By Micki Luckey
Showing Up for Racial Justice partners with BIPOC-led organizations, supporting their efforts and following their lead. What do our partners do and how do we show up for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color? How does accountability manifest in these relationships? This article is part of a series exploring these questions in depth for the fifteen community partners of Bay Area SURJ.
At a demonstration at San Quentin sponsored by EBC and Restore Justice, protestors hold a banner that states “If they’re not safe, we’re not safe” showing their emphasis on working with the people who are directly impacted by incarceration and in particular, by the outbreak of COVID-19 in prisons. Photograph by Brooke Anderson, Movement Photographer.
By Star Zagofsky
I recently watched Whose Vote Counts, Explained, a 3-episode Netflix series about voting that should be required viewing for anyone interested in racial justice. The first episode, “The Right to Vote,” starts things off with a long list of eye-opening facts like how, until the mid 1800s, it was common for non-citizens to vote in US elections.
As it turns out, many voting restrictions that seem normal in the US are, in fact, not. Today more than 45 countries permit non-citizens to vote, and in 35 countries either all or most people convicted of felonies can vote, even while in prison.
So why is the US different?
Originally published in Common Dreams.
Author: Ifoma Modibo Kambon (also known as Daryel Burnett, CDCR #B60892).
I am a survivor the terrible disease of Covid-19 at Folsom State Prison. I am a survivor of the terrible negligence and deliberate indifference of individuals responsible for my care. This experience reaffirmed for me that our lives simply don’t matter. I am one of the voices and numbers assigned to a cage, a cot, a shelf, in my human warehouse. My legal name is Daryel Burnett. My California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (CDCR) number is B60892. My physical body has been imprisoned for 46 years. But my spirit is strong, free, and resilient. I too laugh, smile, feel, care, and love. I hold a profound respect for humanity. I am a father, son, brother, uncle, nephew, and friend. I dare to challenge people outside these walls to see and judge me through a humanistic prism.
As described in our previous post The Role of Policy in SURJ’s Racial Justice Work, the Policy Working Group of the SURJ Bay Area chapter is working in service to, and in collaboration with our POC-led partner organizations that work on legislative advocacy: Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) / All of Us or None(AOUON), Essie Justice Group, and Initiate Justice. As we enter the 2nd quarter of the 2019 California legislative cycle, we’d like to share the bills, propositions, and campaigns that are our focus for 2019. While we expect a few more additions, this list will give you a good idea of what we’ll be supporting (and opposing) as this year progresses.
As we continue the struggle to challenge and topple the prison industrial complex, it is important we take pause to celebrate our successes and learn from our losses. In many ways, 2018 marked a year in which legislation undoing the dark legacies of mass incarceration gained momentum. Led by the inspiring work of our POC-led partners, last year grassroots movements generated enough pressure to pass five vital pieces of criminal justice reform. Together, our actions were part of a targeted and coordinated legislative strategy that elevated the voices of the most impacted, amplified the power of our organizing, and led to some significant legislative victories in California.
We have become all too familiar with hearing the reports of police brutality against people of color, the statistics of prisons disproportionately crowded with Black and Brown individuals, and the stories of families torn apart by extreme sentencing policies. Our nation’s history of racism is inextricably linked to our prison system and it is critical that we take real steps nowto dismantle this system and reallocate resources to our communities.
Stripping communities of their voting rights is a centuries-long tool used to silence and disenfranchise people of color — and it must stop now.
The passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 was a major victory of the civil rights era. But in the decades since, attacks on voting rights have been relentless. In California, 162,000 citizens — mostly people of color — can’t vote today, simply because they are in state prison or on parole.
Essie Justice Group is an organization led by and for cisgender women, trans women, and gender non-conforming folks with incarcerated loved ones, working to transform the criminal justice system and combat mass incarceration. They bring together their members, including Black and Latinx women, formerly and currently incarcerated women, trans women and gender non-conforming folks, to heal, build power, and create structural change rooted in race and gender justice.
Essie Justice Group’s Healing to Advocacy Program unites women with incarcerated loved ones to do this work together. Each cohort is led by previous program graduates, and cohort members are nominated by their own incarcerated loved ones, one another, or themselves. This past fall they graduated their 17th cohort. Essie members facilitated cohorts in Inglewood, Los Angeles, Vacaville, San Francisco, San Jose, West Oakland, and Fruitvale.
“It is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color ‘criminals’ and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind.” — Michelle Alexander, lawyer, writer, civil rights advocate, professor
According to the Sentencing Project’s special report to the United Nations, our criminal justice system is in fact, two systems — one benefiting wealthy white folks, and one deeply disadvantaging black, brown, and poor folks. People of color are disproportionately arrested, tried, and sentenced. This results in the loss of the ability to vote, secure housing, and find a job, among other human and civil rights.
As a part of SURJ Bay Area’s #12DaysToShowUp Fundraising Campaign — and our ongoing commitment to racial justice and reparations — 50% of all donations raised for SURJ are passed on to local POC-led organizations. The other 50% will be used to fund under-resourced rural SURJ chapters and to support our own work mobilizing white people in the Bay Area.
Donate to SURJ Bay Area before December 31 to help us reach our year-end fundraising goal of $20,000.
In addition to your donation to SURJ, we encourage you to match donations directly to POC-led organizations like those we’ve featured each of the 12 Days of this campaign.
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