On Sunday, December 11, the city of Los Angeles ushered in a new era. For the first time in its history, the commercial center of Southern California swore in its first Black female mayor. Former Democratic Rep. Karen Bass’ new position is a sign of increasing Black political power in the diverse metropolis. But the work she’ll be able to accomplish as its leader will be driven, in part, by the power-building organizations that call LA home—the kind of organizations that the California Black Freedom Fund is dedicated to boosting through grants, the most recent of which was announced this week.
Tuesday’s news of a $1 million grant in general operating support to be distributed to five Black power-building organizations in Los Angeles marks the fund’s fifth round of grants to date. In total the five-year, $100 million initiative has handed out approximately $26 million in investments that are building Black power across the state.
As it stands, Black Angelenos are disproportionately affected by criminal justice and economic inequality. According to a Prison Policy research study released this year, no county sends as many people to prison as Los Angeles County. Directors at the California Black Freedom Fund note that the incarceration rates follow racial and economic lines, with the highest imprisonment rates clustered in South Central Los Angeles, where 38 percent of residents are Black.
Those leading the initiative also point to recent events as further rationale for why the commitment to building Black political power is so essential. In October, Los Angeles drew international attention after Los Angeles City Council Members Kevin de León, Gil Cedillo and Nury Martinez were recorded making racist remarks about the city’s Black residents and indigenous people in Koreatown. The leaked recording uncovered a scheme to break up the city’s political boundaries to benefit Latinos.
California Black Freedom Fund believes these recordings demonstrate how Black voting power is often weakened through backdoor redistricting deals—something they’re hoping to help combat by supporting Black power-building.
“Everyday decisions by elected officials and decision-makers reinforce and expand anti-Blackness in our institutions and systems through racial and economic violence,” says Marc Philipart, executive director of the California Black Freedom Fund. “This injustice exposed the critical need to build Black political power in Los Angeles and throughout California. Our Los Angeles grantees are working to ensure the school district, city council, board of supervisors, and all those in positions of power are accountable to Black Los Angeles, prioritizing their issues and perspectives.”
This round of awardees include the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) which is strengthening Black voices, power and opinion in decisions that are directly affecting Black community members; Dignity & Power Now, an organization fighting for the dignity and power of all incarcerated people, their families, and communities in Los Angeles; Students Deserve, a multi-racial organization of students, teachers, and parents that prioritizes the leadership of Black students for Black liberation, working for justice in and beyond schools across the Los Angeles Unified School District; The Hub at LA Black Worker Center, whose work centralizes Black leadership and understanding Black economic and social justice solutions in Los Angeles, created for and by Black workers; and Youth Justice Coalition, an organization focused on challenging America’s addiction to incarceration and race, gender, and class discrimination in Los Angeles County’s juvenile and criminal injustice systems.
Awardees exemplify the California Black Freedom Fund’s mission to “invest in the courageous and visionary grassroots organizers and advocates who are transforming our cities and state,” says a press release announcing the news. Each of the aforementioned Black-led, Los Angeles-based orgs will receive a total of $1 million to energize their efforts in 2023 and beyond.