for Community Impact Project (GCIP). The project documented $26.6 billion in benefits for taxpayers and communities in 13 states, and found that every dollar grantmakers and other donors invested in policy and civic engagement provided a return of $115 in community benefit.

Minnesota Philanthropy Partners: We are renewing our commitment to fostering racial equity. The board and staff of The Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation, Minnesota Philanthropy Partners affiliates, have adopted a new racial equity framework to guide us forward in this work.

Moving Forward on Racial Justice Philanthropy is the fifth volume of Critical Issues Forum series, which aims to deepen the discourse around important progressive racial justice issues within philanthropy. As PRE celebrated our 10th anniversary last year and engaged allies within the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to mark the occasion with us, we heard "Have you seen any progress?" repeatedly and knew it was important to take stock of what many of us have been collectively aiming to move for decades. Through focus groups, webinars and direct interviews, our team has sought to get a strong sense of both funders' and activists' perspectives on progress particularly over the past two decades. We have heard real frustration, especially as the needs are so critical and the level of urgency among activists and communities is so high. However, in spite of these very real concerns, we have also seen clear commitment and depth of understanding in other quarters. We are pleased that through funder case studies and activist essays about structural racism analysis, intersectionality and media justice, we're able to share real progress, even as each piece recognizes there is still much more to be done. 

PolicyLink offers Beyond Confrontation: Community-Centered Policing Tools. In the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death, PolicyLink, the Center for Global Policy Solutions, and over 1,400 social justice leaders, congressional members, faith leaders, artists, and activists signed an open letter to President Obama, urging federal action through the Justice Department to improve police-community relations through seven principles.... Since the letter was issued, the Justice Department launched the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. Funded with a three-year, $4.75 million federal grant, the initiative invests in training, evidence-based strategies, policy development, and research to combat distrust and hostility between law enforcement and the communities they serve. The initiative brings together a consortium of national law enforcement experts, including the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Yale Law School, the Center for Policing Equity at UCLA, and the Urban Institute. While this  represents a promising first step at the federal level, local efforts and local leadership are also needed. The seven principles in the open letter to President Obama can guide actions by community leaders to help improve police-community relations at the local level. They represent one strategy that can help build mutual trust and respect, increase safety in communities, and reduce the number of preventable incidents of senseless killings and excessive-force cases at the hands of police. Several of these principles—derived from various police departments across the country—were highlighted in a report released by PolicyLink and Advancement Project in 2001, entitled Community-Centered Policing: A Force for Change: 1) Ensure transparency and accountability; 2) Invest in training; 3) Ensure Diversity; 4) Proactively engage our communities; 5) Reject Militarization; 6) Examine and implement good models; 7) Implement technology and tools for oversight.

Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation's most recent edition of Moving the Race Conversation Forward includes a section with content analysis on print, cable, and social media coverage of Ferguson. ColorLines, an online publication by Race Forward, has had excellent ongoing coverage of Ferguson.


2014 Uprisings in Ferguson, MO 

Can Ferguson turn into a sustainable movement?: The MHP table talks about how the current moment stemming from Ferguson can turn into a sustainable movement.    November 22, 2014 on MSNBC

Lawyers descend on Ferguson ahead of grand jury decision, Reuters, November 21, 2014.

Police arrest protesters as St. Louis awaits grand jury decision, by Scott Malone, Reuters - November 20, 2014. Police arrested about six people overnight after they tried to block a street in a protest calling for a grand jury to charge a white police officer over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen in August.

An Open Letter from Ferguson Protesters and Allies, originally published October 17, reprinted November 18, 2014. The Ferguson Protester community is home to many voices and experiences. Informed by many voices, this letter serves as a statement of purpose for those who may not yet understand the movement in #Ferguson or why protests still continue, 102 days later.

14 Questions And Answers About The Ferguson Grand Jury, Associated Press - November 18, 2014.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon Declares State Of Emergency Ahead Of Grand Jury Decision, by Ashley Alman, Huffington Post, November 17, 2014. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) issued an executive order on Monday declaring a state of emergency in Missouri as the nation awaits a grand jury decision in the case of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Ferguson Legal Defense Committee Issues 48-Hour Emergency Call To Action & All-Points Bulletin. To All People of Conscience: The Ferguson Legal Defense Committee (FLDC) has issued the following EMERGENCY CALL TO ACTION for all lawyers, legal workers and law students of conscience in anticipation of a major reaction to the (non or under) indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown. FLDC was formed by lawyers and legal workers who provide legal support to the greater Ferguson organizers, their supporters and their communities. Support includes legal representation in criminal and other cases, jail support and visits, legal research and legal observation and training. If you would like to volunteer, please sign up here. If you would like to donate to the legal support fund, please do so here.

Organization for Black Struggle has submitted a brief to the United Nations and will present it in Geneva November 12-13, 2014. OBS aims to "not only to achieve justice in Ferguson, but to unite governments around the world against the human rights violations that result from racial profiling and police violence". Read the full brief here

not only to achieve justice in Ferguson, but to unite governments around the world against the human rights violations that result from racial profiling and police violence. - See more at: http://obs-onthemove.org/featured/ferguson-to-geneva/#sthash.H6f8szJ9.dpuf
not only to achieve justice in Ferguson, but to unite governments around the world against the human rights violations that result from racial profiling and police violence. - See more at: http://obs-onthemove.org/featured/ferguson-to-geneva/#sthash.H6f8szJ9.dpuf

Police in Ferguson committed human rights abuses: Amnesty report, by Carey Gillam, Reuters - October 24, 2014. Police in Ferguson, Missouri, committed human rights abuses as they sought to quell mostly peaceful protests that erupted after an officer killed an unarmed black teenager, an international human rights organization said in a report released on Friday...

Press Release from Amnesty International  

Full Report - On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson  

Montgomery to Ferguson: A New Movement for Democracy - A perspective from Terrance Pitts, Program Officer at Open Society Foundations and an ABFE Fellow, during his weekend in St. Louis/Ferguson during the national mobilization, FergusonOctober.

In ‘Moral Monday,’ activists protest Brown shooting with acts of civil disobedience, By Wesley Lowery and Arelis R. Hernández, Washington Post - October 13, 2014. In a third day of civil disobedience, local and national clergy members with up-stretched arms cross police lines and were arrested during a protest at the Ferguson Police Department. The planned act, which organizers called Moral Monday, featured a more-than-four-hour protest in which waves of clergy demanded to speak with Ferguson Police chief Tom Jackson and crossed police lines. Among those arrested in one of the first waves was Dr. Cornel West, an activist and scholar who declared his intentions on Sunday. “I’m not here to give a speech,” he said. “I’m here to get arrested.”....

FergusonOctober - Voices from the Ground: viewpoints on the weekend of actions, this moment in organizing, what lies ahead, and what the critical resource needs are right now. With accounts by Bukky Gbadegesin, Organization for Black Struggle (OBS): oagbadegesin@gmail.com; Jeff Ordower, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE): jeff@organizemo.org; Rashad Robinson, ColorofChange.org: rashad@colorofchange.org, and Sherrilyn Ifill, Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.: sifill@naacpldf.org October 16, 2014.

Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) and Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) have identified several critical ways for allies outside of Ferguson to support OBS's organizing efforts: financial resources, legal support, and solidarity actions in localities across the country.

Ferguson October: Marking two months since Mike Brown was killed by police and still no justice. A series of direct actions, protests, and marches, October 10 - 13, 2014. Visit the website for an account of the weekend, solidarity actions, and participating organization.

Ferguson in Focus: A briefing paper, including historical context, from the NAACP LDF

St. Louis Activist: Decades After 1968 Urban Uprisings, Key Economic & Race Issues Remain Unresolved, Democracy Now! - August 19, 2014 

The Black Scholar: Ferguson, the Black Radical Tradition and the Path Forward, by Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua, Senior Editor - August 24, 2014

Ferguson City Council Announces New Programs - September 8, 2014 

Following Ferguson, by Eric Ward, Program Officer, Ford Foundation 


Related Organizing & Thought Leadership

ColorofChange.org: We have a key opportunity to transform discriminatory and violent policing nationwide. National leaders are paying more attention to racial profiling and police brutality than they have in years, due to the hard work of Black youth and community leaders in Ferguson and across the country. In order to capture the momentum of this moment and secure long-term, systemic reforms that transform policing nationwide, we need the federal government to intervene and set a higher standard of policing. If enough of us demand action, we can change things. Will you join us in calling on the federal government to implement critical reforms to end abusive, militarized, and biased policing targeting Black and brown communities?   

From Gay Marriage to Ferguson: LGBTQ Organizing and Black Liberation, an interview with Serena Sebring, SONG's North Carolina organizer, by Cailin Breedlove, SONG Co-Director.

A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement, by Alicia Garza

The Muslim Community Rises with Ferguson: From Palestine to Ferguson— Justice for Mike Brown, Justice for Gaza.

Ohio Student Association: Justice for John Crawford - From Ferguson to LA, New York to Beavercreek, the story is becoming clearer and clearer. We need a fundamental shift between our communities and law enforcement... John Crawford was a young black man who picked up a toy gun from a shelf at the Beavercreek, Ohio Wal-Mart. After 911 caller Ronald Ritchie made false accusations about his behavior, Officer Sean Williams responded to the dispatcher and within minutes shot and killed Crawford. He was on the phone with the mother of his children, and the last words she heard him say were "it's not real."

Race Files: A Project of ChangeLab. We live in an age of colorblind racism. We claim we don’t see color, yet American society continues to be organized and divided by race. Race Files exists to lift the veil of colorblindness – to make race and racism visible. Race Files uses analogy, pop culture, and personal narratives to tell the story of race and create a language that will help us defeat racism.

Ensuring the Voices of Government Reflect the People They Represent, by Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color of Change, and Cristobal Joshua Alex, President of Latino Victory Project. "It has been more than a month since the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown and the highly militarized and repressive police response to the rallies and demonstrations that came in its wake. The scenes still seem misplaced, as if taken from a history book illustrating the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1964. Yes, in 2014, 50 years after the Civil Rights Act, African-American and Latino communities are still fighting to end systemic discrimination, and for the inclusion of our voices and concerns in the national dialogue...."


The Criminalization of Communities of Color

The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, by Khalil Gibran Muhammad    


Related Webinars, Conference Calls, and Discussions  

From Moments to Movements: A Webinar hosted by ABFE on October 16, 2014 - please contact ABFE directly or check back soon for a record of the presentations and discussion.

Alvin Starks, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Roz Lee, Director, Social Justice Initiatives, Arcus Foundation
Niki Jagpal, Research and Policy Director, National Center for Responsive Philanthropy
Nat Williams, Executive Director, Hill-Snowden Foundation
Eric Braxton, Executive Director, Funders Collaborative for Youth Organizing
Charneice Fox Richardson, Creative Director, Straight, No Chaser Productions
Edgar Villanueva, Program Officer, Marguerite Casey Foundation


Police Accountability and the Criminalization of Communities of Color: Organizing in Ferguson and Beyond - a conference call for funders on September 15, 2014

If you would like to receive the notes from this call, please write to us at nfg@nfg.org.

About the Presenting Organizations:

Organization for Black Struggle - St. Louis, MO

      OBS: Strategic Vision for Ferguson 

      Organization for Black Struggle: End the Racist Police State in Ferguson, Misery  

Introduction to the Missouri Organizing Collaborative 

      Missouri Organizing Collaborative: Police Accountability and Movement Building  

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) - New York, NY

      Know Your Rights! - available in english and en español

      Priorities for the New NYPD Inspector General: Promoting Safety, Dignity and Rights for all New Yorkers - available in english and en español  

Call co-sponsors: ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities, Arca Foundation, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, Funders Committee for Civic Participation, Funders for LGBTQ Issues, Neighborhood Funders Group, New York Foundation, Security & Rights Collaborative of the Proteus Fund, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, and the Youth Engagement Fund of the Democracy Alliance.