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Seattle Office for Civil Rights announces two nonprofits will join the Collective Network to address the carceral state

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Image courtesy of Seattle Office for Civil Rights
Image courtesy of Seattle Office for Civil Rights

Under the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, the Collective Network, which seeks to address violence against the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities and supports alternatives to incarceration and policing, chose the Lavender Rights Project and Liberation Medicine School to support community members who have been negatively impacted by law enforcement.

For 2022, $500,000 in funding will be available, and another $500,000 will be available the following year, lasting until Dec. 31, 2023.

This year the OCR used the same template for applicants as in the past but made an adjustment.

"We included solidarity among Black Trans and gender-nonconforming individuals," said Community Investments Manager John Page. "Our investment strategy and focus stayed the same and added pieces that include and build solidarity with the community and Black Trans individuals."

"The first thing that stood out [about the two organizations that were selected] is they were led by Black Trans individuals who had deep relationships in the community, a lot of credibility, and existed in doing this work long before it became sexy and popular," Page said.

The eight applicants that were not selected for the Collective Network will be debriefed in Jan. 2022.

"In 2018, advocates with Budget for Justice called on the city to realign [its] criminal legal system funding priorities," said Page.

According to Page, the city allocated $1.08 million to the Seattle Office of Civil Rights' 2020 budget to fund community-based organizations for the Collective Network.

"We adopted the social justice funds Giving Project model to distribute that money into the community," Page said.

According to Page, the OCR recruited eight Black, Indigenous, POC, Queer, and gender-nonconforming people in Nov. 2020 to rate 2021's applicants and make funding decisions. They received training, came up with equitable funding principles, developed rating criteria, and conducted outreach.

"After the grant process in 2020, it was no longer a collaborative grant-making contract, it was really a connective network, and that's what we called the contract," Page said. "For the city to be willing to examine ways that it is traditionally funded and try to do a funding process takes the power away from the city."

The Collective Network's request for proposal (RFP) was launched in Aug. 2021, with the goals of investing in organizations and coalitions in order to build a connected network in Seattle.

Liberation Medicine School
The Liberation Medicine School is a group of AfroQueer and AfroIntersex medical professionals that works to tackle healthcare disparities relating to the Black LGBTQI+ community. The LMS acknowledges how Black LGBTQI+ people are disproportionately impacted by the US healthcare system, which it refers to as the "death-care" system.

"Black Trans Sovereignty: Our Origins & HxStories of Medicine" was the proposal submitted by the group, which included an in-depth examination of the carceral state and how it intertwines with the medical-industrial complex. The group also included strategies of building independent spaces within medicine for the Black Transgender community.

The OCR found that Liberation Medicine School is capable of reaching its investment strategy goals. According to the OCR, the Liberation Medicine School provided strong examples of healing projects that focused on wellness needs and trauma processing from transphobia and racism.

Lavender Rights Project
The Lavender Rights Project is a Black Transgender—led nonprofit organization that addresses oppressive systems that are harmful to LGBTQ+ communities of color, with a primary focus on Black and Indigenous gender-diverse people. The organization offers a variety of legal services and education to assist with housing, gender-based violence, and poverty, among other issues.

"The Lavender Rights Project is funded well with human resources and relationships, with deep access in prisons and the Department of Corrections," Page said.

In its proposal, titled "Black Trans-Led Organizational Capacity Building and Indirect Intervention of Carceral Systems Experienced by Black Trans and Gender Diverse Communities in Washington State," the Lavender Rights Project displayed strong legal support services for Black Transgender and gender-diverse communities, while also highlighting internalized oppression, such as transmisogyny.

"They are more interested in... that indirect intervention that comes with avoiding the carceral system in the first place," said Nona Raybern, communications advisor at the OCR.

Page brought up how access to good healthcare and a living wage employment are all needs that can prevent someone from entering the prison system in the first place.

"Unfortunately, our country criminalizes poverty — especially folks in Black Transgender and gender-nonconforming communities," Raybern said. "They aren't as accepted by society, and it's difficult for them to live their truth in our culture."

According to Raybern, the Lavender Rights Project will "really build those safety nets and support systems to make sure that cycle of poverty stops, and in essence, [prevent] entry into the criminal legal system."