For 20 years, the Ella Baker Center has formed unlikely coalitions and won positive change that breaks the cycle of disinvestment and incarceration in communities of color. Among our successes, we:
- Won a campaign through Bay Area Police Watch to have San Francisco police officer Marc Andaya fired because of his history of violence against people of color
- Closed 5 out of 8 California youth prisons and helped usher in an 85% reduction in the youth prison population during which there was no increase in youth crime
- Created Families for Books Not Bars—California’s first-ever support and advocacy network for over 1,400 families of incarcerated youth
- Partnered with the California Teachers Association and led a campaign resulting in 70% of voters saying "no" to Proposition 6, a “dumb on crime, tough on the budget” ballot measure
- Secured millions more dollars for reentry programs and services through a campaign with our allies for Jobs Not Jails in Alameda County
The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights was founded in 1996 by Van Jones and Diana Frappiers. Throughout our history, we have engaged in campaigns related to civic engagement, violence prevention, the green jobs movement, juvenile justice, and police brutality:
- Bay Area Police Watch created one of the first online databases connected to police brutality via a police misconduct hotline.
- Books Not Bars organized a network of families of incarcerated youth to champion alternatives to California’s costly, broken prison system. The campaign fought to close the Division of Juvenile Justice, end solitary confinement in California's youth prisons and jails, and enact sentencing reform.
- Green Collar Jobs promoted solutions to pollution and climate change that would restore the planet and create opportunity and prosperity for all.
- Soul of the City gave people opportunities to shape the political and cultural life of Oakland through community service, voter mobilization, and leadership development.
- Heal the Streets trained Oakland youth to become community leaders and peace advocates.
Over the years, some of our victories have included:
- Stopping the construction of a Super Jail for youth in Alameda County
- Working to ensure the passage of the federal 2007 Green Jobs Act
- Organizing participants in the Soul of the City campaign to contribute over 1,500 hours of community service and voter mobilization
- Graduating three cohorts through the Heal the Streets fellowship program, which trained Oakland youth who were impacted by violence to become advocates for peace and social change
- Enacting multiple bills to help families stay connected with their children while they are locked up in youth prisons
- Eliminating the practice of “time adds,” a policy that allowed guards to extend parole consideration hearing dates without due process in the youth prisons (a primary reason why California youths served the longest average sentences in the nation
Our successes in policy advocacy, civic engagement, the green jobs movement, and violence prevention have led us to our core focus: to build a movement for Truth and Reinvestment. Our nation's long history of racial injustice has created a criminal justice system that targets black, brown, and poor people. To move forward, we must reckon with this truth and reinvest in the communities that have been most harmed.