Time and time again the people of our country have had to stand and fight for communities, our values, and equality. During these times, those that are threatened haven’t always seen the immediate justice that they and others hope for, however the future always seems to self-correct, giving us the gift of 20/20 hindsight.
I recently heard a senior staff attorney from the ACLU speak at the One City event about the internment of people of Japanese descent after the attack on Pearl Harbor. This was caused by a fear-based, racist backlash that detained over 100,000 people against their will for having as little as 1/16 Japanese blood in their veins.
People tend to succumb to inequality in times of fear when we are weak, which is why certain leaders use fear and uncertainty as tools against us. Although the ACLU fought it all the way up to the Supreme Court, they ultimately lost this decision in a horrible judgement. It wasn’t until 44 years later with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, that the U.S. government under President Ronald Reagan admitted our actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership”.
ACLU lawyers have fought tirelessly over the years. They fight now to protect us from the illegal attempts at a Muslim ban and the ICE raids happening all over the country, amongst many other civil rights infringements. People have supported their work with $26 million dollars of donations in just 2 days after the ban, which is six times their typical annual donation. The day after the election the ACLU put out a statement urging Trump to reconsider campaign promises on immigrants, Muslims, women’s rights, and libel laws stating:
“These proposals are not simply un-American and wrong-headed, they are unlawful and unconstitutional. They violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step.”
Soon after the November election, The San Francisco Foundation launched the Rapid Response Fund for Movement Building, with a sense of urgency to protect those most at risk. This was established to provide one-time, small grants of $3,000 to $15,000 within 30 days or less of receiving a request from a community-based organization. The nature of the fund gives priority to requests from small or emerging grassroots organizations, working to advance full racial and economic inclusion.
To date, the Fund has supported 31 organizations with $350,000 in funding for immigration rights, civil rights, safe spaces for community building, urgent communications or legal responses, and much more. Mission Graduates now offers “Know Your Rights” workshops at 14 school sites in the San Francisco Unified School District, and is just one of many organizations doing so with the help of this funding.
Afterwards in early December, they gathered a cross section of leaders, working on immigrant rights and with faith communities, to discuss the new political landscape and how the foundation could further support the resistance and movement building. They quickly mobilized additional resources from their donors, as well as from government partners, including $3 million in matching funds from the City of Oakland and Alameda County to support legal services and immigrant documentation efforts.
ThinkThank and HandsOn Bay Area are humbled to have both of these amazing organizations speaking for the opening discussion at our next event Inclusive Leadership in Divisive Times: Evolving Community Investment & Engagement Strategies in 2017.
Please join us April 19th and listen to Abdi Soltani, Executive Director of ACLU of Northern California, and Kay Fernandez Smith, Assistant Vice President of Programs at The San Francisco Foundation. They, along with many others including attendees, will speak about what we can do moving forward.
The story of how this event came together is far less interesting than what has occurred with many more impactful organizations post election, however it demonstrates that this movement is happening with groups of all shapes and sizes. One week after the presidential election last year my organization ThinkThank received an email from Joey Guerin at HandsOn Bay area. They were interested in reviving previous conversations around partnership on an event, but in the very clear divide after the election, they wanted to shift focus towards our current theme. We could not have agreed more, and out of the seed of an idea sprouted two panels we could never have imagined.
We live in an age of ample information and technology, but must remember that we are not different than past generations of people living in America. It still takes time for people to react, connect, form partnerships, and to take action in the real world during these difficult times. However, given the onslaught of attacks, we all have to move faster, take risks for one another, and leverage tools to connect online to amplify our collective power.
History’s lens tends to show us just how much we didn’t know about our implicit (in addition to other’s explicit) bias, or what we could not see through a veil of ignorance. It makes us wonder what we could still be blind to now. Therefore, we cannot ignore actions or questions that don’t sit right in our mind, and reactively watch the mistakes of the past happen again. Please join us.