The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights is a non-profit strategy and action center based in Oakland, CA working for justice, opportunity, and peace in urban America. It is named for Ella Baker, an influential twentieth century Black civil rights leader and organizer.
At The Ella Baker Center Patrisse is working on the issues of mass criminalization and state violence in broader more honest terms, and orienting these conversations around the concept of truth and reinvestment. Her role as Strategic Advisor is about engaging in a larger public dialogue; holding an interventional conversation. It’s also about what intervention looks like in concrete terms.
The USA is in denial around the harms it has committed against Black communities in particular, but also indigenous communities and immigrant communities. Patrisse and The Ella Baker Center are working towards gaining deep clarity and honesty from local government and national government about the harms they have caused and the harms they continue to cause in communities, poor communities in particular, and to eventually have an honest conversation around significant actions that can be taken.
Communities of color, poor communities in particular, have been completely divested from. They have very little infrastructure to access healthy food, jobs, shelter. They have very little infrastructure to access proper education, and so there needs to be a reinvestment back into their communities.
Patrisse is currently developing a statewide (and eventually national) network of formerly incarcerated people, their families, and communities. One focus of the network will be developing nine Justice Teams across the state of California. These Justice Teams will be the anchors for rapid response in local counties in the state of California. They’ll also help shape the local dialogue around what needs to be reinvested in in that community. This initiative will create platforms for people who may not have been doing work around divestment and reinvestment to be involved in their county’s local politics.
To kickoff the project in October of 2015 Patrisse organized and traveled with the Caravan For Justice, where families of victims of police violence from the UK and from the US joined together on an eight day tour throughout California to mobilize communities of color against law enforcement violence.
The Ella Baker Center has also co-collaborated with the ACLU of California on a smartphone app, called MobileJusticeCA. This app allows civilians to record the police and sends recorded footage directly to the ACLU for safekeeping. Download it for free on iTunes or Google Play. The app is also available in other states. Here’s a video about how it works:
The Ella Baker Center recently received a $500,000 grant from Google that is being put into the campaign for Truth and Reinvestment to fund a tech-savvy, grassroots online platform for Justice Team networks to engage in social justice conversation digitally.
We need an honest examination of how our country’s long history of racism, segregation, and oppression has led to a criminal justice system that disproportionately criminalizes, brutalizes, and incarcerates low-income families and communities of color. By connecting the truth of our history to a way forward, we can build solutions that reinvest in the communities that have been most harmed by the criminal justice system.