On Tuesday January 8th, 2019, JustLeadershipUSA and the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice held a teleconference for our philanthropic supporters and our partners in New York to share news about a renewed collaboration. The call was co-chaired by the Board Chairs of JLUSA and Katal, and included comments by the President/CEO of JLUSA and co-executive directors of Katal. These notes summarize the brief presentations made on the call.
From Vivian Nixon, Board Chair, JustLeadershipUSA
Thank you for joining the call and for your past, and present support of issues that address inequality and inequity in our justice system.
There is a strong history of collaboration between the Katal Center and JLUSA. This collaboration was essential in developing the priorities and strategy that led to the success of the campaign to demand the closure of Rikers Island. The record shows that Katal’s expertise and knowledge about campaign and movement building were necessary and generously shared from the earliest stages of Close Riker’s campaign.
A little over a year ago we experienced a sudden departure by the founder of JustLeaderShipUSA. Since that time a narrative, fueled by myriad rumors about the roles that various parties played in the voluntary resignation of Mr. Martin, has caused a breach in the partnership. These narratives hurt the field and they hurt people.
While we have come a long way toward recovering as organizations and as individuals, we continue to face ongoing criticism and attacks associated with the events surrounding the voluntary resignation of JLUSA’s founder.
Getting the Mayor of NYC to declare that City policy is now Closing Riker’s Island was an unprecedented achievement. The momentum of that work, which was created by the authentic voices of directly impacted people, must not be thwarted by acts of revenge or sabotage. Both organizations, the Katal Center and JustLeadershipUSA want the people of New York City and New York State to benefit from a continued robust and collaborative effort. Our shared goal is to provide a just and equitable system that allows New Yorkers to thrive.
That is why the Katal Center and JLUSA have engaged in the hard work of reconciliation and have decided to continue this partnership. We are moving on from the work of demanding that New York City Close Riker’s Island to the work of holding the Mayor’s office accountable for getting it done as quickly as possible. We are moving toward the work of building communities through campaigns that address issues of bail reform, probation, and parole. We are prepared to move forward in a way that sets an example for similar progressive campaigns around the country.
From Mariana Ruiz Firmat, Board Chair, Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice
Over this period, we’ve been subjected to a pretty consistent set of attacks by certain people in the field, including funders. It is clear now these false narratives and attacks, particularly over the course of last year and a half, were meant to sever relationships and provoke distance, particularly between Katal and JLUSA. Now, we at Katal see JLUSA being subjected to some of the same types of attacks that Katal has been subjected to, and it’s critical to note that this is happening to JLUSA as women of color are in leadership. As Vivian has noted, as it relates to our two organizations, this relationship is repaired. We are looking forward to working together in New York and beyond on our shared goals of ending mass incarceration and building a movement. The example of repair put forth by JLUSA and Katal should be seen as a model for how movement building can and should happen.
From Lorenzo Jones and gabriel sayegh, Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors, Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice
We are excited to renew our partnership with JLUSA and to build the movement together here in New York City, New York State, and beyond. We’re going to work together to close rikers, win bail and parole and other reforms in Albany, and work toward a stronger, more energized movement.
The stability and health of the criminal justice reform field across NY is essential for community organizing and policy reform to work. The reestablishment of this relationship will bring capacity to and provide direction for real reform across New York State.
From DeAnna Hoskins President and CEO, JustLeadershipUSA
As a new leader in NY taking over a successful organization that has seen tremendous growth and successful campaigns can be challenging. Moving from start up to stability requires responsible leadership that not only examines internal processes but leans in and addresses any and all conflict in external perceptions as well, with the goal of identifying strategic pathways to either enhance what works well and course correct those that don’t work well.
Operating from a 3C’s perspective of coordination, collaboration and communication allows any working relationship to operate with less tension and provides the space necessary to sit at the table and discuss the differences of approach. We may disagree on strategy but that does not mean we cannot respect each other and work together in areas in which we do agree. JLUSA and Katal Center do agree to core principles. We seek reform that decarcerates and guarantees pretrial liberty to all New Yorker’s.
We appreciate the support provided by all of the funders and partners in NY who have patiently and anxiously waited for a solution that allows the field to heal. The same reconciliation we are willing to do with Katal Center, we offer to any and all individuals and/or organizations that are willing to sit down and candidly discuss any/and all harms caused. Only then can we create a path forward.
Thank you for joining us on the call yesterday. We believe that it is critical for organizations working towards decarceration and the end of mass criminalization to communicate and coordinate, even when disagreements in strategy and policy arise. We have allowed a schism to fester. That division has not served any of us well. While we remain committed to our bottom lines and policy stances, we are also committed to ongoing engagement and conversation.
Please be in touch if you have any questions.