Centering Healing and the Leadership of Incarcerated People in the Fight
By Ashley Chambers
In the past year, communities across the nation have banded together in the fight for racial justice and to defend Black and Brown lives like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sean Monterossa, Daunte Wright and countless others who have lost their lives to state violence. We know that the safety, healing, and growth that our communities need comes from us, not police, prisons, and systems built on white supremacy.
Over the past 25 years, the Ella Baker Center (EBC) has built power in Black and Brown communities, organized with young people and families to hold elected officials accountable, close five youth prisons across California, and disrupt business as usual.
In this powerful conversation, Lateefah Simon, President of the Akonadi Foundation, talks to two sisters in the movement—our Deputy Director Marlene Sanchez and EBC Board Member Shanell Williams, President of the Board of Trustees of the City College of San Francisco—about the importance of prioritizing healing in this work, centering the ideas and leadership of incarcerated people, and how their personal experiences have helped them advocate for policy change.
This conversation has been edited for clarity.
Lateefah: Shanell, you’re leading one of the largest community college districts in the country, perhaps the world. What hopes did you have, and do you have for being a part of the board of the Ella Baker Center?
First and foremost, we’ve been on this journey with each other for 20 years and just to see that, and to be at this point in our journey is so surreal for me and just so powerful. So, thank you for this opportunity to be in conversation with my sisters and shout out to EBC for celebrating 25 years.
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