Questions Linger for LGBT Community After Police Kill Jessie Hernandez

"Why can't we sit there?" asks Angel Campos, holding a cheese pizza box, pointing to the stairs of a nearby building.

"Because we might get arrested by that cop," responds his brother Freddy.

"But that's only if we have a blanket and they think we're trying to sleep there," says Cecilia Kluding-Rodriguez, her eyes scanning in the other direction.

Finally, Amaya points to an area with two benches about a hundred feet away. "Let's grab those benches."

It's a curious lunchtime shuffle that's become all too common, they say, since the Denver City Council passed its so-called "urban camping" ban in 2012. One of at least half a dozen such laws passed nationwide since 2000, the ordinance bans any unauthorized "camping" in public spaces. But critics say that it unjustly criminalizes the homeless, more than half of whom are black or Latino, according to a survey conducted by The Gathering Place. The survey also acknowledges that "diverse languages, abilities, sexual orientations and gender identities are represented" in its count, though it doesn't give specifics. Separate studies have estimated that, nationally, 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT.

The challenges facing LGBT youth of color in Denver have been magnified since police fatally shot 17-year-old Jessica "Jessie" Hernandez in late January. Hernandez's death was another stark reminder of the dangers faced by queer youth of color in the city. In 2008, Angie Zapata, an 18-year-old transgender woman, smiled at a man, allegedly provoking him to beat her to death with a fire extinguisher. In 2009, Michael DeHerrera, a gay man, was brutally beaten by police after using the women's restroom at a nightclub. Hernandez's death was a reminder of the dangers faced by people who are young, brown and queer.

"Jessie could have been any of us," says Kluding-Rodriguez, an organizer with the Colorado Anti-Violence Project's youth organizing group Branching Seedz of Resistance. "We're a target when people just like us are gunned down without reason."

Hernández's killing came at a particularly tense time between the Denver police department and its more than 600,000 residents. Twenty-year-old Ryan Ronquillo was shot and killed by officers last July while standing outside of a funeral home. Just two weeks before Hernández's death, officers shot and killed Sharod Kendell, 23. Two weeks after her killing, the department announced a $860,000 settlement with James Moore, a disabled veteran who was beaten so badly by officers that his heart briefly stopped.

Hernández's shooting marked the fourth time in seven months that Denver police officers fired at moving vehicles, leading to the deaths of two suspects. Three others were killed in such incidents, according to the Denver Post.

Hernandez's death has only heightened calls for police transparency in such matters, and within days of her killing, 200 people gathered to mourn her death. Hernández's family has called for a federal investigation because they believe it's "the only way to uncover the truth because we have little confidence in the Denver Police Department's ability to conduct a fair and timely investigation," they said in a statement posted by Latino Rebels.

Hernández's identity as a gender non-conforming lesbian has inevitably become part of the narrative surrounding her death, and that's not just because Creating Change, one of the biggest national gatherings of queer activists, took place in Denver soon after she was killed. Statistics show that queer youth of color are at heightened risk for harassment and by police. Just weeks before her death, on New Year's Day, Hernández was cited for speeding, eluding a police officer and resisting arrest.

The brutality that Denver police have shown in recent years toward black and Latino men also put Hernandez at risk, according to activists. "People perceived Jessie's gender as masculine, and that put her at risk," says Amaya, another activist with the anti-violence group that's been in contact with Hernandez's family since her death. "She was targeted because of the chosen family she surrounded herself with, who were all queer, brown and masculine."

Gender non-conformity carries with it its own risks, especially when it intersects with racism. As Dani McClain reported for Colorlines while looking at the dangers faced by black trans men and African-American masculine-identified women, "Somewhere at the intersection of blackness, gender expression and sexual orientation is a heightened risk for harassment and bias-driven violence." McClain continued: "People who are perceived as feminine--including femme lesbians and trans women--are certainly at risk, as the case of CeCe McDonald brought to national attention last year. But trans men and masculine-of-center women experience discrimination and harassment in ways that often map more clearly to mainstream narratives about black men."

For this group of young activists sitting outside of Denver's Civic Center, among the many questions left unanswered is this one, posed by Teddy Campos: "Would police have handled Hernandez's cases differently if her gender expression matched her biological sex?"

Amaya drives the point home. "We shouldn't have to justify our humanity so police [can't] justify having killed us," she says. "We shouldn't have to justify our humanity in order to live. Our existence is not a threat."

Read the original article here.

February 26, 2021

Honoring Black histories & futures: NFG's February Newsletter

To honor Black histories and futures, Neighborhood Funders Group is excited to share with you a new report from Funders for a Just Economy and the Amplify Fund on the critical Black women-led organizing redefining Nashville, Tennessee. The first report for our multi-city Building Power in Place project, Nashville: Reshaping the City Towards an Economy for All, tells a small part of a big story. The report features the work of Stand Up Nashville (SUN), The Equity Alliance (TEA), and the Central Labor Council of Nashville & Middle Tennessee (CLC) — each helmed by Black women who have built a powerful collaborative infrastructure with few resources but tremendous political and economic results for low-income residents of color. Quite relevant for the early 100 days of a new presidential administration, their work addresses the importance of elections and goes far beyond these moments for a much broader vision of shared governance.

Black History Month is as much about honoring the past as it is about recognizing the way Black communities continue to define a future that is radically more equitable, sustainable, and democratic for all. This report traces the ways in which Nashville organizers have built on local histories of abolitionist and civil rights activism, while developing expansive new models confronting issues like predatory gentrification following climate disasters. How have SUN, TEA, and CLC achieved such milestones as record registration of voters of color, landmark transparency and accountability laws, growth in worker voice, and more? How do they face obstacles like repressive state preemption policy and corporations like Amazon with deep pockets? Learn more here.

NFG’s commitment to place-based organizing is informed by an approach to Black history and futures stemming from Black feminist movements and scholars. They recognize no one formula, story, or sequence for transformative movements which are in fact rooted in local realities, multi-faceted struggles, and, as Angela Davis explains, constant efforts to “enlarge and expand and complicate and deepen our theories and practices of freedom.” The responsibility of NFG as a network of funders starts, then, right at the local — in trusting grassroots expertise, recognizing intersectional realities (including our own implication in racial capitalism), and moving maximal resources to support Black-led movements’ expansive vision.

The recommendations in our Nashville report stem from conversation with local organizers and funders and through Amplify’s long-term work, and offer key principles that can apply nationally. But as Fannie Lou Hamer noted, “There is one thing you have got to learn about our movement. Three people are better than no people." It’s going to take much more than recognizing these movements; it will take organizing our colleagues in and across our institutions to join in fully funding Black-led movements like those in Nashville, especially the ones that may not even have the resources to get on national radar. So make sure to share the report with colleagues, invite another funder to our next events (more information in this month's newsletter), and keep bringing new folks to the conversation!

Thank you to the SUN, TEA, and CLC organizers and local funders who shared their time, stories, and strategies with us. Going forward, NFG will continue to strengthen the ways we move from intention into action to honor Black histories and support Black futures from the local and up.

Thank you,
Rob, Manisha, and Neda — Funders for a Just Economy
 

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January 27, 2021

Be vigilant and move the money: NFG's January 2021 Newsletter

In NFG’s final Strike Watch blog of 2020, Manisha Vaze — Director of our Funders for a Just Economy Program — issued this call to action:

“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.”

As we wrap up this first month of 2021 and continue to celebrate — and fund! — the Black women, women of color, Indigenous activists, and queer and trans organizers who made possible the many progressive electoral wins across the country, we at NFG are asking our community of grantmakers to heed this call to stay vigilant and resource the movements that are building power for systemic change.

The moment that we are now facing is part of the trajectory toward justice set by Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities who have been working to dismantle deliberately oppressive systems that have existed for generations. BIPOC leaders and communities have fueled long-term, power building movements and created the critical organizing infrastructure to win elections up and down ballots, defund the police, and change the predominant narratives and policies of racial capitalism — all too often at significant risk of violence, with little media attention or notice, and inadequate funding.

Philanthropy has the power and resources to fund the boldest movements for liberation, justice, and systemic change. Grantmakers can shed onerous funding practices and trust grassroots leaders to use grant funds as they see fit for the health of their organizers and movements. Funders must be more than reactive and fully lean into a vision of what is possible now that uprisings for racial justice and electoral victories led by Black organizers have opened up more opportunities for change than ever.

And NFG is here to support grantmakers with joy, creativity, and community as you remain vigilant and do this necessary work to move resources and shift power. Below are highlights from our programs for how you can keep co-conspiring with NFG this year to propel racial, economic, gender, and climate justice.

Onwards,
The NFG team


 

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2021

 
Amplify Fund

Amplify Fund is a funder collaborative that supports Black, Indigenous, people of color and low-income communities to build power and to influence decisions about the places they live and work.

“As a Senior Program Officer, I really spend a lot of time speaking with powerful leaders across the country who are working on issues related to development and building power in their communities. They are truth tellers, all working in their respective places to challenge harmful policies and politics and fighting with their communities and their bases for just and equitable development,” says Amplify's Melody Baker.

In 2021, Amplify will continue to focus on 2 key outcomes from our Theory of Change, while reconsidering the current time limitations and distribution of decision-making power.

Video thumbnail with silhouettes of protestors and text that says, "95% of Amplify grantees are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) led. Many of the leaders are women or gender non-binary.

Keep up with Amplify through our quarterly newsletter, photos and videos on social media, and "live" events with Amplify staff, steering committee members, local funder partners and grantees.

To learn more about some of our 54 grantees, watch (and share) our newly released 7 minute video. And follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
 

Democratizing Development Program (DDP)

Across the country, millions of Americans are facing eviction or on the cliff to potential homelessness. The call for short-term eviction moratoriums is not enough to heal and repair our communities and to stop homelessness. We need a housing overhaul.

In 2021, DDP will continue to bring together community voices and philanthropic leaders moving forward BIPOC organizing and policy solutions for land, housing, community ownership and power. We will further showcase intersectional frameworks and tools of the future of community development, philanthropy, and issues of gentrification, policing, evictions, and future solutions like #LandBack, community land trusts, and others.

We are starting off the year by partnering with philanthropic, health, and housing justice leaders linking the current health and housing crises to racial justice and power building. We will highlight leaders that are moving forward with land, power, and reparations strategies to advance a future of philanthropy leveraging more its assets to support Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities. Join us to:

  • Strategize around intersectional approaches that protect tenants, preserve communities, and produce affordable housing solutions that build community power and community needs
  • Engage a broader range of funders at the intersections of housing, community safety and justice, education, health, jobs, climate, gender, and racial justice to center the needs of how housing is inextricably linked to a broad range of needs
  • Advance conversations on community development and ownership models that allow residents to influence local decisions and create longer-term benefits for themselves
  • Deepen philanthropic partnerships and alignment with the broader housing justice movement
     

Integrated Rural Strategies Group (IRSG)

IRSG holds a core assertion that multiracial rural organizing is a cornerstone to a multiracial democracy, and that philanthropy has a critical role to play in building a strong participatory democracy that engages all communities.

In 2021, IRSG will offer a variety of ways for funders to connect, learn, and mobilize resources to support rural equity work — particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color led multiracial rural organizing infrastructure — in an urgent effort to strengthen our democracy. We welcome you to co-conspire with IRSG as we:

  • Launch a committee of Movement Advisors to deepen our accountability to rural community-led work
  • Offer a curated set of resources, calls to action, and timely updates from rural organizers and funders supporting rural equity in a regular newsletter
  • Share out actionable research in the form of rural infrastructure scans and funder recommendations, including a report and accompanying toolkits based on rural New York infrastructure, with actionable resources for funders across the country
  • Provide programming featuring multiracial rural organizing work on issues ranging from rural infrastructure (broadband, electric cooperatives) to agroecology (opportunities to organize and build power in rural communities based on their role in food systems), and how to sustain and build power coming out of the census and election work
     

Funders for a Just Economy (FJE)

FJE has been on a learning journey to increase consciousness around how movements and communities and workers build power, focused particularly on movements led by people of color toward racial, gender, and economic justice. FJE has begun to align our network around a common agenda, understanding new ways to liberate philanthropy’s accumulated wealth, diving deep into supporting worker and community power, and deepening our understanding of racial capitalism.

Last year, at the onset of the crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession, FJE broadened its work to discuss how we can redefine safety through an exploration of the police power, police unions, and defunding the police, developing a fuller picture of workplace violence and health, and learning from experts about how proto-fascist, white nationalist, and white power groups are building towards their vision of authoritarianism and white supremacy that undergirds conservative ideology.

FJE continues the drumbeat to fund and sustain a longer-term path to power, so Black, Indigenous, and people of color, low-income communities and workers, rural communities, LGBTQIA and gender non-conforming people, women, and immigrants can realize and attain justice and build power toward a true democracy.

Coming up, FJE will be hosting our annual Policy Briefing in March to discuss how movement partners are continuing to build a powerful movement for inclusive worker power, considering both rising fascism and the new federal administration, and to share how funders can support multi-racial, multi-gender movements toward policy wins that build community and worker power, combat austerity policies, and support transformational and longer-term strategies toward racial, gender, climate and economic justice. Stay tuned for a save the date and an invitation to the 2021 FJE kick-off call for NFG members.
 

Philanthropy Forward

Fellows from Philanthropy Forward's two cohorts have been continuing to organize together as a community of visionary leaders who center racial and gender justice and community power building to disrupt and transform the future of philanthropy. Check out highlights from Philanthropy Forward's fellows here.
 

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