To Transform Policing, Philanthropy Must Support Efforts to Abolish It

If philanthropy wants to have a genuine impact on the fight for racial justice, we need to fund grassroots abolitionist movements and resource them well.

This article was originally published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Image Credit: BILL CLARK, CQ-ROLL CALL, INC, GETTY IMAGES

Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict last week in the murder of George Floyd brought momentary relief — and finally some accountability. Yet this is just the beginning of a long journey toward ending police brutality in the United States and bringing about true justice. For philanthropy, now is when the real work starts.

Foundations have rallied in support of racial justice this past year, but are we really any closer to understanding what it will take to dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy? Are we putting our dollars into the organizations that will get the work done and that are leading the charge against racial injustice in communities nationwide?

Either out of misunderstanding or ignorance, most foundation leaders remain uncomfortable with the ideas pushed by activists at the forefront of the racial-justice movement — specifically their calls to abolish modern-day policing and dismantle the prison industrial complex.

What exactly do we mean when we talk about abolition? In its organizer’s tool kit, the national grassroots group Critical Resistance defines abolition as “a political vision with the goal of eliminating imprisonment, policing, and surveillance and creating lasting alternatives to punishment and imprisonment.” Abolitionist activists such as Angela Davis note that the movement is not exclusively concerned with abolishing unjust systems but is about re-envisioning how we want to live in the future — about building anew.

Many people wonder why revamping policing isn’t enough, why we should abolish policing entirely. The human-rights lawyer Derecka Purnell put it this way in an op-ed for the Atlantic: “Policing is among the vestiges of slavery, tailored in America to suppress slave revolts, catch runaways, and repress labor organizing.”

Proof that the system doesn’t work is all around us. Since the start of Derek Chauvin’s trial on March 29, more than three people a day have died at the hands of law-enforcement officers. Duante Wright, Adam Toledo, and Ma’Khia Bryant are just three of them.

Over all, Black people are more than three and a half times as likely to be killed by police as white people are. Black Americans represent 33 percent of the country’s prison population, despite making up only 12 percent of the adult population. As a whole, Black, brown, Indigenous, migrant, and LGBTQI people are far more likely to be victims of police violence. For example, a 2019 report from the National Center for Transgender Equality found that more than 58 percent of trans people who interacted with law-enforcement officers in the previous year reported being harassed, abused, or otherwise mistreated by the police.

In a recent report, Technologies for Liberation: Toward Abolitionist Futures, my organization, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, highlights the critical questions today’s abolitionist movement poses: What resources were not available to communities that led to relying on government for a sense of safety? What resources do communities need to build and sustain safe, healthy alternatives to policing that are based on individual well-being rather than violent punishment? What community-led solutions would eliminate the need for technological surveillance tools that criminalize people of color and LGBTQI individuals, including police body cameras, security cameras, and facial recognition tools?

If philanthropy wants to have a genuine impact on the fight for racial justice, we need to fund grassroots abolitionist movements and resource them well. These movements are building alternative solutions to policing and creating tools and technologies that shift responsibility for public safety away from government and into the hands of community organizations that understand what works. Their goal is not to remove safety and accountability mechanisms by abolishing the police and prison system but rather to ensure mechanisms are in place that address real need and build trust.

Need for Systemic Change

As foundations continue to support racial-justice work, they should ask themselves whether their funds will actually create the systemic change they are seeking. Are their grants going to groups challenging existing systems of criminalization rather than those simply calling for piecemeal improvements? Will their dollars help curtail the expansion of technological surveillance by law enforcement or reinforce narratives promoting the false notion that these tools protect communities?

Grant makers should take the time to examine the critical work abolitionist groups have done for years with little support. This includes organizations such as the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, which led a successful, hard-fought campaign to eradicate Chronic Offender Bulletins used by the Los Angeles Police Department to track so-called persons of interest in low-income communities of color. The bulletins were part of an LAPD program that relied on algorithmic data to predict where crimes would occur and identify individuals most likely to commit a violent offense.

The coalition sued the LAPD to stop the practice. A resulting audit of the department’s predictive policing practices found that nearly half of those “chronic offenders” appeared to have zero history of violent crime. In August 2018, the department suspended its use of Chronic Offender Bulletins.

But the coalition’s goal wasn’t only to end a harmful policing practice — it was to redirect funds that had supported the predictive policing program into community efforts that “promote real public safety.” That includes investments in public housing, education, health centers, youth development, healthy food, and steady employment.

Another group, Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative, a Black trans-led nonprofit in Atlanta, similarly works to halt problematic policing practices and replace them with something better. The group observed that cameras with enhanced surveillance capability mounted on police vehicles led to more arrests of Black residents. In response, the nonprofit worked with the city to create a pre-arrest diversion program so that those who were frequently stopped by police could avoid arrest and detention and receive supportive services instead. Since the program began in 2017, 130 arrests have been diverted, according to program organizers and the city officials who worked with them and tracked the arrest data.

The collaborative also worked with Women on the Rise, a sister organization led by formerly incarcerated women, to close down the Atlanta City Detention Center. In line with the abolitionist vision of shifting resources away from criminalization and toward community solutions, the groups are currently working to repurpose the former jail into a community space.

Funding forward-looking work of this kind requires long-term investments that center the knowledge, vision, and expertise of movement organizers. Grant makers must ask these community leaders what they need — and then help them get there. That will require forgoing traditional funding approaches that segment resources into areas such as racial equity, criminal justice, or technology.

Instead, grant makers need to recognize that these issues are deeply interconnected and then find innovative ways to support abolitionist movements that are doing the long, hard work of reimagining and building a future that is safe and just for all.

Collective Care Means Resourcing Trans Futures!

This TDoV, we must challenge the societal constructs that have conditioned us to view trans people as unworthy of support and care. Building the  leadership and visibility of Black and other marginalized trans people is critical for creating transformative change. As feminist funders, we believe our role is to honor the visions of trans people and to invest in those visions over the long-term.

This Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV), Astraea celebrates the power and resilience of trans movements worldwide, simultaneously recognizing the need to continue resourcing trans futures. Transgender activist and founder of Transgender Michigan, Rachel Crandall-Crocker started TDOV in 2009 as a complement to Trans Day of Rememberence (TDoR), an annual event memorializing those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia. She hoped to instead create an event that highlighted the unique and often understated achievements of the trans community. TDoV was created precisely because supporting and rejoicing in transness is so rare.

Here are just some examples of how our trans grantee partners have been building power for and prioritizing collective care for their communities: 

As funders, we must challenge the societal constructs that have conditioned us to view trans people as unworthy of support and care. Building the  leadership and visibility of Black and other marginalized trans people is critical for creating transformative change. As feminist funders, we believe our role is to honor the visions of trans people and to invest in those visions over the long-term. Our responsibility is to keep shifting resources into the hands of trans-led organizations, understand what their needs and priorities are, and build their collective power.

At Astraea, we are 1 of only 2 funders in the world giving more than 10% of our funding to trans-led groups. 

In 2020 alone, we shifted over $1.2 million to 50 TGNC-led groups. 

26% of our grants supported TGNC-led organizing and 100% of our TGNC-led funding in the U.S. was for groups led by and for people of color. 

Many trans people around the world face a grim decision regarding visibility in an era where modest gains for trans rights coexist globally with rising far-right reactionary backlash. This can be particularly difficult for newly-out and younger trans people or those just beginning to fully embrace the complexity of their identities, as they attempt to navigate the challenging and uncertain terrains of being visibly trans. We value every transgender and gender non-conforming person, so while visibility is to be celebrated (and especially so on TDOV), it is essential that it not be misconstrued as the only measure of authenticity.

As we continue to be impacted by this  global pandemic, we have witnessed how COVID-19 has continued to have a disproportionate and devastating impact on trans communities globally, especially on those who are more visible. As communities that already face systemic discrimination and violence, are often unable to access healthcare, housing, and economic opportunities, and whose human rights are either at grave risk or denied entirely in several countries, trans people have been marginalized time and time again. For trans folks, the isolation measures set in place around the world during the pandemic have made life difficult: everyday microaggressions and obstacles have been amplified, access to life-saving resources and necessary healthcare services are often cut short or unavailable, and physical support systems and networks are often out of reach.

All these barriers are exacerbated for trans people living at the intersections of race, class and ability. When people talk about Black Lives Matter, not all Black lives are necessarily valued equally. This is especially true when it comes to Black trans people, who are killed and incarcerated at disproportionate rates and are commonly erased within power structures and ecosystems across society, from the broader Black Lives Matter movement to entertainment media. In June 2020 – during a summer of uprisings against police brutality and systemic racism against Black people – a Black Trans Lives Matter rally was organized, led by, and centered Black trans women, honoring Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells, 27, of Philadelphia, and Riah Milton, 25, of Cincinnati, Ohio who were brutally murdered. The march and rally gave trans and gender non-conforming people the opportunity to mourn lives lost, and to convey their resounding calls for justice, fair treatment and access to greater resourcing.

We are in a moment of global resistance and reckoning. Trans communities are pushing back against white supremacist, capitalist, and patriarchal systems, and demanding pivotal change that will ensure a safer future for us all. It’s well past time we trust trans people and honor Black trans leadership. Speak out and act against violence against trans people. Fall back and let trans people lead. Invest in trans-led organizations, campaigns, and ideas. Fund trans communities intersectionally, across issue areas, movements, and geographies. Amplify trans realities and narratives in nuanced and expansive ways. Against all odds, through times of crisis and times of joy, it is our collective responsibility to shift power and resources so that trans people thrive.

This Trans Day of Visibility (TDoV), we are also delighted to have collaborated with artist M (who creates under the name, Emulsify) to create the beautiful illustration you see below titled “Trans People Deserve to Bloom!” M is a brown genderqueer cultural worker and organizer. They create art that helps them heal, learn, advocate, and imagine new worlds. M is a trained abortion doula, founder of Emulsify Design, and creative director of Arrebato, a space for Queer Trans Black & Brown community. They believe all art is powerful and political. As Astraea, we are committed to supporting artists and their work, recognizing that art is an essential tool for social transformation.

Join us in welcoming the newest Astraeans!

We’re so excited to introduce you to our newest staff members who have joined Astraea over the last several months, helping to further our mission of shifting power and resources to LBTQI grassroots organizing around the world. 

We’re so excited to introduce you to our newest staff members who have joined Astraea over the last several months, helping to further our mission of shifting power and resources to LBTQI grassroots organizing around the world. They bring with them a wealth of experience and knowledge in their respective fields, fresh energy and perspectives, and share our deep commitment to advancing gender, racial, and economic justice around the world. We’re so excited to learn from our newest Astraeans, and to work together to keep building power for our movements! Join us in welcoming them and check-out their bios and photos below.

Additionally, we are thrilled to announce that Kerry-Jo Ford Lyn has been promoted to the newly created role of Astraea Deputy Executive Director. You will know Kerry-Jo from her previous role stewarding Astraea’s Global LGBTI Human Rights Initiative with USAID, Sida and Global Affairs Canada. A leader on staff since she joined in 2015, Kerry-Jo is a strategic systems thinker with impeccable skills in organizational management. She will play an essential role leading Astraea through this time of reinvention and reimagining.

In an interview for Astraea’s Collective Care Blog, we spoke to Kerry-Jo about exploring the power dynamics inherent in philanthropy and how we as a feminist funder must work to break those down in order to uplift and center the voices, work, and priorities of our LBTQI grantee partners. We also take an internal look at how we are threading trust building and anti-oppression work through the entire fabric of Astraea as an organization. Check out that interview here!

Welcome to our newest staff members!

      

Sonya Alvarez (she/her)

joins our Development team as Associate Director of Individual Giving at the Astraea Foundation. She joins Astraea with 20 years of non-profit development experience most notably with the ACLU. [Read more]

Daniel Andre (he/him)

joins our Fiscal team as Senior Accountant.

Douglas Black (he/him)

leads our Fiscal team as Vice President of Finance. Douglas comes with over 20 years of community based and International nonprofit leadership, particularly, internal controls, compliance and reporting. [Read more]

Hua Boonyapisomparn (she/her)

joins our Program team as Project Manager of Astraea’s Intersex and Trans Movement Building Project. She is an experienced transgender activist and has been involved in the establishment of several transgender organizations – locally, nationally in Thailand, and internationally. [Read more]

Britt Jenkins (she/her)

joins our Programs team as Senior Manager of Astraea’s Global Human Rights Initiative. She is a queer feminist, born and raised in the American South, with over 10 years of experience working to advance human rights. [Read more]

Mikail Khan (they/them)

joins our Communications team as Communications Associate. They are a transmasculine & non-binary Muslim media maker, writer & curator from Bangladesh who invests their care and energy into advocating for trans and gender-expansive youth and communities of color. [Read more]

Yeleen Lee (she/her)

joins our Program Team as Program Associate for Astraea’s U.S. Fund, with a background in organizing Asian immigrant communities in New York City for housing justice and language access. [Read more]

Johnnay Leenay (she/her)

joins our Development team as Development Associate, Partnerships. She is a biracial Black lesbian, proudly hailing from Minnesota. Before joining Astraea, she worked in Development at BRIC Arts and Media supporting the Membership team for BRIC Celebrate! Brooklyn and BRIC House. [Read more]

Deidra McBean (she/her)

joins our Fiscal team as Director, Reporting and Compliance.

Winnie Shen (she/her)

joins our Program Team as Program Associate for Astraea’s International Fund with a background in tenant organizing and experience working in New York State government. [Read more]


Inspired? Join our dynamic team by applying to one of the positions below!

Astraea honors the women leading us to our liberation!

Today on International Women’s Day, we celebrate the Black, Indigenous, POC, migrant, lesbian, bisexual, trans, interse and queer women who have and continue to work to free us all.

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” – Audre Lorde | Black feminist writer, member of the Combahee River Collective, and Astraea Sappho distinction awardee

Today on International Women’s Day, we celebrate the Black, Indigenous, POC, migrant, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer women who have and continue to work to free us all. These are the women leading powerful, intersectional grassroots movements; imagining a world free from policing, surveillance, and criminalization; building a culture of collective care, solidarity, healing, and joy. These are the women leading us to our collective liberation.

In recognition of this day, the Astraea office is closed, giving our staff an opportunity to rest and reflect on theirs and so many others’ contributions to feminist movement building around the world, and celebrate how far we have come. Astraea was founded in 1977 – only three years after and intricately tied to the founding of the Combahee River Collective – by a cross-class, multi-racial group of women activists. Our original purpose was to fund a burgeoning national women’s movement that was inclusive of lesbians and women of color, and in doing so the organization became one of the first women’s foundations in the world. In 1990, we officially “came out” as a lesbian foundation. Today, we are the only multi-racial, multi-gender philanthropic organization working exclusively to advance LGBTQI rights around the globe, we are 1 of only 2 funders giving more than 10% of our funding to trans organizing, and we sit at the nexus of more than 40 years of feminist grantmaking and movement building.

“From the minute that we were founded, from the minute that people sat at a table together, before we even could imagine what we were going to be, the understanding was it had to be inclusive. The recognition of intersectionality before the word was even out there was a given for us,” shared Astraea founding mother Achebe Powell in a 2018 interview.

Our feminism is expansive, and is deeply rooted in and guided by the leadership of Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Global South, migrant, and trans and intersex-led movements. Our feminism is proudly radical, it is disruptive, it is intersectional, and it is inclusive of all who are fighting for a future free from injustice and full of joy.

Wishing you a happy International Women’s Day!

In Solidarity,
The Astraea team

P.S. Check out our video on grantee partner GALANG’s work advocating for queer women’s empowerment and inclusivity in the Philippines!

Championing Colombia’s LGBTI Movement: Read our Latest Report!

Astraea is excited to share our newest report, The LGBTI Movement’s Spiral Trajectory: From Peace Processes to Legal and Juridical Gains and Back Again, a case study of Colombia’s LGBTI movement.

Nos complace en compartir nuestro informe más reciente, La trayectoria en espiral del movimiento LGBTI: De los procesos de paz a los logros legales y judiciales, y de vuelta otra vez, sobre el movimiento LGBTI en Colombia.

English:

We’re excited to share our newest report, The LGBTI Movement’s Spiral Trajectory: From Peace Processes to Legal and Juridical Gains and Back Again, a case study of Colombia’s LGBTI movement.

Colombia’s peace processes have brought the diverse Colombian LGBTI population together on two occasions–during the peace process initiated by President Andrés Pastrana in 1999-2001 and during the peace process initiated in 2012 by President Manuel Santos. Through their participation, LGBTI activists have been able to guarantee representation via inclusive policies and programs, and have set a global precedent for including LGBTI people as a key sector of the population. Although the current political climate has seen an increase in right wing attacks on LGBTI human rights defenders and laws recognizing LGBTI rights, LGBTI human rights defenders continue to advocate for the needs of the LGBTI population.

The report offers a holistic overview of the movement’s priorities, progress, and challenges and provides a summary of LGBTI activists’ recommendations for researchers and international funders. 

Read the report

 

 

***

Español:

Nos complace en compartir nuestro informe más reciente, La trayectoria en espiral del movimiento LGBTI: De los procesos de paz a los logros legales y judiciales, y de vuelta otra vez, sobre el movimiento LGBTI en Colombia.

El informe examina cómo los procesos de paz de Colombia han unificado a su diversa población LGBTI en dos ocasiones. Primero durante el proceso de paz iniciado por el presidente Andrés Pastrana en los años 1999-2001 y luego durante el más reciente iniciado por el presidente Manuel Santos en el 2012. Por medio de su participación, les activistas LGBTI han podido garantizar la representación a través de políticas inclusivas y programas, y han sentado un precedente mundial para incluir a las personas LGBTI como un sector clave de la población. Aunque bajo del clima político actual se ha visto un aumento de los ataques derechistas contra defensores de los derechos humanos LGBTI y leyes que reconocen estos mismos, les defensores de los derechos humanos LGBTI continúan abogando por las necesidades de la población LGBTI.

El informe ofrece una reflexión holística de los avances y desafíos del movimiento, señala las prioridades del movimiento, y ofrece un resumen de las recomendaciones de activistas LGBTI para investigadores y la cooperación internacional. 

Lea el informe

 

 


Virtual Report Launch Event / Presentación del informe:

February 25, 2021 at 5pm EST / hora Colombia

We are thrilled to invite you to join us on February 25, 2021 at 5pm EST for a webinar to launch our latest report, ‘The LGBTI Movement’s Spiral Trajectory: From Peace Processes to Legal and Juridical Gains and Back Again!’ The report offers a holistic overview of the Colombian LGBTI movement’s progress and challenges, outlines the movement’s priorities, and provides a summary of LGBTI activists’ recommendations for researchers and international funders.

The event, hosted by la Universidad de Los Andes, will be facilitated by Dr. José Fernando Serrano Amaya and will feature a panel of activists from Colombian LGBTI organizations to comment on the report. The event will be held in Spanish, with live English interpretation provided.

***

Estamos encantades de invitarles a que nos acompañen el 25 de febrero de 2021 a las 5 p.m. EST a un seminario web donde lanzaremos nuestro último informe, ‘La trayectoria en espiral del movimiento LGBTI: De los procesos de paz a los logros legales y judiciales y de vuelta otra vez. El informe ofrece un resumen holístico del progreso y los desafíos del movimiento LGBTI colombiano y también un sumario de recomendaciones para investigadores y financiadores internacionales.

El evento, organizado por la Universidad de Los Andes, será facilitado por el Dr. José Fernando Serrano Amaya y contará con un panel de activistas de organizaciones LGBTI colombianas que comentarán sobre el informe. El evento se llevará a cabo en español, con interpretación en vivo en inglés.

Register for the report launch event here / Regístrese para la presentación del informe aquí



Relaunching our Executive Leadership Search

We are excited to be reopening our search for Astraea’s next Executive Director and welcome applications for a strategic and strong operational leader to build on four decades of innovative grantmaking and philanthropic advocacy to fuel the organizing of powerful LBTQI, feminist grassroots movements.

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy as we continue to weather this pandemic and its effects on our communities. For Astraea, in order to be effective at bolstering the resilience of our movements, we must truly build our own. 2021 will continue to be a year of transition, transformation and deep organizational change for us.

We had begun our search for Astraea’s next Executive Leadership in early 2020 but just as the unpredictability of the past year changed the trajectory of so many of our lives, it similarly impacted Astraea’s own transition and this search process. The Search Committee and the Board paused at the end of last year to take some time to restructure and reevaluate the process. Taking into account the challenges that continue to lie ahead, we are excited to be reopening our search for Astraea’s next Executive Director, and are officially relaunching that search today.

Meanwhile, Sandy Nathan, Interim Executive Director, continues to bring her years of executive experience, skills, and wisdom to leading Astraea through this time of transition. Sandy has made key hires, led the team in defining our values and strategic priorities, centered anti-oppression and anti-racism work to strengthen our organizational culture, encouraged staff sustainability through structured organizational pauses, and is investing in critical operational and infrastructure improvements. Astraea is financially strong and received a $4 million gift from MacKenzie Scott last year in recognition of our long-term, intersectional LBTQI grantmaking. Our board is confident in Sandy’s and the staff’s leadership in continuing to steward Astraea’s financial health and transformative grantmaking to the LBTQI, Black, Brown, migrant, indigenous, feminist movements at the grassroots.

The Search Committee is grateful to the candidates who shared their time and energy to engage in the search process last year. We are excited to welcome applications for a strategic and strong operational leader to build on four decades of innovative grantmaking and philanthropic advocacy to fuel the organizing of powerful LBTQI, feminist grassroots movements. We are looking for a leader committed to advancing gender, racial, disability, and economic justice, who has experience with nonprofit organizational development and proven success in building strong and effective teams. Our ideal candidate has an international perspective and lived experience in the Global South and/or East.  If this is you or someone you know, we encourage you to apply or share this announcement widely! We will be accepting applications on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

Astraea’s committed Board of Directors will lead this process over the next several months. We will also keep you – our partners, friends, and allies – updated as regularly as possible. Sandy will continue to prioritize sustainability, organizational strengthening, and collective care, while bringing in the fresh perspectives and energy that we need to guide Astraea into the future. We remain clear about Astraea’s mandate during these challenging times and look forward to welcoming new leadership to meet this moment and beyond.  

In Solidarity,

Eboné Bishop and Bookda Gheisar
Board Co-Chairs 

We Won’t Be Intimidated

As a queer feminist funder based in the United States and resourcing activism across the globe, we owe our existence to the civil and human rights activism of the queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (QTBIPOC) movements that have come before us. We know this backlash is because we are building a new world.

Astraea condemns yesterday’s violent attack on democracy! White nationalists and the police colluded to allow an unprecedented breach of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. At the same time, members of white supremacist group the Klu Klux Klan held a rally and attempted to enter Georgia’s State Capitol building as part of a coordinated strategy to enforce white supremacy and right-wing extremism at the expense of safe, fair elections and indeed of Black and POC life.

This white supremacist violence can be seen in direct response to the election victory in Georgia (GA) and across the United States (U.S.), where Black and Brown people organized and voted to overturn the legislature and alter the course of a nation. Yesterday, they flipped the senate by electing the first ever Black and Jewish senators in GA. We are proud and humbled by this inspired organizing—our joy will not be looted.

The attacks beg the questions: whose safety, whose democracy and whose freedoms are protected by the State? Narratives of ‘safety’ and ‘security’ are often conflated within State narratives to justify the use of violence and surveillance on Black and Brown people. Yesterday’s blatant use and collusion of State power in support of white-led facism, however, yet again exposes the truth of a nation built to protect ‘whiteness’ at all costs.

Sadly, for many of us this was not surprising. It reflects a well coordinated—and indeed, well-publicized—far-right attack on the election results, and the freedoms of all people, especially Black, Brown, immigrant, queer and trans people. White supremacy is what allows Black people to be murdered while sleeping, tear gassed and assaulted by the police in peaceful protest. It is the banning of Muslim people from immigrating to the U.S. It is the murdering and incarceration of folx trying to cross the border with Mexico. It is the mass-criminalization of Black and Brown people across the U.S., all the while white extremists are given open access to the Capitol and enticed to harm people, buildings and public property. This is a system built to destroy Black life and protect white life. This is the legacy of centuries of white supremacy manifesting in the everyday racist violence of police and institutions.

As a queer feminist funder based in the United States and resourcing activism across the globe, we owe our existence to the civil and human rights activism of the queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (QTBIPOC) movements that have come before us. We honor those who have charted and continue to envision the path of liberation for us all. We uplift what is possible when our people come together to organize and contest for power. We know this backlash is because we are building a new world.

This is an exhausting, terrifying and infuriating time, and the work of anti-racism and the abolition of white supremacy will not happen overnight. We also know we cannot heal from what will not be named. We dream beyond dismantling “whiteness” and towards systems of material, emotional and spiritual repair, towards joy, and towards true liberation where all people have dignity, safety, security and life.

We are committed to supporting the QTBIPOC grassroots over the long haul. They are the architects of our future where true change and liberation is possible. Please take care. Check in on your folx. Stay safe and keep organizing.

Technologies for Liberation – Our New Report is Here!

We’re so excited to share our newest report, Technologies for Liberation: Toward Abolitionist Futures!

Dear Friends,

We’re so excited to share our newest report, Technologies for Liberation: Toward Abolitionist Futures!

Across the U.S., queer, trans, Two-spirit, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (QT2SBIPOC) organizers are leading powerful movements for abolition and decriminalization. Through expansive, imaginative, community-led organizing, they are envisioning a future that is safe for us all.

In recent months, it has been galvanizing to witness dialogue around abolition become more mainstream in the United States. Simultaneously, the aggressive expansion of the webs of criminalization, surveillance, racism, and white supremacy continue to be a terrifying reality for so many. Technologies designed to collect personal information are deployed to control, police,  and surveil QT2SBIPOC communities, and limit the flow of money and power. Narratives of ‘safety’ and ‘security’ are often conflated within state narratives to justify the use of surveillance technologies on the public. 

“We’re seeing this conflation of safety and security that has caused a great deal of harm. Law enforcement and city government tout increasing safety for communities and almost always use the security mindset to do that. We’re trying to drive home the narrative that surveillance is not safety. Safety is knowing who your neighbors are. Safety is a resource community center. Safety is thriving public education. Safety is making sure that your neighbors have water and food. Those are things that are safe.” – organizer and researcher

Technologies for Liberation: Toward Abolitionist Futures explores the disproportionate impacts of mass criminalization and surveillance technologies on QT2SBIPOC communities. It amplifies the bold, intersectional, community-centered movement interventions, technologies, and responses that organizers from within these communities are employing to create safer, more joyful, and more just societies.

Yet, as the report finds, there is an immense gap in resourcing for this type of liberatory organizing. Philanthropy has a critical role to play in funding, fueling, and sustaining this ecosystem. Through concrete recommendations and strategies, the report is an invitation to prioritize and support these dynamic movements rooted in abolition, transformative justice, and healing justice.

We are grateful to Research Action Design (RAD) and the generous movement technologists and organizers who collaborated with us to bring this report to life. Filled with powerful organizing examples, critical evidence, and rich illustrations, Technologies for Liberation: Toward Abolitionist Futures is just a glimpse into the critical work of these brilliant movements. We hope it inspires and energizes you, as it has us.

In Solidarity,
Brenda Salas Neves, Senior Program Officer

Honoring and Uplifting the Resilience of Trans Communities this #TDOR

The best way to honor trans lives is to disrupt anti-trans violence, uplifting the resilience of trans communities, their diversity, brilliance and generativity, and supporting the work of trans activists on the frontlines. To do that, we must resource trans communities.

This Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), we honor and hold close the trans and gender nonconforming people who have been lost to senseless violence. What began as a way to memorialize the death of Rita Hester, who was murdered on November 28, 1998, has grown into a global moment to highlight the violence trans communities still face today.

Trans people have always existed. However, the contributions of Black trans and gender-nonconforming folks like Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, and Zazu Nova have been largely ignored. Social justice movements have also often ignored the impacts of transphobia on trans communities, particularly Black and Indigenous trans folks, including epidemic levels of violence, heightened levels of unemployment and disproportionate levels of educational and health barriers.

The best way to honor trans lives is to disrupt anti-trans violence, uplifting the resilience of trans communities, their diversity, brilliance and generativity, and supporting the work of trans activists on the frontlines. To do that, we must resource trans communities to organize for fair healthcare, increased economic opportunities, safe housing, and gender-affirming education.

As funders, we also need to acknowledge that incremental approaches to movement building that prioritize certain identities over others are doing a disservice to trans communities, especially to Black trans women. There can be no Black Lives Matter without centering the needs of Black trans women. 

How can funders show up for trans and racial liberation? 

  • Develop political education curriculums within institutions 

Developing political education curriculums within funding institutions is critical to reducing the harm trans people of color face. Funders need to apply an intersectional and holistic social justice framework as they confront the disproportionate levels of violence that plague trans communities worldwide, acknowledge that the state and the prison industrial complex are the main perpetrators of harm, and work to address that harm.

  • Repair, heal & unlearn savior complexes

As funders, our role is to support and resource trans communities, rather than lead or define the goals of the movement. We must bolster trans people’s work, but never take credit for it. Our funding decisions ultimately have real-life consequences for trans people.

  • Trust trans leadership 

In order to shift power, it is crucial to trust and support grassroots trans leadership. Groups should have the freedom to choose how to use their funding and develop their own agendas, strategies and financial structures based on their own needs and priorities.

  • Assemble multi-racial trans panels to make funding decisions

Thoughtfully assemble a geographically diverse, intergenerational, multi-ability, multi-racial panel of trans individuals to review applications and select grantees and award amounts. Trans people are the experts of their own lives and experiences–they are the most qualified to make decisions with and for their communities.

  • Deepen multi-year, flexible commitments to support grassroots groups

Some of the most radical, transformative social justice work is being done by trans-led groups, especially those who are stifled by class and racial barriers. It is imperative to intentionally commit to multi-year funding for these groups to support them long-term.

The events of the past couple months have created new space for funders–Astraea included–to rethink our roles in the larger social justice ecosystem. As important as recent shifts and recognition of trans people, especially Black trans women, have been, we funders still have an incredibly long way to go.

On Voting and Visioning the Future

Right now, we’re at a crucial tipping point. LBTQI, Black, Brown, Indigenous, and immigrant communities are fighting to survive at the hands of white supremacy. And, these are the very communities securing a liberatory vision for the future.

Photo credit: TGI Justice Project

What is it you are fighting for?

Right now, we’re at a crucial tipping point. LBTQI, Black, Brown, Indigenous, and immigrant communities are fighting to survive at the hands of white supremacy. And, these are the very communities securing a liberatory vision for the future.

From its very beginnings, the United States has been a country built on slavery, settler colonialism, and extraction, yet the last four years have intensified the levels of overt violence against our communities. Time and time again, the current U.S. administration has attacked women, LBTQI, Black, Brown, immigrant, and Indigenous communities, and our most basic right to live safe, dignified, whole lives. We have seen:

  • Massive rollbacks of LBTQI rights and the appointments of racist, anti-LGBTQ+ judges.
  • Erasure of healthcare and education protections for trans people.
  • A mismanaged pandemic that has killed so many and disproportionately harmed People of Color.
  • Increased police brutality and mass criminalization of communities of Color.
  • The erosion of reproductive rights.
  • Forced sterilization of women of Color and immigrant women detainees.
  • Harsh, inhumane crackdowns on immigration.
  • People in cages at the border.
  • The greenlighting of pipelines across Native lands.
  • The denial of climate change.

The list goes on and on…

While the far right works to destroy democratic institutions, engage in authoritarian behaviour, and deny our human rights, in the United States and around the world, grassroots movements continue to dream, resist, and build the future we know is possible.

If you’re overwhelmed and exhausted, we are right here with you. But as November 3 approaches, and with the stakes higher than ever in the U.S. and globally, here’s what we know to be true:

Your vote matters: VOTE, if you can.

At Astraea we are making Election Day a paid holiday. If you are an employer in the U.S., we encourage you to do the same for your staff. Voting is by no means the only way to participate in democracy, but it is one critical way to ensure that we can elect leaders who represent us, reduce harm, make strides towards more just policies, and work to dismantle white supremacy.

For so many, voting rights still aren’t a given and voter suppression under increasingly totalitarian governments is a major global threat. In the United States, the attacks on voting rights are rooted in the ongoing disenfranchisement of Black people and other communities of Color. Globally, these kinds of attacks are part of a larger far-right movement that is well-coordinated, and well-funded, designed to control and restrict the rights and bodily autonomy of women, LGBTQI communities, and other marginalized communities at all levels.

Our movements hold the transformative vision of our future: We must continue to invest in them!

The work towards collective liberation doesn’t begin or end on Election Day—far from it. Regardless of the outcome of this U.S. election, transformative change and true justice for our communities are a long way off. Yet, when we resource those at the very center of our liberation struggles, when we invest in them over the long haul, we will build power for a brighter future.

Grassroots movements have long been working towards this alternative future: one that is rooted in joy, safety, justice, and care for us all. The Movement for Black Lives (including grantee partners Law for Black Lives, BYP100, MediaJustice, Blackbird, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and SNAPCollaborative) is constructing a future rooted in abolition. The Montana Two Spirit Society is building the leadership of queer Indigenous people. TGI Justice Project is fighting for a future free of the mass incarceration of trans People of Color. Mijente and the Immigrant Youth Coalition are part of a powerful movement that centers and celebrates all immigrants. SPARK Reproductive Justice Now! are pushing for a future in which all of us have access to our reproductive rights and freedoms. Intersex Justice Project is working towards a future in which intersex People of Color are visible and protected. And this is just a tiny glimpse into what our movements are bringing to life, through their resilience, through their advocacy, through their collective care for communities.

Our responsibility and commitment—long-term and at this pivotal moment—is to stand within the struggle, to vote when we can, and to ensure our movements have the resources they need to make this future a reality, both in the United States and around the world. At Astraea, this has been our purpose from the very beginning, to fund at the grassroots, and fuel change rooted in movement visions.

So I ask you again: On November 3 and beyond, what is it you’re fighting for?

Join Us: Fight for joy, for care, for safety for us all. Fight for transformative change. Fight for the future we know is possible.