The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded the Equal Justice Society (EJS) a $1 million, three-year grant to support the organization’s ongoing efforts to address structural racial inequities, restore equal protection jurisprudence and help build a public platform – a “Grand Alliance” – for the racial justice advocacy movement.
EJS is a national strategy group heightening consciousness on race in the law and popular discourse. Employing strategies including law and public policy advocacy, cross-disciplinary convenings and strategic public communications, EJS seeks to restore race equity issues to the national consciousness, strengthen progressive alliances, and advance the discourse on the positive role of government.
The Kellogg Foundation grant will enhance EJS’s capacity in two key areas: improving the understanding and consideration of race in the law to minimize or remove barriers to equal opportunity; and fostering a “Grand Alliance” that encompasses a wide range of individuals, organizations and movements working together to achieve common goals and a collective vision.
“We are deeply grateful for the Kellogg Foundation’s generosity and its recognition of our work to move us closer to a society where race is no longer a barrier to opportunity,” said Eva Paterson, EJS co-founder and president. “EJS can now more aggressively pursue initiatives that have a long-term impact on the progressive and racial justice movements.”
EJS is one of the few institutions with an explicit focus on overturning barriers to implementing the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and antidiscrimination legislation. We are dedicated to redefining the “Equal Protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in order to redress and prevent present-day forms of bias and discrimination.
Our legal strategy aims to broaden conceptions of present-day discrimination by redefining the legal understanding of discrimination and how it operates. Our theory of changing the law relies upon real-life experiences of race and racial discrimination, and is supported by scientific evidence regarding the process and operation of discrimination at multiple levels, including the individual, institutional and structural. Because contemporary discrimination is frequently structural in nature, unconscious, or hidden beneath alternative excuses for a decision maker’s behavior (despite the fact that a tangible harm has resulted from their actions), the showing of “intent,” as required under current Equal Protection doctrine, becomes a near impossible burden to meet.
Moreover, the notion of proving “intent” has started to bleed into areas of law outside equal protection jurisprudence. In recent years, courts have demanded that plaintiffs prove “intent” in education, employment, criminal law and environmental discrimination cases. Thus, protection against any form of discrimination is under attack as long as the “intent” doctrine remains in place.
In developing a progressive vision of the law and of justice, we must acknowledge the interconnectedness between various issues, struggles and constituencies. This philosophy is the basis of EJS’s efforts to build a national “Grand Alliance.”
A Grand Alliance will create a culture of, and infrastructure for, engaging in cross-silo organizing and strategizing, educating our allies and ourselves – and supporting each other during difficult periods. Today’s civil rights movement must coalesce diverse communities and achieve a broad-based advocacy agenda inclusive of issues such as equal opportunity, marriage equality, and progressive immigration reform.
EJS has a proud tradition of reaching out to marginalized communities and advocating on behalf of social justice issues that have not always fallen under the civil rights umbrella.
EJS will continue supporting legal action to overturn California Proposition 8 and strengthen alliances between the African American and LGBT communities. We will also continue participating in strategic convenings on marriage equality, racial justice, and other intersecting issues. Likewise, EJS will continue supporting the immigrants’ rights movement by helping advance a progressive immigrant integration platform as well as strengthen support for immigrants’ rights from the civil rights, legal, and African American communities.
The Kellogg Foundation grant provides $200,000 to be applied in the first two years and $600,000 in the third and final year.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930. The organization supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the southern African countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. For further information, please visit the Foundation’s website at www.wkkf.org.
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