January 13, 2020

Announcing FFJ’s Latest Field Advisor Cohort

Funders for Justice is excited to share the latest cohort of FFJ Field Advisors. FFJ looks forward to expanding our own understanding to support organizing toward racial and gender justice, and to growing our commitment to mobilize resources toward transformative social change. As this dynamic group continues to build momentum with their leadership and organizing in racial justice, gender justice, and anti-criminalization movements, they will also work together with FFJ to continue to envision a new way forward for philanthropy.

FFJ hosted its third national funder organizing meeting in October 2019. Joining the participants were FFJ’s third cohort of advisors, including four new advisors. Advisors met with staff the day before the FFJ national meeting, to identify key needs in a new approach in funding and how FFJ can best support the field. The next day, advisors joined FFJ members and leaders in conversations throughout the day, painting a picture of challenges that lie ahead in the current political climate as well as the historical context to current struggles.

 

2019-2021 Cohort of FFJ Field Advisors

 

FFJ Field Advisors are thought leaders and partners in the work to support and sustain grassroots movements. Their visions for justice and what is needed from philanthropy provide invaluable insights to guide our efforts. In their commitment, the FFJ Field Advisors are ready to organize with philanthropy and deepen their relationship with FFJ and its members. They will continue to lead profound conversations and offer strategic guidance toward practices that lift up community safety and justice models.

We are excited for the FFJ membership to learn from their leadership and experience, and hope you will join us to strategize together on how we can best support movements organizing for social justice.

Here are the 2019-2021 FFJ Field Advisors:

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, Highlander Research Center
Celeste Faison, ‘me too.’
Charlene Carruthers, Chicago Center for Leadership and Transformation
Fahd Ahmed, Desis Rising Up and Moving
Jenny Arwade, Communities United
Marbre Stahly-Butts, Law for Black Lives
Mark-Anthony Clayton-Johnson, Resilient Strategies
Mary Hooks, Southerners on New Ground
Morning Star Gali, Restoring Justice for Indigenous Peoples
Ola Osaze, Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project
Priscilla Gonzalez, Mijente
Zachary Norris, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

 


 

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson is a 34 year old, Affrilachian (Black Appalachian), working class woman, born and raised in Southeast Tennessee. Ash-Lee is the first black woman Executive Director of the Highlander Research & Education Center, a social justice leadership training school and cultural center founded in 1932. Through popular education, language justice, participatory research, cultural work, and intergenerational organizing, they help create spaces — at Highlander and in communities — where people gain knowledge, hope and courage, expanding their ideas of what is possible. Ash-Lee is a long-time activist working against environmental racism in central and southern Appalachia, and has fought for workers rights, racial justice, women and LGBTQUIA+ rights, reproductive justice, international human rights, and led-intergenerational social movements across the South. She serves on the governance council of the Southern Movement Assembly and is a nationally recognized leader in the Movement for Black Lives.

Celeste Faison is a strategist and trainer who cut her teeth organizing in the Blackbelt, with 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement. She's been active ever since, working around issues of labor, electoral justice and policing. She is currently the NDWA Director of Black Organizing, where she launched “We Dream in Black,” a multi-state initiative that increases the leadership capacity of Black workers organizing for respect, recognition, and inclusion in labor protections. Piloted in New York and Georgia, the program has since expanded to seven states. Celeste oversees chapter development, leadership development, and the campaign strategy. She recently co-published a multimedia report "Pay, Professionalism and Respect" focused on Black domestic workers in the South, in partnership with IPS. Before joining NDWA Celeste was the lead organizer at Youth Together, in the Bay Area, CA, managing director of the Black Arts and Cultural Center in Selma, AL and national assistant trainer director at the League of Young Voters. 

Currently, Celeste serves as a founding director of the Blackout Collective, a training organization with a mission to train 20,000 Black direct-action strategist and practitioners by 2021. She is a strategic Advisor to Me Too, where she is designing the field program, in partnership with her long-time mentor Tarana Burke. She is a Public Allies Alumni and the 2010 Tides Foundation Racial Justice Fellow. A nomadic New Yorker, she spends a majority of her free time on the road facilitating and building movement infrastructure as an active member of Movement for Black Lives. When she's not on the road you'll find her nestled in her NYC apartment, creating art while on conference calls.

Charlene Carruthers is a strategist, author and a leading organizer in today’s Black liberation movement.  As the founding national director of BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100), she has worked alongside hundreds of young Black activists to build a national base of activist member-led organization of Black 18-35 year olds dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. 

Charlene is a 2019 Roddenberry Fellow and founder of the Chicago Center for Leadership and Transformation, a locally rooted and nationally connected learning community for political education, grassroots organizing, language and strategic communications capacity building. 

As a Black queer feminist with over a dozen years of experience in racial justice, feminist and youth leadership development movement work, Charlene applies her political commitments and expertise through intellectual, cultural and grassroots organizing labor across today’s movements for collective liberation.  She was recognized as one of the top 10 most influential African Americans in The Root 100, one of Ebony Magazine's "Woke 100," an Emerging Power Player in Chicago Magazine and is the 2017 recipient of the YWCA's Dr. Dorothy I. Height Award.

A believer in telling more complete stories about the Black Radical Tradition, Charlene provides critical analysis, political education and leadership development training for activists across the globe. Major media outlets from BBC and MSNBC to legacy Black media institutions including Ebony Magazine and Essence Magazine have highlighted her work and perspective on current events and issues impacting marginalized communities. Charlene is author of the bestselling book, Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements.

Fahd Ahmed came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant from Pakistan in 1991. He has been a grassroots organizer on the issues of racial profiling, immigrant justice, police accountability, national security, surveillance, workers’ rights, and educational justice over the last 18 years. Fahd has been involved with DRUM – Desis Rising Up & Moving in various capacities since 2000, when he had family members facing deportation, and entrapment as part of the War on Drugs.  Within DRUM, Fahd co-led the work with Muslim, Arab, and South Asian immigrant detainees before, and immediately after 9/11, by coordinating the detainee visitation program. As the Legal and Policy Director at DRUM (2011-2014), Fahd ran the End Racial Profiling Campaign and brought together the coalitions working on Muslim surveillance, and stop and frisk, to work together to pass the landmark Community Safety Act. For the last 3 years, Fahd has been the Executive Director of DRUM.

Fahd was a recipient of the Haywood Burns Fellowship from the National Lawyers Guild, and served as an Ella Baker intern at the Center for Constitutional Rights. In addition to DRUM, Fahd worked as a legal consultant with the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana on documenting and reforming policies of juvenile detention center in Louisiana. Fahd also worked as a lecturer and researcher on Islamophobia, national security, and social movements at the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative at the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. He was also a Human Rights and National Security Reform Fellow with the Rockwood Leadership Institute, and a Fellow with the American Muslim Civil Leadership Institute.

Jenny Arwade is Co-Executive Director of Chicago-based Communities United (CU), a racial justice organization that builds community power to advance social change through a healing justice approach. Jenny has provided leadership to achieve groundbreaking reforms to expand health access for the undocumented, preserve long-term affordable rental housing and prevent displacement of families, and recently create a new Rethinking Safety Initiative in Illinois, furthering policies that address an invest/divest framework and center approaches focused on healing and transformation. Jenny is a graduate of Princeton University, a Field Advisor for Funders for Justice and the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing, and serves a Trustee of the health-focused Blowitz Ridgeway Foundation in Chicago.

Marbre Stahly-Butts, Director of Law for Black Lives works closely with organizers and communities across the country to advance and actualize radical policy. Marbre is currently a member of the National Bail Out Collective. She currently serves on the Leadership Team of the Movement For Black Lives Policy Table and helped develop the Vision for Black Lives Policy Platform. Since graduating from Yale Law School four years ago, Marbre has  supported local and national organizations from across the country in their policy development and advocacy. She joined the Center for Popular Democracy as a Soros Justice Fellow in Fall 2013. Her Soros Justice work focused on organizing and working with families affected by aggressive policing and criminal justice policies in New York City in order to develop meaningful bottom up policy reforms. While in law school, Marbre focused on the intersection of criminal justice and civil rights and gained legal experience with the Bronx Defenders, the Equal Justice Initiative and the Prison Policy Initiative.  Before law school Marbre received her Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and worked in Zimbabwe organizing communities impacted by violence and then in South Africa teaching at Nelson Mandela’s alma mater. Marbre graduated from Columbia University, with a BA in African-American History and Human Rights.

As a licensed acupuncturist and an experienced organizer, Mark-Anthony Johnson served as the Director of Health and Wellness at Dignity and Power Now. In this capacity, he provided strategic support for DPN’s two member-led campaigns for a legally empowered and independent civilian oversight commission of the sheriff’s department and to stop Los Angeles’ proposed $4 billion jail construction plan. He also led the Building Resilience project of DPN, a collaboration of formerly incarcerated people, organizers, health care providers and academics whose goal is to decarcerate the county jails via the diversion of incarcerated people into community-based treatment and the creation of community-based spaces to address the trauma of state violence. As a 2017 Soros Justice Fellow, Mark-Anthony founded the Frontline Wellness Network, a network of health care providers working to end the public health crisis of incarceration through action-oriented political education and bridging relationships between providers and grassroots campaigns against state violence. The Frontline Wellness Network is an Executive Committee member of JusticeLA, a broad based Los Angeles Coalition that recently stopped the county’s multi-billion jail plan while winning county wide investment in alternatives to incarceration.

Mary Hooks is a 36 year old, Black, lesbian, feminist, mother, organizer and co-director of SONG. Southerners on New Ground is a political home for LGBTQ liberation across all lines of race, class, abilities, age, culture, gender, and sexuality in the South. They build, sustain, and connect a southern regional base of LGBTQ people in order to transform the region through strategic projects and campaigns developed in response to the current conditions in their communities. SONG builds this movement through leadership development, coalition and alliance building, intersectional analysis, and organizing. Mary joined SONG as a member in 2009 and begin organizing with SONG in 2010. Mary’s commitment to Black liberation, which is encompasses the liberation of LGBTQ liberation, is rooted in her experiences growing up under the impacts of the War on Drugs. Her people are migrants of the Great Migration, factory workers, church folks, Black women, hustlers and addicts, dykes, studs, femmes, queens and all people fighting for the liberation of oppressed people. “The mandate; to avenge the suffering of our ancestors, to earn the respect of future generations, and to be transformed in the service of the work. Let’s get free ya’ll!” - Mary Hooks

Morning Star Gali is a member of the Ajumawi band of Pit River located in Northeastern California. Ms. Gali serves as the California Tribal and Community Liaison for the International Indian Treaty Council, working for the Sovereignty and Self Determination of Indigenous Peoples and the recognition and protection of Indigenous Rights, Treaties, Traditional Cultures and Sacred Lands. She is a Tribal water policy organizer for Save California Salmon and has worked as the Regional Network Weaver for Native Americans in Philanthropy. Ms. Gali is also a graduate of Native Americans in Philanthropy's Circle of Leadership Academy in 2013. She is a 2019 Open Society Institute Racial Equity fellow, Funders for Justice fellow 2018-2021 and a 2016-2018 Rosenberg Foundation Leading Edge Fellow, focusing on the disproportionate impact of the criminal and juvenile justice systems on Native Americans. Between 2012-2016, Ms.Gali previously worked as the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Pit River Tribe and continues to lead large-scale actions while helping organize Native cultural, spiritual, scholarly, and political gatherings throughout California.

Morning Star serves as a board member for the Sovereign Bodies Institute, California Indian Heritage Center Foundation and Women's Health Specialists of California along with serving on a number of advisory committees that advocate for the sovereignty and self-determination of California’s indigenous peoples and protection of sacred lands.

Ola Osifo Osaze is a trans masculine queer of Edo and Yoruba descent, who was born in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and now resides in Houston, Texas. Ola is the Project Director for the Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project and has been a community organizer for many years, including working with Transgender Law Center, the Audre Lorde Project, Uhuru Wazobia (one of the first LGBT groups for African immigrants in the US), Queers for Economic Justice and Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Ola is a 2015 Voices of Our Nation Arts workshop (VONA) fellow, and has writings published in Apogee, Qzine, Black Girl Dangerous, Black Looks, and the anthologies Queer African Reader and Queer Africa II.

Priscilla González is Campaigns Director at Mijente, the leading digital and grassroots hub for Latinx/Chicanx organizing and movement building. Born and raised in New York City, she has been an organizer for nearly two decades. From working to pass the nation’s first Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights to helping to drive the largest unprecedented campaign/coalition for police accountability in NYC, she has experienced time and again how grassroots-led organizing always gets the goods when you've got a bold vision, clear and coordinated strategies, and a porous movement for everyday folks to put their "granito de arena" (do their part) to make change happen.

Zach Norris is the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and co-founder of Restore Oakland, a community advocacy and training center that will empower Bay Area community members to transform local economic and justice systems and make a safe and secure future possible for themselves and for their families.  Zach is also a co-founder of Justice for Families, a national alliance of family-driven organizations working to end our nation’s youth incarceration epidemic.

Zach helped build California’s first statewide network for families of incarcerated youth which led the effort to close five youth prisons in the state, passed legislation to enable families to stay in contact with their loved ones, and defeated Prop 6—a destructive and ineffective criminal justice ballot measure. In addition to being a Harvard graduate and NYU-educated attorney, Zach is also a graduate of the Labor Community Strategy Center’s National School for Strategic Organizing in Los Angeles, California and was a 2011 Soros Justice Fellow. He is a former board member at Witness for Peace and Just Cause Oakland and is currently serving on the Justice for Families board. Zach was a recipient of the American Constitution Society's David Carliner Public Interest Award in 2015, and is a member of the 2016 class of the Levi Strauss Foundation's Pioneers of Justice.

Zach is a loving husband and dedicated father of two bright daughters, whom he is raising in his hometown of Oakland, California.

 


 

Funders for Justice is a national organizing platform of grantmakers, donor networks, and funder affinity groups increasing resources to grassroots organizations at the intersection of racial justice, gender justice, community safety, and policing. Is there a conversation you’d like to have? Email us at fundersforjustice@nfg.org

 
 
January 13, 2021

Discount Foundation Legacy Award

The nominations are now open for the 2021 Discount Foundation Legacy Award!

The Discount Legacy Award annually identifies, supports and celebrates an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and contributed significantly to workers’ rights movements in the United States and/or globally. Through public recognition and a $20,000 stipend, we hope to recognize and amplify the work of individuals at the intersections leading the way toward justice for low-wage workers of color. This is a one of a kind opportunity to recognize the often unheard voices of worker movements - that includes volunteers, members, workplace leaders, and more who are transforming the lives and rights of their fellow low-wage workers of color. 

To be eligible for the Award, a nominee must be active in worker justice, including but not limited to organizing and advocacy-related work. Additionally, nominees do not have to be employed at an organization or institution whose mission is to advance worker justice – they can be volunteers, members or other leaders at an organization or workplace organizing effort. We will not be asking questions regarding immigration or other legal status, and nominees do not have to reside in the US.

Nominees need to be nominated by someone other than themselves, through a simple, quick and accessible application process found here. The Award is meant only for individuals. Organizations, groups of individuals or institutions are not eligible for consideration. If you know anyone who you think should be recognized for their significant commitment to worker justice at any level - from a workplace to the neighborhood to the nation -  this is your chance to provide them a powerful boost and real resources they can use in whatever way they choose! 

In addition to being publicly recognized for their remarkable contributions to the movement, the 2021 Discount Foundation Legacy Award winner will receive a $20,000 stipend to provide them with the flexibility to expand upon their professional activities and achievements They will not be asked for any reporting requirements, and the funding has no specific strings attached or other specific obligations. The winner of the 2021 Discount Foundation Legacy Award will be invited to be honored at a virtual event in 2021. To learn more about the eligibility requirements and nomination process, please see our FAQs here — and please spread the word about this opportunity to your networks, colleagues and friends!

All nominations must be received by 11:59pm ET on March 11th, 2021 through the online nomination form. We’re happy to help answer questions about the award, or support with any trouble you have with the application — please reach out to emily@jwj.org.

Created in partnership with Jobs With Justice Education Fund and the Neighborhood Funders Group’s Funders for a Just Economy, the Discount Foundation Legacy Award was launched in 2015 to commemorate and carry on the legacy of the Foundation’s decades-long history of supporting leading edge organizing in the worker justice arena beyond its spend down as a foundation in 2014.
 



 

Convocatoria de nominaciones para el premio Discount Foundation Legacy 2021 

¡Ya están abiertas las nominaciones para el Premio Discount Foundation Legacy 2021!

 

El Premio Discount Legacy identifica, apoya y celebra anualmente a una persona que ha demostrado un liderazgo sobresaliente y ha contribuido significativamente a los movimientos por los derechos de los trabajadores en los Estados Unidos o en todo el mundo. A través del reconocimiento público y un estipendio de $20,000, esperamos reconocer y ampliar el trabajo de las personas en las intersecciones que lideran el camino hacia la justicia para los trabajadores de color con salarios bajos. Esta es una oportunidad única para reconocer las voces a menudo inauditas de los movimientos de trabajadores, que incluyen voluntarios, miembros, líderes en el lugar de trabajo y más que están transformando las vidas y los derechos de sus compañeros trabajadores de color con salarios bajos. 

 

Para ser elegible para el premio, un nominado debe ser activo en la justicia laboral, lo que incluye, pero no se limita, a la organización y el trabajo relacionado con la defensa. Además, los nominados no tienen que estar empleados en una organización o institución cuya misión sea promover la justicia laboral; pueden ser voluntarios, miembros u otros líderes en una organización o esfuerzo de organización en el lugar de trabajo.  No haremos preguntas sobre inmigración u otro estado legal, y los nominados no tienen que residir en los EE. UU.

 

Los nominados deben ser nominados por alguien que no sea ellos mismos, a través de un proceso de solicitud simple, rápido y accesible que se encuentra aquí. El premio está destinado únicamente a individuos. No se tomará en cuenta a las organizaciones, los grupos de personas o las instituciones. Si conoce a alguien que crea que debería ser reconocido por su importante compromiso con la justicia laboral en cualquier nivel, desde el lugar de trabajo hasta el vecindario y la nación, esta es su oportunidad de brindarle un impulso poderoso y recursos reales que puede usar de la manera que elija. 

 

Además del reconocimiento público por sus notables contribuciones al movimiento, el ganador del Premio Discount Foundation Legacy 2021 recibirá un estipendio de $20,000 para brindar la flexibilidad de expandir sus actividades y logros profesionales. No se le pedirá ningún requisito de presentación de informes y la financiación no tiene condiciones ni obligaciones específicas. Se invitará al ganador del Premio Discount Foundation Legacy 2021 a un homenaje en un evento virtual en 2021. Para obtener más información sobre los requisitos de elegibilidad y el proceso de nominación, consulte nuestras preguntas frecuentes aquí y haga correr la voz sobre esta oportunidad en sus redes y entre compañeros y amigos. 

 

Todas las nominaciones deben recibirse antes de las 11:59 p. m. ET del 11 de marzo de 2021 a través del formulario de nominación en línea. Nos complace ayudar a responder preguntas sobre el premio o brindar asistencia con cualquier problema que tenga con la solicitud, envíe un correo electrónico a emily@jwj.org.

 

Creado en asociación con Jobs With Justice Education Fund y los Funders for a Just Economy del Neighborhood Funders Group, el Premio Discount Foundation Legacy se lanzó en 2015 para celebrar y continuar el legado de décadas de historia de la Fundación de apoyar la organización de vanguardia en el campo de la justicia laboral más allá del exceso de gastos como fundación en 2014. 

 

 



 

2020 Awardee:

Andrea Dehlendorf

Co-Executive Director of United for Respect

Andrea DehlendorfAndrea Dehlendorf is Co-Executive Director of United for Respect, a national organization building power for people working in low wage jobs by centering their voices, experiences and solutions in the national movement fighting for the future of work, our economy and corporate regulation. With Andrea’s fierce leadership, United for Respect organizes people employed at the country’s largest employers to amplify their demands on corporate leaders in the service economy and policymakers to provide family-sustaining jobs. United for Respect leverages technology — social media and a new digital platform, WorkIt — to support people working in retail by bringing them into communities of support and action with one another. Through online peer networks and on-the-ground base-building strategies, United for Respect scaffolds the leadership and stories of working people to advocate for solutions to the pressing needs of the country’s massive low-wage workforce.

Andrea’s roots in the movement go deep, and include seminal experiences winning major victories with people working in the most unstable and precarious low wage service jobs, from janitors to hotel workers. Prior to United for Respect, Andrea worked on some the labor movements most innovating campaigns including Justice for Janitors, Airport Workers United and hotel worker organizing in Las Vegas. She lives in Oakland, CA with her twelve year old son.

Learn about United for Respect.


 

2019 Awardee:

Odessa Kelly

Co-Chair of Stand Up Nashville

Odessa KellyA native of Nashville, Odessa Kelly works diligently to bring positive and equitable change to the Nashville community by serving as co-chair for Stand Up Nashville, a coalition of community-based organizations and labor unions that represent the working people of Nashville who have seen our city transformed by development, but have not shared in the benefits of that growth. She also serves as Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH), Economic Equity & Jobs task force chair. Her work with NOAH has included building one of the largest and most powerful social justice movements in Nashville. She has advocated for the working class and underserved communities in Nashville, issues ranging from affordable housing to establishing the first ever Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in the state of Tennessee. She believes that Nashville has the potential to achieve a progressive paradigm shift -- a cultural shift in how a traditional southern city becomes a leader in the progressive movement across the country.

Learn about Stand Up Nashville.


 

2018 Awardee:

Enrique Balcazar

Community Organizer and Leader at Migrant Justice

Enrique "Kike" Balcazar immigrated to the United States from Tabasco, Mexico when he was 17 years old. He joined his parents on a dairy farm in rural Vermont and worked for years on farms across the state. Enrique joined Migrant Justice and became a leader in the successful campaign to expand access to driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants in Vermont. He became part of the organization's Farmworker Coordinating Committee and is now an organizer and spokesperson. Enrique is one of the principal architects of Milk with Dignity, a worker-led program securing human rights and economic justice in dairy supply chains. In 2017, during a national campaign calling on Ben & Jerry's to join the program, Enrique and fellow organizer Zully Palacios were arrested by ICE agents while leaving the Migrant Justice office. A wave of protests won their release from detention, though Enrique remains in deportation proceedings. Despite the government's persecution, Enrique continued to lead the Milk with Dignity campaign to victory, signing a historic contract with Ben & Jerry's in October, 2017. 

Learn about Migrant Justice.


 

2017 Awardee:

Luna Ranjit

Co-founder of Adhikaar and the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition

Luna Ranjit’s work is rooted in the community. For more than a decade, Luna guided Adhikaar's programs, research, policy advocacy, and partnerships, building visibility and power for the emerging Nepali-speaking immigrant community. As a co-founder of the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition, she helped lead the way for the sweeping changes to improve working conditions in the nail salon industry. She also served on the advisory board of the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salons Alliance. Luna has been quoted and featured in print and broadcast media on the issues related to workers’ rights, immigrant rights, language justice, and civic engagement. Her groundbreaking work has been recognized by many community organizations and elected officials. In 2016, she received the Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize created to support and inspire innovative social change makers throughout the world.

Learn more about Adhikaar.


 

2016 Awardee:

Alfred Marshall

Organizer with the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice

As an organizer in New Orleans, Alfred works to win back power for structurally unemployed and underemployed Black men and women through campaigns to achieve higher wages and better standards in his community. Through Alfred’s tremendous organizing campaigns, he has helped win local hiring on post-Katrina public construction and development projects, a “Ban the Box” rule, and a living wage and paid sick leave ordinance for individuals employed under city contracts. “By sitting down and talking with other workers at the New Orleans Worker Center, I realized that we’re in this together,” Alfred said. “New Orleans won’t stop. I won’t stop. This award is bigger than I am. It’s all about doing the work on the ground. We’re shaking this world up."

Learn more about the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice.

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December 17, 2020

Strike Watch 2020 Review: Defund the Police to Build Worker Power

By Manisha Vaze, Director, NFG Funders for a Just Economy

As we close this year, it’s probably safe to assume that you, like me, are emotionally and physically exhausted. The never-ending tragedy of this year’s global pandemic, the job loss, the deep inequality of the economic and health systems, and the new exposure for many Americans to systemic racial injustice, racial terror, and state violence overlayed our own personal losses and struggles. For me, while my partner and I were lucky enough to keep our jobs, it included family and friends who had COVID-19, a family member killed by the police, and much time away from our loved ones. I’m really ready for a winter break.

Prior to joining NFG, I organized alongside immigrant families facing deportation in New York City and with chronically un- and underemployed people in South Los Angeles. My political education is rooted in the organizing I was involved in as a student in the early 2000s, and movement responses to 9/11 shaped my experiences of centering Black and Indigenous communities in our fight against surveillance and violence against Arab, South Asian, and Muslim communities. We organized to address the continued consolidation of corporate power, surveillance technology and data control, as well as new austerity policies, unimaginable (at the time) job loss. We confronted radically accelerated separation of families, detention, and deportation of migrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and hand-in-hand with police. I learned to listen to people, dream big, demand what we actually need (not just what is winnable), and build towards that interlocking vision of economic and social justice through strategic and incremental wins and constantly evolving tactics.

Today, as the new US federal administration begins to take shape, some may be content with a collective sigh of relief. However, the organizer in me is asking you to stay vigilant and move resources to where movements are directing us: to organizing, power building, and movements calling to defund the police as a pathway to community and worker justice. We have an enormous opportunity in philanthropy to truly support, through solidarity and resources, the visionary movements that are building power for systemic change. Movement organizers have made significant gains in 2020. The cultural shifts we’ve experienced as a result have unprecedented numbers of people calling for abolition of the police and ICE, supporting unions in new industries, and shifting and expanding public budgets. Organizations have built and formed stronger coalitions, multi-racial, multi-gender, and multi-sectoral movements. And, importantly for our sector, the highly-visible organizing power of community members and workers has moved foundations to understand how philanthropy has supported extreme wealth accumulation and is entrenched in the perpetuation of racial capitalism and heteropatriarchy. Collectively, this has resulted in foundations increasing their investment in organizing and advocacy efforts toward economic and racial justice.

 

To some vocal pundits and media, defunding the police sounds like a new concept born out of the George Floyd uprisings, but it is a decades-old call to action, voiced by Black feminist leaders and those most impacted by police violence. Visionary movements that have been calling for defunding the police see how this strategy releases revenue that can be invested into infrastructure, social protections, housing, worker protections, and other community needs. Upending the power of police unions, not just “reforming” them, will allow more opportunities for strategic campaigns that realign public budgets and real community safety to meet the community’s needs and the goals of philanthropy’s investments in economic justice and equity.

Furthermore, defunding the police, ICE and violent surveillance forces offers an opportunity to align with workers expanding the labor movement. Police unions have since their inception had contentious relationships to workers calling for better working conditions, safety nets, and social protections. The expansion of policing in the late 19th century was precisely to bust labor organizing during work stoppages and strikes. In the last decades, we have seen countless examples of employers using immigration (now ICE) raids to threaten workers who attempt to organize. The labor movement has long recognized the antagonistic role police played on the picket line, and chose not to build with their unions. And the reality is that while some police unions are part of these institutional labor structures, most police associations are not – maintaining a business association 501(c)(6) status instead of a tradition labor union status or 501(c)(5).

If we’re serious about worker power and contesting for governing power in the US it’s important to recognize how the police and carceral systems hamstring the movement’s ability to make strategic and progressive policy gains. Their outsized power influences public budgets, dictates narratives about community safety, and render them immune to scrutiny and accountability. All of this leaves community members and workers who organize to increase funding for public schools, transportation, job quality, healthcare and other needs, fighting for scraps. The good news is, the decision to prioritize criminalization over community care and economic development is a relatively new one, borne of decades interlocking efforts to shift public narrative, policy and power. This orientation is by no means inevitable, and can be countered by a concerted, long-term power-building effort that includes partnership from philanthropy.

At NFG’s Funders for a Just Economy, I am privileged to work with funders who inspire me to think differently about philanthropic work and grant making, and have led efforts in our network to understand power, how to shift it to transform communities, and learn how racial capitalism undergirds our economic system and impacts our work in philanthropy. Most recently, FJE interviewed Jidan Terry-Koon, FJE Coordinating Committee member and Director of People pathways at the San Francisco Foundation who shared that if funders truly centered the most marginalized, especially Black and Indigenous workers in their economic justice grantmaking, they would understand the connection between building the power of all workers and shifting funds away from the police and carceral systems. FJE members have also formed deeper partnerships with Funders for Justice (FFJ), now an independent organization, to support movements to divest from the police and the carceral system and invest in community safety, housing, and other public investments.

We need to open ourselves up to a longer arc of change. The leadership of worker movements and coalitions inspires me to envision where we could be in the next twenty years. Learning from FJE’s programming, I know we can move more money for justice. Movement leaders have called for these changes in philanthropy before, and I’m recommending them again. Philanthropy must mobilize to:

  • Make multi-year, general support investments and grants in base building and organizing.
  • Collaborate with other funders to ensure that we’re building community power and supporting local and regional ecosystems.
  • Influence funders to deeply fund organizing efforts that build community and worker power, and especially worker organizations that build power to make impact (in addition to and) beyond their workplaces to support the common good.
  • Fund groups that are building a new transformative economy through alternative wealth building including cooperative models and other small business development.
  • Advocate to increase your yearly grantmaking, and your institutions assets, resources, and influence to support power building and organizing.
  • Learn about your institution’s finances and make adjustments to divest from the criminal and carceral systems and invest in non-extractive industries.
  • Utilize your relationships with allies in organized labor to fund collaborative efforts that build power locally and shift state and federal policy.
  • Continue your own education and build consciousness amongst your colleagues about the history of the mass accumulation of  wealth in philanthropy rom centuries of corporations extracting wealth from enslaved people, people who are incarcerated, workers who are not paid living wages and without any job security or social protections, and a rigged tax system benefiting the wealthy.

We must support the movement’s call to defund the police and abolishing ICE as a pathway to building worker power. This year showed us that, if forced to, funders can move money quickly – let’s not wait until we’re forced to again. As funders of the worker justice movement, we can no longer stay out of this fight. As I count the days until the end of the year, I will be taking time to rest, heal, and get ready. We have much more work to do.

To learn more about how philanthropy can move resources to movement groups calling to defund the police and reimagine community safety, make sure to read and share Funders for Justice’s Divest/Invest online toolkit for funders. To continue to support and build community and worker power and racial, gender, economic and climate justice, stay connected to Rob and me to help advance NFG’s Funders for a Just Economy program.

Photos by Manisha Vaze from Black Lives Matter/Defund the Police protests in Los Angeles, California in Summer 2020.