From the Front Lines of Ferguson

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"] April 10, 2015 by Terrance Pitts, Program Officer, Open Society Foundations 

Read the original blog post here.

The incident was all too familiar. An apparently unarmed black man was fatally shot by a white police officer, in a predominately African American community with a predominately Caucasian police force. And yet there were meaningful differences between the April 7 shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, and several similar tragedies—including Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri—that stirred nationwide protests last fall.

This time, the entire episode was captured on video. This time, the local political class rushed to condemn the police action. And, as a meme prevalent on Twitter Tuesday night put it, “at least the cop was arrested this time.”

The Scott shooting comes amid a national debate over police practices, the use of force, and the strained relations between law enforcement and the African American community in particular. The White House task force on policing reform has issued its report, and the Justice Department conducted a civil rights investigation into Ferguson’s police department, finding unconstitutional patterns and practices.

Following the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the Open Society Foundations made several investments—totaling $2.9 million—to help community groups in Missouri advance initiatives to promote police accountability, and to help the Center for Policing Equity in its efforts to develop a national database on police behavior. This supplements the efforts of many civil rights groups and other advocacy organizations concerned about these events.

In early April, Open Society hosted a conversation with several grantees who work on the front lines in Ferguson: Montague Simmons, executive director of the Organization for Black Struggle, a St. Louis-based activist organization founded in 1980, and Jeff Ordower, founding member and executive director of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, which works on economic justice issues. They were joined by Janai Nelson, who has a national perspective on these issues as associate director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

What follows are excerpts of their talk, which took place April 3, four days before Ferguson went to the polls to elect two new African American members to the city council.

List to an audio recording of the original discussion, at the bottom of the original blog post on Open Society Foundations' website.


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February 12, 2019

FFJ Advisor Discussion Series: Marisa Franco

Marisa Franco, FFJ Field Advisor and Director and Co-founder of of Mijente, a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx organizing and movement building, speaks on the current political moment and how funders can contribute to movement work.

Tell us about the particular moment you are in with your work and place in the movement.

Entering into our fourth year, we are doing our best to be a vehicle to both respond to the real-time challenges our communities face and a place to find respite, connection, and replenished meaning. Given what the Latinx and Chicanx community faces, we’ve got to walk and chew gum at the same time (and hop on one leg, juggle, and balance something on our head!) but we believe that through the continued growth where organizers, healers, change-makers, designers, and disrupters feel Mijente is a place to meaningfully contribute to collective liberation means we are going in the right direction. It is my view that our most critical task at this time is growth and recruitment - millions of people are becoming exposed to the injustice and summarily wrong direction we are heading in - our organizations must be open and accessible entry points for people to contribute to moving us in the right direction.

How do you understand the political moment that we’re in? What do you think we need to do differently right now?

Ultimately I think that lots of what we reference as threats that are coming are largely here - crisis as a result of climate change is here, it’s being felt across the planet. The extreme backlash and attempt to re-entrench power due to demographic change is here, occurring in localities across the United States. Authoritarianism is a growing threat beyond Donald Trump and within the domestic United States. Given all of this, at the very least I think it’s critical we start to widen our panorama of political understanding to include outside of the United States and make the connections internationally. Rest assured, our adversaries are in coordination - we ignore our movement siblings and the struggle outside of the United States to our own detriment.

What should funders be understanding in this political moment? What should funders be doing to support organizations and movements?

What’s important to understand in this political moment is how the volatility impacts the plans, perspective, and morale of people in organizations and social movements. It has become more and more difficult to lay out plans that feel real given how normal it's become for so much to turn upside down pretty regularly. Some understanding and support of this from funders, particularly when it means proposed work is not carried out in the way it was initially described, is very helpful.

Continued support for rapid response tactics is critical, as well as funds that help convene key groups and/or leaders in this time goes a long way. In times like these, those that are able to adapt and move quickly are well positioned to make impactful changes. These folks have got to be able to do so with enough support and not too many hurdles, hoops, and paper to be able to move. So some of these existing practices around simplifying processes, making funds available for rapid response activities, and pop up convenings is something that has been helpful thus far and is important to continue.

December 10, 2018

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