Jacksonville was one of 30 cities across the country where communities participated in an alternative National Night Out to share what they need to feel safe.
On Tuesday, August 1st, New Florida Majority (NewFM), the Ella Baker Center and other local leaders in Jacksonville hosted a community conversation on what #SafetyIs at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church from 6-8 pm. The event was part of the National Night Out for Safety and Liberation (NOSL), an alternative to National Night Out where community members redefine what public safety means to them beyond policing.
“Creating the space for people of various races, ages and class to define what safety is, is essential to building a true sense of community,” said North Florida Regional Director, Moné Holder. “The Night Out for Safety and Liberation is not just about one day but how we can continue the conversation with the ultimate goal of eradicating policies that dismantle communities of color.”
August National Night Out events traditionally identify neighborhood watch programs and better community-police relationships as the pathway to public safety. However, participants in NOSL identify many other factors as being the primary drivers of public safety, such as affordable housing, education, job opportunities, healthy food, and access to healthcare.
“We have to get to know our neighbors but I also think that we need to create the legislative policies that will alleviate our concerns,” said Jacksonville native Deidra Washington. “Whether that be related to a lack of transportation, education or mass incarceration.”
Talking Safety, Building Power
NewFM is an independent political organization working to increase the voting and political power of historically marginalized communities. In Jacksonville, NewFM conducts voter registration, fights for education equity and criminal justice reform, while also working to restore the right to vote to Florida citizens with previous felony convictions.
NewFM Lead Organizer, Devin Coleman believes that neighbors needs to come together to identify what is needed to strengthen communities. “We need to take a look at what we need and reach out in order to get those needs met either internally through community or externally through elected officials,” said Coleman. We need to bring the word neighbor back into neighborhood. Community members need to have a strengthened commitment to one another.”
A National Movement to Redefine Safety
Jacksonville was just one of 30 cities that hosted NOSL events this year. National organizers hope that through block parties, film screenings, and rallies, community members will build relationships with each other, brainstorm about how to make their neighborhoods safer, and be a part of a national movement to reclaim and reimagine what public safety means.
“Too many of our communities are in a public health crisis right now because of long-term disinvestment in the resources we need, said Zachary Norris, the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “And yet, the Trump administration is cutting critical programs that support vulnerable communities while advancing a dumb-on-crime agenda that inflicts even harsher sentences on people, even though we know those policies make us less safe. We need elected officials to start responding to public health problems with public health solutions.”
The idea for an alternative to the law-enforcement focused Night Out programs began in 2013, partially as a response to the murder of Trayvon Martin and the ongoing and longstanding violence inflicted upon Black and Brown communities by law enforcement. This is the first time that a city in Florida has officially taken part in the national effort.
“Safety is important to every community, regardless of who you are or where you come from,” said Moné Holder. “This is about how we best go about achieving that. The fact is that focusing on policing as the primary path towards public safety and encouraging neighborhood surveillance causes more harm to people of color than it does to create safer, stronger, or healthier communities.”
Continue to follow Night Out for Safety and Liberation efforts online with the hashtags #NOSL17 and #SafetyIs. Sign up to receive text updates from New Florida Majority by texting RUNJAX to 90979 or visiting our website at http://bit.ly/NewFMEmail
For more information on this release, please contact Renee Mowatt at press[at]newfloridamajority.org