Last summer, the Black Lives Matter movement rose up after the tragic death of George Floyd. The movement has become monumental, bringing the issues of systemic racism to the forefront of our society and challenging everyone to ask themselves how they can be actively anti-racist.
This Black History Month, we want to give back to The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a nonprofit organization centered around human rights that supports underrepresented communities of color. Founded by Bryan Stevenson, a public interest lawyer, EJI is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States.
Pildora will be donating 10% of all proceeds to EJI for the month of February in honor of Black History Month. From challenging racial and economic injustice to providing legal representation for people who are wrongly convicted, EJI advocates for humane prison reform and an end to excessive punishment.
Criminal Justice Reform
Criminal justice reform is a key issue that EJI focuses on. Black and brown people are often viewed by law enforcement as more dangerous, which results in excessive arrests and sentences. Mass incarceration disproportionately impacts the poor and people of color. African Americans make up 42% of people on death row and 34% of those executed, but only 13% of the (U.S.) population is Black.
Unfortunately, the death penalty is commonly imposed on the poor, who cannot afford an experienced attorney. EJI provides legal assistance and representation at trial, on appeal, and in post-conviction for people on death row, many of whom are innocent or wrongly convicted. EJI strives to put an end to the death penalty sentences, which do not make the public safer.
Furthermore, EJI works to protect children from abusive treatment in the adult criminal justice system. Some states strictly prohibit placing children in adult jails or prisons, but a majority still allow children to be incarcerated in adult prisons and jails, where they unfortunately are at highest risk of being sexually assaulted.
Racism is still prevalent in our society today. In the 17th century, millions of African people were kidnapped, enslaved, and shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas under horrific conditions. Nearly two million people died at sea. Slavery in America did not end. It evolved. After the Civil War, lynching became a tool to terrorize Black people in the South and re-establish white supremacy. This continued narrative has played a role in the mass incarceration of people of color. In addition to lynching, segregation was supported by most white Americans and Confederate leaders. Anti-segregation protesters were met with violence.
Currently, Black men are nearly six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men; Latino men are nearly three times as likely. Native Americans are incarcerated at more than twice the rate of white Americans. EJI works to encourage people to learn about the history of racial injustice and to never forget history.
Only through public education and confronting our history can we create a future that is equal and fair. EJI’s Community Remembrance project works with communities to put in place historical markers for racial violence such as lynchings. EJI opened the Legacy Museum in 2018, a former warehouse used to contain enslaved and imprisoned Black people. The museum dives deep into the history of racial inequality to today’s issues around mass incarceration and police violence. Visitors experience through first-hand accounts what it was like to be a slave.
In addition to the Legacy Museum, EJI also created the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in 2018. It is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence. EJI develops reports and has accessible resources available for individuals to proactively learn about racial injustice. We must continue the work of being actively anti-racist.
At Pildora, we are committed to continuing the conversation around anti-racism. We have started a monthly Anti-Racism Initiative to create space to discuss these issues, and to listen and reference resources from BIPOC community members. It is a way to check ourselves and continue learning. We are proud to highlight the work of EJI this month and fully support their initiatives.
You can donate directly to EJI here: https://support.eji.org/give/153413/#!/donation/checkout