Intersection’s Nonprofit Spotlight series profiles South L.A. organizations that are propelling positive change in South L.A.
Dignity and Power Now/The Coalition to End Sheriff’s Violence in L.A Jails grew out of a performance art project created by the organization’s founder, Patrisse Marie Cullors. She drew inspiration from the 2012 American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that accused the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department of using excessive force in its jails. For the performance, titled “Stained: An Intimate Portrayal of State Violence,” Cullors enlarged sheets of the nearly 85 page civil rights complaint, and pasted them in a gallery along with bright yellow caution tape. Cullors talked with Intersections about her budding organization, its triumphs and struggles, and its promising next steps.
What is the purpose of Dignity and Power Now/The Coalition to End Sheriff’s Violence?
The purpose is to end Sheriff’s violence in Los Angeles jails with the objective of creating civilian oversight of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department — to look at issues of abuse against the people incarcerated inside those jails, and the impact the incarceration has on them and their families. Our aim is to build a broad coalition that would ensure that a civilian oversight body is elected, has subpoena power, and can track the violence in all the jails.
When was the organization founded? July 2012.
Which areas does the the organization serve? There are 13 coalition partners across Los Angeles County, four of which exist in South Los Angeles.
What services does the organization provide?
Civilian oversight: Promoting dialogue around state violence as an entryway into having conversations around how state violence impacts the ability to further one’s education, as well as how it impacts the family dynamic, and one’s community.
Freedom Harvest: An Art Collective made up of local artist across Los Angeles who have been directly impacted or indirectly impacted by state violence. Dignity and Power Now sees art as a way to build resilience back into South L.A. communities.
The Dignity & Power bi-annual zine: A zine released twice a year that talks about issues concerning the Prison Industrial Complex. It’s important that we develop our own literature around the topic.
Building Resilience: A research group that looks at the health impacts of mass incarceration. How does it actually affect your psyche, your body, and your mental and physical health. How is incarceration actually a public health crisis? How is police brutality and law enforcement brutality? How is that a national crisis?
Dandelion Rise in Leadership Institute: A leadership development group that trains Los Angeles youth in leadership skills.
Video of Cullors’ performance piece, “Stained.”
What are the organization’s recent accomplishments? The Coalition to End Sheriff’s Violence has developed a 13-group coalition across L.A. County. Dignity & Power Now has been able to train and work with over 150 students over the past 14 months in South L.A. and Boyle Heights. This year they have a set of eight interns, five of whom are from South L.A. We have also been able to get supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas and Gloria Molina to say “yes” to civilian oversight in Los Angeles. The coalition only needs one more vote from Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to move forward with civilian oversight plans.
What does Dignity and Power Now/Coalition to End Sheriff’s Violence see as…
…top safety issues in South L.A.? Law enforcement, harassment, brutality, and violence.
Although police harassment is talked about when it happens, there’s no real accountability for it. It’s a huge public safety issue because once someone has been traumatized by police harassment and there’s no real accountability around that trauma that deeply impacts people sense of self. It impacts people’s ability to heal from that trauma. It impacts people’s ability to feel safe with law enforcement. It impacts people’s ability to have healthy ways of managing their emotions.
…top education issues in South L.A.?
All the work I did before the Coalition to End Sheriff’s Violence was surrounded around schools being the the pre-prisons. Or schools being the vessels for young people to end up trapped in the juvenile justice system. For example, the A – G requirements [high school requirements to apply to the University of California]. Some of these schools don’t even have offer them all, but we expect the youth to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get to college.
…top business issues in South L.A.?
Black owned businesses in South L.A. are minimal. When there are businesses owned in South LA they are often businesses that aren’t benefitting its residents.
In which areas could Coalition to End Sheriff Violence use volunteers? Anyone who would like to get involved may. There are plenty of candidate forums and organizing drives coming up in the near future. We’d love to have more people on our team to help distribute, get the word out on social media, and new workshop ideas and facilitators.
Social Media: Facebook
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Contact info: Patrisse Marie Cullors, [email protected], (213) 375-4518.
Video Courtesy of Brave New Foundation Youtube Channel