Notes from POWER Leadership Council

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Linda Rosenwein provides the following notes of the recent POWER Leadership Council meeting:

I found one of the initial clergy sermons meaningful.  It promoted the concept of "holy imagination".  This is the imagination to use in our work.  The Creator is imaginative.  We need to breathe these imagined worlds into life.  But remember that imagination can be dangerous - black people live in white people's imagination.
There was a slide/movie show of the work POWER has been doing since Floyd's death.  
  • There were many different POWER vigils all over southeast PA.  For each of these there was a supporting "movement chaplain" to accompany and support the protesting.
  • many press conferences were held
  • they secured $10K to feed, house, and help others
  • they wrote letter to mayor and separately to city council asking for various things to be done (including lowering budget to give police proposed for next year), some of which have been done.  The letters are in a link at the top of their web page.

Gayle Lacks, cochair of the Live Free Philadelphia campaign - contact her to be part of this campaign ([email protected]).  Rev. Tyler works as the other co-chair.She spoke about what the campaign does.  The campaign is broadly about criminal justice.  There are 4 subcampaigns

  • ending mass incarceration - bail, etc.  Recovery for .previously incarcerated citizens.  During the pandemic they worked on releasing prisoners because of covid risk.
  • police accountability and transparency - this subcampaign has been around at least since the Starbucks incident
  • end of gun voilence - somewhat new subcampaign
  • immigration and ending detention - very new subcampaign

Rev. Tyler talked about the meaning of "defund" for POWER and how to get there.  They shared with us an initial statement on the subject which is not to be shared yet with the general public, as not finalized.  Some of the points in the statement were:

  • They want to go beyond incremental change.    For them, "defund" is decreasing the amount of money for policing and investing it in someone else ("the people") using proven community-based solutions.  This is a great opportunity for the various campaigns of POWER to synchronize efforts.
  • Philadelphia spends $2million/day on policing, yet people are not safer (homicides, crime).  The budget for policing has grown and still not solved the problems - it's not working, so more money on policing is not the answer
  • In decreasing the money for policing they want to invest in long forgotten minorities
  • Need to work on what causes the need for police
  • Want to make everyone safer - black people do not feel safe because of the police, and because their neighborhoods are not safe (homicides, crime),, so POWER does not want to do away with the police; they is needed.. By "defund" they do not mean "abolition" of police
  • Want community-led anti-violence program
  • Want transparency re police data and consequences for police behavior
  • Want a community-based task force to develop a plan 

Rev. Tyler went on to say that 

  • some of these changes need to happen at the city level (mayor and city council), some at the state and some at federal levels.
  • In Philadelphia it will be important to influence the major and city council on the budget.  Need to lower money for police and raise it for other things.  City Council, except for 4-5 of them, are not inclined to have that "fight" on the budget
  • outside Philly, look to the budget on police and incarceration
  • What is happening now is not effective, Public needs to hear this information
The rest of the session involved breakout groups to discuss these issues and what we each individually wanted to do about them.  In my group, An African-American woman (who has worked on the communications team of POWER for 3 years) said she wanted to study options before deciding how she/POWER should go forward - e.g, Camden's experiment with disbanding and rebanding their police.  Linda Clark also was in my group.  She commented later that the Ujima approach fit well with the POWER approach.
The POWER sessions always begin and end with preaching/worship holding by religious leaders.

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