Mass Freedom: New Platform Aims to End the Criminalization of People of Color

By Equal Voice Action


Photo courtesy of Mass Freedom.

In the fight for racial justice, efforts to reduce the criminalization of communities of color have often been waged independently across different issue areas, despite their shared aim. Two prevalent examples are the movements against the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders and the unjust targeting and detention of immigrants, which both address issues of racial injustice but have too often been fought as separate campaigns.

“Our criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems are both rooted in a long history of systemic racism, slavery, and the genocide of indigenous people,” said Rosana Cruz, Vice President of Movement and Capacity Building at Race Forward, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California. “The destructive presence of systemic racism in all of our lives links communities that don’t always see how their futures are intertwined.”

Mass Freedom, a project of Race Forward, which represents the recent merger of Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation and the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI), is a new platform designed to bridge movements to end the criminalization of people of color.

By amplifying the voices of those that are marginalized and oppressed, Mass Freedom hopes to build solidarity and collective power among racial justice movements. Launched with support from Voqal, the platform includes space to share stories and solutions, as well as original videos, articles, tools, and actionable ways to get involved.

Photo by Molly Adams.

Under a shared vision for a multiracial democracy, serves as the backbone of the project, bringing together a host of resources in the field. Housed on the site include stories from ColorLines, FRED Talks, tools, and action items.

ColorLines, also published by Race Forward, is a daily news site that covers social justice issues and news analysis, with content centered around race. Among its areas of focus, which include Criminal Justice and Immigration, stories tagged with “Criminalization” highlight content relevant to mass incarceration and deportation, as well as opinion pieces and contributed stories from immigrants, the formerly incarcerated, and those directly affected by the criminalization of people of color.

“Facing Race, Elevating Democracy” Talks, or FRED Talks, aim to highlight the strategies that are working on the ground with online videos that are produced at local events and talks held by organizers. The videos will also feature stories from immigrants and the formerly incarcerated; the first video, where one can watch activists and community leaders share their stories and “unite in the fight to end systems of oppression,” can be viewed here.

Additional resources include toolkits for advocates, articles that can be driven on social media by movement-oriented influencers, and discussions from the top minds working on innovative strategies for Mass Freedom.

Mass Freedom urges those who can to take action to end mass criminalization, such as signing a petition, making a phone call to legislative representatives, or supporting a local anti-criminalization initiative such as BreakOUT! in New Orleans.


Photo by Fibonacci Blue.

Through her conversations with Race Forward, Michelle Alexander, award-winning author of the critically acclaimed book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, helped galvanize the Mass Freedom project. She writes:

Inspired by courageous struggles for human rights and justice around the world and the sacrifices of those who have gone before us, Mass Freedom aims to help us rise to the challenges we face. By learning from our history and facing our future with open hearts, open minds, determination and courage, we can make America what it must become.

To explore the full Mass Freedom platform, click here.

For more information about the mass incarceration and migrant detention crisis, click here for a paper from Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), with links for further reading, or watch this video discussing the confluence of immigrant detention and mass incarceration.

Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation united with Center for Social Inclusion in 2017 to become the new Race Forward. Founded in 1981, Race Forward brings systemic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity. Founded in 2002, CSI catalyzes community, government, and other institutions to dismantle structural racial inequity and create equitable outcomes for all.

Mass Freedom is a project of Race Forward, bridging movements to end the criminalization of people of color and share our vision for a better future.

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