Statement from Center Social Inclusion

We at Center for Social Inclusion (CSI) are deeply disappointed by the grand jury decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown.

We remember that at the center of this tragedy is an 18 year old young man, Mike Brown, and the tremendous loss his family will endure for the rest of their lives.  We look to the residents of Ferguson, particularly young people, who peacefully took to the streets and organized every day to tell the world about Mike Brown, to proclaim that #BlackLivesMatter, and to demand justice.

Yesterday, justice was not served.  The criminal justice system failed to indict Officer Wilson, while the system succeeded in indicting Mike Brown.

For this, we must continue to demand justice and mobilize. We should support a federal investigation in Ferguson.

Within the criminal justice system, we must continue to challenge individual and institutional racial bias. Already, organizers and advocates are working to transform this system, organizing to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, demand greater transparency and accountability of police departments, or to decrease “shooter bias” in police officers.  We need to support this work.

Yet, working on biases and institutional practices alone is not enough. We must overhaul the policies that shape our communities as whole.

Ferguson became Ferguson.  Ferguson, which is majority Black, is also one of the poorest suburbs located in one of the most unequal regions in the United States.  This did not happen naturally.  Policies, both past and present, created and maintained these conditions.  For example, housing policies dating back to the early 20th century, from zoning to restrictive covenants drove segregation in St. Louis County, where Ferguson sits.  Because housing was segregated, schools became segregated as well.  And with segregation came disinvestment, resulting in under-resourced, underserved, predominantly Black communities living in a town like Ferguson.  This is how structural racial inequity operates.

Instead of seeing how decades of disinvestment created towns like Ferguson, we all too often blame a “culture of poverty” for those conditions, priming us to broadly paint people of color, particularly Black people, as less innocent, suspicious and more criminal.  This, in turn, leads to more policing and helps explain the disproportionate force police use on people of color compared to White people.

This is the racialized cycle of poverty and criminalization that is fertile ground for tragedies like the murder of Mike Brown.  

Ferguson is not unique.  As President Obama said, “We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson. This is an issue for America.”   As we’re focused on justice for Mike Brown, we also remember Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Trayvon Martin, Tanesha Anderson, Rekia Boyd, Oscar Grant, and many more.  We need to support community-based organizing that brings change from the ground-up – from policing to housing to education to transportation to food.  We look to young people of color who are already creating networks of organizing to resist and dismantle the structural racial inequity in their neighborhoods.

We should also think about how local governments can begin to redress decades of inequity.  In Ferguson, the city council established a police review board which is a good first step.  The council also took steps to lessen or remove court fines that have disproportionately impacted people of color (and added to the city’s coffers).  These are the building blocks towards structural transformation that will benefit us all.

We need to bridge all of these strategies so that we can chip away at the structural arrangements that deny the basic humanity to people of color and fuel tragedies like death of Mike Brown at the hands of a police officer.

We are not well. Ferguson is a weather vane that tells us we have a long distance to travel between our national rhetoric and our national reality.

We can build a better future for all us.  It requires all of us.

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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

Welcome to the new NFG website!

Thank you for visiting Neighborhood Funders Group's new website! We've completely redesigned and improved how it works to make it easier than ever for our members to use as an online resource.

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