President Joe Biden signed into law the bill that makes Juneteenth – the commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States – a federal holiday, but this isn’t enough to keep the legacy of Juneteenth alive. There is still work to be done to ensure that all Black people in the United States are seen in their full humanity and treated as such.
That is why this Juneteenth, the Alliance is celebrating the youth organizers who fight for equal justice and liberation that has yet to be delivered to Black people across the country. Here is how Alliance Network organizations are fighting for Black liberation every day.
Restoring Voting Rights
Chicago Votes has been leading some of the most revolutionary voting rights through their Unlock Civics program. In 2019, they wrote and passed landmark legislation – the Voting in Jails bill – that expanded voting access for incarcerated citizens who were eligible to vote. This made Cook County Jail the first jail in the country to become an official polling location allowing for 1,500 people in pretrial detention to vote. Now, they are organizing to pass new legislation they wrote that would restore voting rights to people in prison. Learn more about their 2021 Unlock Civic Policy Platform here.
Next Up is organizing to pass legislation to restore voting rights to Oregonians in prison. This bill would not only restore voting rights, it would also address the disproportionate silencing of the voices of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx citizens due to their higher rates of imprisonment. Read more about the need for voting rights restoration in their latest report.
This legislative session, the Washington Bus organized to help pass legislation that would immediately restore the right to vote for Washingtonians who are convicted of a felony and released from jail, removing complicated and expensive barriers for returning citizens.
Getting Cops out of Schools
Since their founding in 2018, Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT) has been at the forefront of the fight to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in their community by fighting to remove the presence of police at Milwaukee Public Schools. They have blocked TSA-style metal detectors from schools and decreased police presence in and around schools.
In 2020, after years of organizing, public pressure, and over 1,000 testimonies, the Milwaukee Public School Board unanimously passed a resolution to end all contracts between the Milwaukee Police Department and Milwaukee Public Schools! Thanks to LIT’s tireless work, Milwaukee Public Schools is on a pathway to building safer schools where the voices and experiences of young people are centered.
Now, LIT is calling for Wisconsin universities to divest from policing on campuses and reinvest those funds to support BIPOC communities and students in their Dare to Divest campaign.
The Virginia Student Power Network is demanding the immediate dissolution and abolition of the Virginia Commonwealth University police department. They are also calling on the university system to re-allocate those funds to directly support Black and Brown students on campus and increasing support for University Counseling Services. In May of this year, they took direct action across the state and dropped banners on campuses calling for cops off campus.
Defunding the Police and Holding Them Accountable
Minnesota Youth Collective is working in coalition with Yes 4 Minneapolis—a Black-led, multiracial campaign composed of grassroots, community organizations and individuals who are organizing for community safety. They are collecting signatures for the People’s Petition which gives Minneapolis voters the opportunity to create a Department of Public Safety that takes a comprehensive public health approach to community safety.
Along with their coalition work on the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign, Minnesota Youth Collective is also hosting a monthly book club, MNYC Reads, to engage members of their base in conversations around police abolition, public safety, and reimagining the world through the eyes of prolific Black writers.
New Hampshire Youth Movement is supporting the efforts of local Black Lives Matter chapters to defund the police and reinvest that money in local communities across the state. They are hosting trainings for young people to learn how they can support this work in Manchester, Keene, and Dover by focusing on city council budgets and ballot initiatives. New Hampshire Youth Movement also hosted letter writing workshops for young people to write to their local leaders about reinvesting resources away from police departments and into community services and health initiatives.
Ohio Student Association (OSA) is working in coalition to canvass, host educational events, and collect signatures to pass the Citizens for a Safer Cleveland ballot initiative. This initiative would ensure independent civilian oversight of investigations into police misconduct and give final authority on discipline decisions to a board of community leaders. This week, they submitted over 14,000 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot!
Youth organizers in the Alliance Network know that the fight for Black liberation will transform our communities and create a better future for us all. We’re grateful for their leadership always – but especially today.