Skip to main content

The fight for equality at the center of the George Floyd case

It has happened again. His name was George Floyd. Her name was Breonna Taylor. But there are countless others. There have been too many lives lost and too many injustices perpetrated against black and brown Americans and not enough progress in the fight to stop the spread of this country’s other pandemic: a long, complicated history of racism and discrimination.

The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and Sean Reed are the result of an ugly, painful legacy of systemic racism and violence at the heart of the American story. It’s a story that begins with the genocide of indigenous peoples and continued with the enslavement of African people, whose free labor built the wealth of countless white Americans. That legacy of slavery and violence continues to this day, not only in police brutality, but also in a system of mass criminalization and incarceration, voter suppression, and economic inequality. What’s more is how it manifests in a fictional narrative of white supremacy that reinforces the idea that people of color are less worthy of protection, opportunity and dignity.

As protests have spread from Minneapolis, across the country and around the world, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets in a collective expression of grief and frustration, America is being forced to reckon with its legacy of racism. The forces of inequality that claimed the lives of these men and women—and have kept black communities oppressed for centuries—need to be confronted to reframe America’s history and build a truly equitable future.

That’s why the Ford Foundation is proud to support a number of courageous individuals and organizations in the throes of this fight, raising their voices and risking their lives to protect the rights of communities of color, demand an end to oppressive policing and greater investment in communities of color, and call on the nation to uphold its values and deliver justice for all.

They are fearless warriors for equality and justice who are tackling the issues of systemic racism and the unaccountable policing responsible for George Floyd’s death. Already, we’ve seen our grantees at the forefront of the change that’s taken place over the last few days—from the City Council of Minneapolis’s pledge to dismantle the police department to reimagine public safety, to Mayor Garcetti’s commitment to divest $250 million of the LAPD’s budget to support affected communities, to Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon voting to end the presence of police in their schools.

These are monumental steps in the right direction—and they wouldn’t be possible without the tireless work of our grantees here and the many other organizations we support forging a path of hope to transform despair into lasting change. Their work is far from over, but what is clear is that they will not allow this tragedy to have the last word.

Working Locally in the Fight for Justice and Police Accountability

 

Black Visions Collective: Black Visions Collective has been one of the most visible organizations on the ground in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Led by and centering queer black feminist organizers, the collective has been at the frontlines of advocacy for justice for George Floyd, urgent police reform and accountability, and helping communities and small business owners rebuild following the uprisings.

Community Coalition: Community Coalition works to transform the social and economic conditions of South Los Angeles residents, including calling for a people’s budget that redirects city funds into sorely needed services vital to the community, including support for unhoused people, mental health services, rent suspension, and funding for public schools.

Communities United for Police Reform: CPR works to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, bringing together a diverse movement of community members, activists, lawyers and researchers from all five boroughs to represent communities unfairly targeted by police. CPR was at the center of efforts to curb the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policing.

Headwaters Transformation Fund: Minnesota’s Headwaters Foundation for Justice has launched the Transformation Fund to provide funds for community members in immediate need and grassroots organizations working to hold law enforcement and elected officials accountable.

Working Nationally in the Fight for Justice and Police Accountability

 

Color of Change: The nation’s largest online racial justice organization driven by 1.7 million members, Color of Change moves decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for black people in America. Currently, it’s running a petition calling for justice for George Floyd.

Equal Justice Initiative: Founded by Bryan Stevenson, EJI is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the US. In response to George Floyd’s death, it has released Reforming Policing in America to provide concrete changes and solutions that will fundamentally change the culture of policing to build trust, legitimacy and accountability.

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: This coalition of more than 200 national civil rights organizations is leading efforts in the federal arena to create stronger mechanisms for police accountability in local police departments. They have also called on the US Department of Justice to investigate the death of Breonna Taylor and open up an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department.

Black Youth Project 100: BYP100 amplifies the voices of young black activists nationwide and equips them with the tools and strategies to drive the youth-led movement for justice and freedom forward.

Repairers of the Breach: Led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, the Repairers of the Breach are building a faith-led, morally driven movement against police brutality and systemic racism. Rev. Barber's "Pastoral Letter to the Nation" is a call to listen to the cries of activists and communities suffering from the double impact of COVID-19 and police brutality.

Providing Legal Support for Movements and Resistance

 

Law for Black Lives: Law for Black Lives provides legal and policy support to youth-led campaigns to redirect funds from criminal justice systems to education and social services in black communities.

Center for Popular Democracy: CPD works with local youth and education justice groups, providing research and advocacy in support of their campaigns to change policies and transform policing models.

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund: Longtime advocates, the fund works toward legal and systemic reforms to stem police violence and increase accountability to black communities.

Defending and Advancing Civic Engagement

 

Committee to Protect Journalists: CPJ, which defends the right of journalists worldwide, has tracked and condemned more than 300 incidents of police violence against reporters covering protests in the US.

Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute: The institute strengthens the leadership and civic engagement of black-led organizations and networks across the South, so that elected officials understand the needs of black people all through the year, not just on Election Day.

Voice of the Experienced (VOTE Louisiana): VOTE is a grassroots organization founded and run by formerly incarcerated people, their families and allies, dedicated to restoring the full human and civil rights of those most impacted by imbalances in the criminal justice system.

Florida Rights Restoration Coalition: Founded by Desmond Meade, the coalition is committed to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with convictions, restoring the voting rights and civic engagement of those most impacted by policing.

Southerners on New Ground: A regional coalition based in the South, SONG is known nationally for its work across issues of race, class, gender, culture, and sexuality for LGBTQIA+ Southerners and their allies. This summer, SONG is hosting a series of discussions to mobilize white Southern allies and build a fully intersectional movement in support of black lives.

Showing Where Worker Power and Racial Justice Meet

 

Centros de Trabajadores Unidos En La Lucha: CTUL is a membership community of low-wage workers in Minneapolis. They have been mobilizing members in response to the killing of George Floyd to push forward an existing campaign calling for city leaders to reinvest funds from policing to communities in need.

National Domestic Workers Alliance and We Dream in Black: NDWA is the nation’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the US. NDWA’s We Dream in Black is a membership community mobilizing and amplifying the voices of black domestic workers who are calling for systemic change and improved standards in the care industry.

National Black Worker Center Project: The project supports and incubates worker centers that empower black workers to advance their rights and improve opportunities in key employment sectors, address the impacts of low-wage work and unemployment on black communities, and prevent racial discrimination in hiring and other employment practices and policies. Member affiliates have been mobilizing and lifting up the disproportionate impact of COVID-19, the economic downturn, unemployment and police violence in black communities.

ROC United: Restaurant Opportunities Center United, better known as ROC United, fights for improved wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce, including the need to address racism and harassment at the workplace. It is mobilizing members and demanding justice for George Floyd, who lost his job as a restaurant worker weeks before being killed, and for all black workers facing injustice and oppression.

Powering Movements with Data, Technology, and Digital Infrastructure

 

Data for Black Lives: The organization uses data as a tool to shed light on the inequality at the root of the parallel crises impacting black people—systemic racism and COVID-19. In the wake of George Floyd's death, Data for Black Lives released an in-depth analysis of the violent economic realities facing black residents of the Twin Cities.

MediaJustice: MediaJustice is a powerful grassroots movement for a more just and participatory media, fighting for racial, economic, and gender justice in a digital age. Its #ProtectBlackDissent campaign challenges the FBI’s use of the “Black Identity Extremist” designation to justify the surveillance and criminalization of black people and other people of color fighting for social justice.

Movement Alliance Project: The project connects communities and builds power for working families by running campaigns, lifting up untold stories, and building infrastructure for community organizations in Philadelphia, including People’s Algorithmic Power Project and Police and Violence Narrative Project.

Technology and Social Change Project: Created by the project, the Meme War Weekly reports on disinformation campaigns that seek to undermine movements.

The Markup: The Markup is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates how powerful institutions are using technology to change society. Phones are crucial tools for protesters, but they can also be vectors for surveillance. The Markup provided information to help protesters prepare their phones before hitting the streets.

Amplifying the Voices and Perspectives of Communities of Color

 

The Center for Cultural Power: Developed in the wake of COVID-19, The Center for Cultural Power has developed a cultural strategy activation guide for artists and creators who want to tell new narratives about communities of color and play a vital role in the fight for racial justice.

For Freedoms: Founded by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, For Freedoms is a platform for artists and creators to use their media to promote civic engagement, discourse, and direct action. Their most recent "Make America Safe Again" video, along with other projects since George Floyd’s death, uses art to shed light on the lived experiences of black Americans.

The Pipeline Project: Actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith's "Pipeline Project" sheds light on the lack of opportunity, resources, and understanding of the physical and mental health challenges that often lead black Americans into the criminal justice system. Its centerpiece is her play, “Notes from the Field," based on interviews with hundreds of individuals, and currently streaming for free on YouTube.

Futuro Media: Futuro Media has been regularly covering the protests from the frontlines, from the perspective of black and brown communities affected by policing. The In The Thick podcast did a deep dive into the issues at the heart of the protests, while a recent Latino USA op-ed highlighted the need for doctors to understand the role of social justice in treating health crises like COVID-19.

Firelight Media: Has been providing very specific tactical/technical support for filmmakers of color to ensure that they are able to be financially savvy during this time. Including a webinar that drew thousands, and walked people through how to apply for SBA loans, as well as tailored consultation sessions for filmmakers with accountants to ensure that their finances were in order, so that they can benefit fully from all relief resources.

Center for Asian American Media: In partnership with PBS, the center has created Asian Americans, a five-part series that chronicles the challenges and contributions of Asian Americans and explores the country’s rich diversity and the intersectionalities of the many minorities that make it whole.

Disability Visibility Project: Founded by Alice Wong, the project aims to capture the full history and experience of the disabled community. With the protests in full swing, the organization has published 26 helpful tips on how the disabled community can take part in the struggle beyond the streets.