Today marks three months since Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd. Over the weekend, police in Lafayette shot and killed Trayford Pellerin. Here at home, in Kenosha WI, and all across the country, people have mobilized to demonstrate how much Black Lives Matter. In the 15 years that the Foundation for Louisiana has been working to advance racial justice, it has never proven too revolutionary a solution to reject the narrative that says that we can’t have anything better than what exists right now and reimagine a better path. As we grieve the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and too many others, we are moving towards a singular understanding: Our collective energy can and should be distributed away from that which diminishes our humanity towards that which builds it.
The time for yet another report on the dangers of increasing police militarization has passed, we have plenty of those on the shelf. What this moment demands is a fundamental shift in how we resource our communities, and most especially our Black, queer, transgender, immigrant, and other communities at heightened risk of police violence. As a social justice philanthropic intermediary committed to freedom work, we believe it is the role of philanthropy to remove barriers and create paths to resources for those who have historically been denied them. This is how we invest in people’s lives upstream rather than patrol the gaps created by needs gone unmet. It is how grassroots, systemic change is best supported.
Louisiana’s people have proven its agency in the transformation of criminal justice systems. Before hurricane Katrina, our history with policing was not dissimilar to Minneapolis. In the progress we have made from the Danziger Bridge shootings to the foundation of a truly independent Office of the Independent Police Monitor, we have proven that police accountability is possible. Through the ambitious 2017 Justice Reinvestment legislative package, we drastically reduced the populations of our carceral facilities, returned Louisianans to their families, and freed up resources that had been quite literally locked away. We proved that reinvestment is a tactic that works. This is work that can continue to be replicated, even as we collectively fight to make sure it is never necessary again.
That is why FFL remains committed to funding organizations rooted in the legacy of abolition movements that have existed in Louisiana for hundreds of years. It is why we support our partners at Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), and others as they demand that New Orleans decision-makers divest from institutions that punish and kill and invest in life-sustaining systems that reduce, prevent, and better address harm. It is why we support the Vera Institute of Justice as they endeavor to stop the construction of more cages. As we do the work of drastically reimagining our world and continuing to show up for our Black communities, we call on all organizations and individuals with means and a commitment to justice to fund long term policy and structural change. This is one way we will get free.