May 15, 2018

Funders for Justice Announces 2nd Cohort of Field Advisors

FFJ is proud to announce our 2nd cohort of FFJ Advisors – 12 powerhouse leaders from cities across the US. These leaders organize in multiple racial and gender justice movements to end criminalization of communities of color, including: organizing in Native nations, Latinx migrant justice, transgender rights, youth and multi-generational organizing, South Asian migrant and worker justice, power-building in the South, bail reform, Black organizing and power-building, community-determined safetyand a world without prisons, an end to the public health crisis of incarceration, and an end to sexual assault and gender-based violence. FFJ looks forward to deepening our own understanding of these movements, and to stepping up our commitment to mobilize resources to support transformative social change. FFJ Field Advisors are selected in recognition of their expertise and leadership in movements for racial and gender justice, anti-criminalization movements, and efforts to inform more impactful grantmaking for community power-building.

The Funders for Justice Advisors for 2018-2019 are:

In their role as advisors, they will guide FFJ’s work in lifting up community safety and justice models, join FFJ for national panels and workshops, and share their visions for change and what’s needed from philanthropy in this moment. We hope you will look to them as thought leaders and partners in your own work as well. 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. If you would like to get involved with NFG’s ongoing conversations about these issues, email us at fundersforjustice@nfg.org 


 

Fahd Ahmed

DRUM - Desis Rising Up and Moving

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

Communities United 

Jenny Arwade is Co-Executive Director of Chicago-based Communities United (CU), a racial justice organization which brings together young people and adult allies to advance social change and systems transformation. CU’s approach is centered on the creation of intentional healing and justice spaces, transformative civic engagement and leadership development approaches, and the development of broad-based alliances. Jenny has 16 years of organizing experience during which time she has sumepported young people and adult allies in creating the nation’s most comprehensive statewide school discipline reform, advancing strategies through an invest/divest framework to shift resources from police in schools and incarceration into school and community supports, and more. Jenny is a graduate of Princeton University, serves as Vice Chair of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation, and is a field representative on the Board of Advisors for the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing.


 

Tarana Burke

#MeToo Founder and Girls for Gender Equity 

Tarana has worked in social justice and Black arts and culture for more than twenty-five years. Her long and varied professional career started in Selma, AL where, over the span of a decade, she worked with: the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement helping to develop hundreds of youth leaders across the country; at the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute serving as a curatorial consultant and special projects director helping to organize the annual commemoration and celebration of the Selma Voting Rights Struggle known as the Bridge Crossing Jubilee; and as Executive Director of the Black Belt Arts and Cultural Center where she created and oversaw cultural community programs designed for underserved youth. Tarana’s work in Selma earned her a consulting position with the production of the 2014, Oscar nominated film, SELMA directed by the incomparable Ava DuVernay whom she met while serving as Managing Director of Art Sanctuary, a Black arts organization based in Philadelphia.

Tarana is passionate about social justice and has made a lifelong commitment to serving the causes of people of color and marginalized groups with a particular focus on young women and girls. She has done organizing work from the deep South the the East Coast dealing with issues ranging from economic justice to police brutality. Her passion for justice has taken her around the country and the world where she has been invited to speak and present at various conferences and gatherings in multiple states and countries, including: Senegal, Cuba, Mali, and Tunisia as a UN Delegate for the World Summit on Information Systems. In 2003 she turned her focus to young women of color and co-founded Jendayi Aza an African-centered Rites of Passage program for girls. That program eventually evolved into the creation of her non-profit Just Be, Inc. Since its inception, Just Be has served hundreds of girls around the country through unique programming and workshops. Through the work of Just Be, Tarana started the ‘me too.’ Movement, a campaign using the idea of “empowerment through empathy” to help young women of color who are survivors of sexual abuse, assault and exploitation. The campaign is designed to, among other things, train women who are survivors to work in communities of color and fringe communities where there is less access to resources.

Tarana continues her work in service of young women of color as Senior Director of Girls for Gender Equity, a youth leadership development organization working to actualize racial and gender justice in partnership with the young people we serve. Often sought out for social commentary, Tarana has been published and quoted in Colorlines, Mic, BK Nation, Glamour, Ebony, Essence, The Source and The Root among others. Tarana also runs the blog SheSlays.com - a personal style diary. She currently resides in New York City and has daughter who is made of magic.


 

Charlene Carruthers

BYP100 

Charlene A. Carruthers is a Black, queer feminist community organizer and writer with over 10 years of experience in racial justice, feminist and youth leadership development movement work. She currently serves as the national director of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), an activist development movement work. She currently serves as the national director of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), an activist member-led organization of Black 18-35 year olds dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. Her passion for developing young leaders to build capacity within marginalized communities has led her to work on immigrant rights, economic justice and civil rights campaigns nationwide.

She has led grassroots and digital strategy campaigns for national organizations including the Center for Community Change, the Women's Media Center, ColorOfChange.org and National People's Action, as well as being a member of a historic delegation of young activists in Palestine in 2015 to build solidarity between Black and Palestinian liberation movements.

Charlene is the winner of the "New Organizing Institute 2015 Organizer of the Year Award" and has served as a featured speaker at various institutions including Wellesley College, Northwestern University and her alma mater Illinois Wesleyan University. Charlene also received a Master of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. Charlene was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago where she currently resides and continues to lead and partake in social justice movements. Her work has been covered several publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Reader, The Nation, Ebony and Essence Magazines. She has appeared on CNN, Democracy Now!, BBC and MSNBC. Charlene has also written for theRoot.com, Colorlines and the Boston Review. She was recently recognized as one of the top 10 most influential African Americans in The Root 100. Her inspirations include a range of Black women, including Ella Baker, Cathy Cohen, and Barbara Ransby. In her free time, Charlene loves to cook and believes the best way to learn about people is through their food.


 

Marisa Franco

Mijente 

Marisa Franco is a Phoenix-based organizer, writer and strategist. She is the Director and co-Founder of Mijente, a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx organizing and movement building. In her more than 15 years of work, Marisa has helped lead key campaigns rooted in low-income and communities of color, characterized by their innovation and effectiveness. Most recently she led the #Not1More Deportation campaign and co-authored How We Make Change is Changing. She is a trusted collaborator with grassroots leaders across the country spanning immigrant rights, racial justice, feminist, LGBTQ and labor movements.


 

Morning Star Gali

Native Justice Now 

Morning Star Gali, a member of the Ajumawi band of Pit River located in Northeastern California, is a Leading Edge Fellow focusing on the disproportionate impact of the criminal and juvenile justice systems on Native Americans. She has worked as the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Pit River Tribe, and with several Indigenous-led grassroots organizations in the Bay Area. She continues to lead large-scale actions while helping organize Native cultural, spiritual, scholarly, and political gatherings throughout California. Since 2008 she has been a host on KPFA’s “Bay Native Circle” and is the proud mother of four children.


 

Stephanie Guilloud

Project South 

Stephanie Guilloud is originally from Houston, Texas with roots in Alabama. Stephanie is an organizer with 17 years of experience and leadership in global justice work and community organizing. At Project South, Stephanie works closely with Southeast regional organizing projects, the Southern Movement Assembly, and membership programs. Stephanie worked as the National Co-Chair of the Peoples Movement Assembly Working Group of the US Social Forum from 2008-2013. She served on the board of Southerners On New Ground (SONG), a multiracial queer organization, from 2005-2014. Stephanie is the editor of two anthologies: Through the Eyes of the Judged; Autobiographical Sketches from Incarcerated Young Men and Voices from the WTO; First-person Narratives from the People who Shut Down the World Trade Organization. 


 

Kris Hayashi

Transgender Law Center 

Kris Hayashi has over 20 years of movement building, leadership and organizing experience. As a public transgender person of color, Kris has been a leader in movements for justice and rights for transgender and gender nonconforming communities for over 13 years.

Kris became Executive Director at Transgender Law Center, one of the largest organizations in the country advancing the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming people, in February 2015. Prior to that, he had served over a year in the role of Deputy Director at the organization. Kris took on his first Executive Director position at the age of 23 at Youth United for Community Action in California (YUCA). YUCA is a grassroots community organization created, led, and run by young people of color, to provide a safe space for young people to empower themselves and work on environmental and social justice issues to establish positive systemic change through grassroots community organizing.

Kris took on his second Executive Director position five years later at the age of 28 at the Audre Lorde Project (ALP) in New York City. ALP is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, trans and gender nonconforming people of color center for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area. Kris served as Executive Director at ALP for over ten years. During his tenure at ALP, ALP launched one of the first organizing and advocacy projects in the country led by trans and gender nonconforming people of color, the annual NYC Trans Day of Action now in its 11th year, and won a monumental campaign getting NYC’s welfare agency to adopt community developed policies on serving trans and gender nonconforming people.


 

Mary Hooks

Southerners On New Ground 

Mary Hooks joined the SONG team as a field organizer for the state of Alabama in March 2011. Her passion for helping people is reflected in her years of community service and mentoring. Mary’s background is in Human Resources and holds a Master of Business Administration with a focus in Human Resources Management and recently obtained her Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification.

Though Mary is new to organizing, her personal story has prepared her for such a time as this. The chapters of her life begin with a life of poverty, being parentless, and shy. Eventually the story unfolds of a rebellious teenager who converts to a devoted Christian in Pentecostal church, who comes out as a lesbian and left without the support of her foster or church family and stricken with tons of Christian guilt. The climax of this story occurs when, in undergrad at a private Lutheran college, Mary begins to redefine her self and discovered a radical desire to be a catalyst for change in the world.

Since then Mary has relocated to the hot shades of Atlanta, GA, and has found her niche in organizing with SONG, throwing dope parties and singing with the Juicebox Jubilees, a queer choir, created to provide a safe space for folks to gather their voices together, sip a little wine, and sing songs that uplift, inspire, and liberate. As she continues to navigate through movement work, she hopes that the folks she connects with are inspired to write their stories of self-determination, liberation, and love.


 

Mark-Anthony Johnson

Frontline Wellness Project 

Mark-Anthony Johnson is an organizer, licensed acupuncturist, and a 2017 Soros Justice Fellow. He is the Founder of Frontline Wellness Network, a California statewide network of health care providers working to end the public health crisis of incarceration. Mark-Anthony formerly served as the Director of Health and Wellness at Dignity and Power Now, a grassroots organization based in Los Angeles that fights for the dignity and power of incarcerated people, their families, and communities.


 

Zach Norris

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights 

Zachary Norris is the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and a former director of our Books Not Bars campaign. Prior to rejoining the organization, Zachary co-founded and co-directed Justice for Families, a national alliance of family-driven organizations working to end our nation’s youth incarceration epidemic.

During the seven years he led the campaign, Books Not Bars built California’s first statewide network for families of incarcerated youth, 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, Zachary 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. Zachary 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. Zachary is a loving husband and dedicated father of two bright daughters, whom he is raising in his hometown of Oakland, California.


 

Marbre Stahly-Butts

Law for Black Lives 

Marbre Stahly-Butts, Co-Director of Law for Black Lives, works closely with organizers and communities across the country to advance and actualize radical policy. 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 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. After the end of her Soros fellowship Marbre served as Deputy Director of Racial Justice at Center for Popular Democracy for two years. 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.

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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.