Last week, Jordan Neely, a 30-year old Black man, was murdered while pleading for help and experiencing homelessness in New York City. Days earlier, Banko Brown, a 24-year old transgender Black man and organizer, was killed when suspected of shoplifting.
We will name it: These murders are a result of policy choices rooted in white supremacy.
In the words of Jawanza James Williams, Director of Organizing at VOCAL-NY:
"The murder of Jordan Neely is a direct result of the sustained, political, systemic abandonment and dehumanization of people experiencing homelessness and mental health complexities, fueled by press coverage that clearly influences policies and emboldens vigilantes.”
In the days since their deaths – and despite the fact that neither city has provided ample adequate shelter, housing, health care, or supportive services for people experiencing homelessness – some are quick to blame the victims and amplify calls for involuntary commitment and incarceration.
Meanwhile in Congress, House leadership has seized the debt ceiling limit to begin pushing for devastating budget cuts that would ensure more people are as desperate and vulnerable as Mr. Neely and Mr. Brown were in their final moments. Cuts to resources for critical and life-saving programs and services, while many are still trying to recover from a pandemic, will result in harm to our neighbors and cost lives. This is an active choice being made by our country’s leadership.
Despite our national wealth and abundance, politicians blatantly fail historically marginalized communities time and again, crafting budgets and pursuing negotiations to determine who is and is not deserving of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the protection of justice in America. Inaction to stop this is also a choice.
Direct, anti-racist action in response to the murders of Jordan Neely and Banko Brown can take many forms, but maintaining the status quo – in our advocacy, programs, grantmaking, and in both our professional and personal lives – will only ensure that we see more premature and unjust deaths.
This is not an official statement from Funders Together. Statements without action are empty and performative. Instead, we are living out our values by intentionally ceding power to center the voices of activists and people with lived experience and by supporting efforts they are leading. This is a call to action for philanthropy to do the same.
Philanthropy must commit to elevating and resourcing the demands and needs that Black, Indigenous, people of color, and LGBTQ+ communities and organizers have been calling for all along. We have the responsibility to hold our partners and elected officials accountable in the connection between policy happenings, like proposed budget cuts to social programs, and the continual violence against people experiencing homelessness. And equally as important, we need to abundantly fund the fight - and recovery - for justice.
True justice and liberation would mean that Jordan Neely and Banko Brown are alive today and thriving in a community that doesn’t leave their basic needs unmet or ignored. We must strengthen our pursuit of housing justice for all, in honor of those we’ve lost.
Funders Together to End Homelessness
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