Patrisse Cullors knows firsthand how the prison-industrial complex can affect families in Los Angeles.
The 33-year-old’s brother and father were in and out of jails for much of her young life due to mental illness and drug sentencing disparities.
“I grew up here in Los Angeles, and instead of having childhood memories of going to the beach or Disneyland, I remember police incarcerating some of the most important people in my life, like my brother and my father,” said Cullors. “I remember being in visiting rooms with deputies and with crying family members. Folks at a loss of what to do.”
Cullors used these powerful memories to start Dignity and Power Now, a grassroots organization that fights for the humanity and rights of incarcerated people, their families and communities.
Since its founding five years ago, Dignity and Power Now has celebrated some major victories in their fight for criminal justice reform, including the conviction of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca on obstruction charges.
Cullors, who is also a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said the conviction is just a small step towards Dignity and Power Now’s ultimate goal.
“I would love for Dignity and Power Now to be a model for organizations and collectives that want to fight for police accountability,” said Cullors. “I also want to be a part of this national fight. What we’re seeing is a trend of local municipalities pouring millions of dollars into jailing and policing. I want us to show up and say those millions of dollars actually should be reinvested into poor communities, and Black poor communities in particular.”
Watch our exclusive interview with Patrisse Cullors (above), then check out our entire #InOurCities series here: ebony.com/inourcities