Visions for Justice: A Conversation Series on Participatory Practice — Building & sustaining Community Power

This is the final installation of our Visions for Justice discussion series. Throughout the series, we have examined key issues for justice as it relates to participatory practices by learning from organizers on the ground who are reimagining public safety, centering community-led decision-making, and divesting from systems that harm us to invest in thriving communities.

PBP's Communications Manager Rahel Teka was joined by Inez Bordeaux, Manager of Community Collaborations at Arch City Defenders, and D'atra Jackson, National Director of BYP100 and Durham Beyond Policing organizer.

We discussed ongoing campaigns in Durham and St. Louis, what it takes to build and sustain campaigns to divest from harm and invest in communities, as well as the importance of centering community-led decision-making.

Some of the victories in these efforts include: in St. Louis, Missouri, bailing out over 3,000 people unjustly held in jail, and in Durham, North Carolina, hiring 72 community members instead of 72 new cops to figure out ways in which their community can build on safety and wellness without involving police.

In these campaigns there is a common thread around the deep relationship building and trust that is necessary to move the work. This involves a lot of engaging people in conversations and asking questions, and meeting them where they’re at. As Inez said, “some people are moved by numbers and graphics, but the majority of people are moved by stories.”

D’atra talked about how she started asking everybody how they feel about an $81 million dollar police headquarters that was being built in their own community. And if they had that kind of money, what would they do with it to improve the situation? Nobody named spending any of that money on police, and most folks didn’t even know this headquarters was being built. Instead, people named needs such as mental health resources, better jobs, and access to quality education.

Building and sustaining community power is really about investing in and developing the deep relationships and trust necessary to move the work, listening to each other’s experiences, allowing the people closest to the issues name what they need in order to thrive, and continually showing up for each other, because people’s lives depend on it.

When asking for demands, Inez emphasized how the participatory budgeting process ensures that the solution reflects the needs of the community  “...it’s the black people and the poor people that live in these communities that have been terrorized by the police who have been victims of the racist system that keeps locking them up generation after generation. So we wanted those people to have the say. And we won’t accept anything less. Period.”

As Rahel mentioned, “it’s not one person doing the action and putting up bail, it’s all of us. It’s finding that collective imagination, and that collective resilience and strength and strategy, to be able to move the work forward and have a constant drumbeat.”

The panel shared their visions for justice, which focused on the themes of freedom, safety, and resilience – being able to connect & share in community, to hear one another, to care for one another, to be free to be Black, to be queer, to simply be without worrying about where your next meal comes from, to breathe without worry about harassment and oppression, to be in a community where there is a roof on everybody’s head, and where everybody has access to robust education and the healthcare that they need.

Rahel, synthesizing the panel’s visions, put it simply: to live in a world where “we’re not talking necessarily about justice in the ways that we talk about it right now, in a world where we aren’t always trying to figure out how to combat what we’re facing, but we’re instead able to talk about what we want, what’s next, to be able to laugh and have joy together.”

These Visions for Justice conversations have been one of the many ways we attempt to build and grow together in order to create a more just world. We are deeply grateful for all the work that is happening and the inspiring conversations & actions that keep moving us forward.

Make sure to tune into past conversations of this Vision for Justice series to learn more about all the different ways you can get involved!

To learn more about the Close the Workhouse campaign, check out their site: https://www.closetheworkhouse.org/

Learn more about Durham Beyond Policing at their website here: https://durhambeyondpolicing.org/

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