Funder Briefing: Freedom Cities

October 26, 2017

Recognizing the need for a visionary approach to the challenges facing all communities under attack by the new political regime, EnlaceElla Baker Center for Human Rights, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)—organizations with decades of experience organizing and advocating for women, Black and immigrant families, and poor and low-wage workers—have come together to initiate the Freedom Cities Movement. Launched on inauguration day by multiracial immigrant workers and allies, this emerging movement has articulated an innovative, intersectional analysis and model that seeks to make entire cities, towns, rural areas, and communities safe for all oppressed people in the U.S.

The discussion featured:

The speakers framed the funder briefing by providing the political context around the formation and launch of Freedom Cities. They then spoke on how Freedom Cities began, the community impact of their work and collaboration, and their strategies to advance their work both internally within their organizations and externally through advocacy and inclusive narrative-building.   

Key Take-Aways 

  • FREEDOM BEYOND SANCTUARY: Freedom citiescame out through a proactive vision of economic opportunity, gender justice, racial justice, and intersectionality. It means looking beyond sanctuary to truly free our communities. As Lilla Watson said, “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is tied with mine, then let us work together.”   
  • FREEDOM IS THE GOAL OF ALL MOVEMENTS: Because of the durability of the systems that perpetuate injustice and the intersection of these issues, we must de-silo our work.   
  • FREEDOM IS REDEFINING SAFETY so that we can think beyond criminalization as a way to resolve our problems, and find healing and transformation. Criminalization must also be tackled as a whole—winning the smaller battles are part of the strategy but we must remain focused on the big picture of dismantling systems the perpetuate injustice.
  • OFFENSIVE & DEFENSIVE STRATEGIES must both be at play. Being on the defense is unsustainable for the long-run, so we must think about our offensive efforts and align them with the movement we’re leading.
  • COLLABORATION IS KEY to strengthening this grassroots-led and initiated movement. We can pool together the people and resources we already have to build the base and to truly think about what it means to have inclusive narratives, movements, and communities.

Next Steps for Funders

  • Fund the movement—follow up with organizers to find out how to support locally or nationally.
  • Organize within the philanthropic sector and spread the word to other funders that if you are committed to the humanity and freedom of all, you need to learn about freedom cities.
  • Stay in principled and disciplined struggle with organizers and folks continuing to learn and grow.

Reach out to us at to learn more about how Freedom Cities connects movements for racial justice, worker justice, immigrant rights/migrant justice, and an end to state violence.