53 years ago, the Watts rebellion shook America. At the heart of the rebellion was the systemic abuse of Black communities by law enforcement. From that rebellion rose many efforts to eradicate the poverty and discrimination imposed on Black America, including the creation of Western Center on Law & Poverty. We stand by our half century of advocacy on behalf of people targeted, abused, and ignored by government.
That said, we are saddened and angered that our efforts have not resulted in safety for Black Americans. With the “War on Drugs,” mass incarceration, and the militarization of police forces, the United States and California governments have not only remained complicit in oppression, they have increased surveillance, over-policing, mass detention, and wide-spread violence against Black Americans.
Western Center stands in solidarity with our Black colleagues, clients, friends, and family against systemic and racial violence, including the economic and health inequities disproportionately plaguing Black Americans.
But solidarity means nothing without the work, so we recommit to Western Center’s mission on behalf of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and every precious life stolen or constrained as a consequence of institutionalized racism and unequal economics. We will fight to challenge laws that harm Black people, and call for new laws to radically change the unsustainable and violent status quo – including but not limited to reparations for Black descendants of people who were violently enslaved.
We do not issue this statement to position ourselves as lead voices of this movement. We are not. We honor those putting their bodies, minds, and souls on the front lines to forward the cause in real time.
As a law and policy organization, we have privileges that require responsibility, and we do not take that lightly. We will leverage our history, privilege, networks, and resources to change the systems of power.
We encourage people to help now by following leaders of the movement and listening to their calls to action; as well as supporting organizations in and around your community that are explicitly committed to the empowerment, health, and protection of Black people. And let your voice be heard regularly and repeatedly by your County Supervisors, City Council, State Legislators, and Federal representatives to demilitarize the police and invest in Black communities.
BLACK LIVES MATTER.