We are in a historic moment, where thousands of people are clear on the rallying cry. When there is no justice, there is no peace. State violence and systemic underfunding for black people are the heart of this crisis. People have lost faith in the institution of government because our government has given us little to believe in, except symbolism sold as progress.
We’ve seen symbols topple this week in our city, and steps to hold individual police officers accountable.
But the uprisings have made it very clear: People hold power. And the people have clear demands: Defund the police and invest in black communities.
We saw that power in action when Minneapolis city councilmembers announced their intention to disband the police department and reallocate funding into a new system of community care and protection.
Our city faces its own challenges — from the 10-year tax abatement that has accelerated gentrification of black neighborhoods, to privatization schemes for a majority-black school district, to the lack of accountability for the murder of Brandon Tate-Brown, which have all led us to this moment. People are not expendable. When communities are in crisis, you invest in them.
It is time for real action. How the city spends its money is a moral choice, and tens of thousands of Philadelphians have called, emailed, and tweeted as a reminder to all elected officials of what our priorities should be.
I will not vote for any budget that increases funding to the police but does nothing to support communities. If we want a recovery that leaves no one behind, we need a real conversation about redistributing resources from the police budget into community-led programs that can keep us safe and cut down on gun violence. We must reject a budget that decreases critical funds for housing, libraries, recreation centers, art programs, and immigration services while increasing money for the police by tens of millions.
We need a police advisory board that has real power and funding. This includes more accountability in any city-bargained collective agreement moving forward. We need communities who have been most affected by police brutality actively leading and centered in these fights, and we need police-free schools.
We need to ensure that amidst the pandemic, working-class people — black people — have stable housing. This starts with passing the Emergency Housing Protection Act this month so we can ensure no evictions, no late fees, diversion, and rent repayment programs for those behind on rent.
We need to protect our low-wage workers by expanding paid sick leave, and culturally redefine how we view essential work. We need to ensure that the rich pay their fair share of taxes. We must call out the systemic barriers intentionally placed on Philadelphia — like preemption laws and the uniformity clause in our tax code — that keep us poor.
Black people need a stimulus. Our government needs to provide the ability for black and working-class Philadelphians to thrive. A black stimulus means investing resources back into communities that have been systematically starved of wealth. It means funding the basic necessities that have been withheld from black communities for generations: affordable housing, quality public education, fair and dignified work, and a livable environment with clean water and air. And it means taking inventory of who in this city is paying their fair share, and then pursuing policy changes that address that disparity.
The people are showing up. The time for change is now. We need to keep organizing, marching, caring for each other in solidarity, and mutual aid. There can be no letting up when we are so close to real justice.
As a mom, grandma, black woman, and city councilmember at-large, I know my actions will be measured for years to come. This is our moment.