Virtual Learning Session – Building People Power to Dismantle Systems of Oppression and Police Brutality

July 2020

The relentless police brutality within Black and Brown communities have sparked protests and organizing efforts around the world to show solidarity for Black lives and a demand for justice and systemic change in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which also magnified the pre-existing health and socioeconomic disparities for Black and Brown communities. Although this has been a new experience for many, this is familiar for many residents and activists in South Central Los Angeles. As we explore the four key Drivers of Disparity to understand the root causes of and the current state of inequity in South Los Angeles, three activists and organizers share their personal and professional insights on one of the key Drivers of Disparity: Policing Suppression, Deportation, & Mass Incarceration. In this episode, the panelists discuss the history of policing in Los Angeles, the impact of policing on the residents of South LA, new tactics to continue oppressing communities of color, and the need to reimagine public safety and the role of law enforcement as community activists and protesters continue to push nation-wide engagement and policy reforms to defund the police.

Guest Bios

Mary M. Lee consults with community-based organizations, public officials, government agencies, and philanthropy to dismantle racially biased systems and structures and build just and equitable neighborhoods. She is a former Deputy Director of PolicyLink, a national advocacy organization working to advance racial equity and social justice. A practicing attorney for over 25 years, Lee has experience using civil rights, land use, and economic development strategies to revitalize neighborhoods and enhance public participation in the policy arena, with an emphasis on the legal rights of low-income people.

David C. Turner III is an activist-scholar from Inglewood, California. As the Manager of the Brothers, Sons, Selves, David leads a coalition of 10 community-based organizations working to end the school-to-prison pipeline and decriminalize communities of color. David currently teaches at the collegiate level, including classes on hip-hop, research methods, education, and comparative ethnic studies. David received his B.A. in Africana Studies from CSU Dominguez Hills and his M.S.Ed in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a 5th-year doctoral candidate in the Social and Cultural Studies in Education program at UC Berkeley, where his research focuses on youth-based social movements, political identity, and resistance to the prison regime.

Oceana R. Gilliam is a Policy and Community Liaison at Community Health Councils, a South LA-based health and policy nonprofit. She earned a Master of Public Policy from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She went to Beloit College for undergrad, majoring in Political Science and Russian. Oceana is passionate about creating equitable policies and eradicating disparities that harm Black communities. She is an avid dancer and likes going on hikes with her dog, Curly.

Key Topics of Discussion

  • History of racism and anti-blackness in Los Angeles
  • Protesting in Los Angeles with the Black Lives Matter movement
  • Roots of modern policing in Black communities and communities of color in Los Angeles
  • The political and socioeconomic factors leading to the ’92 rebellion
  • Changing cultural make-up of South Central LA in the ‘80s – ‘90s
  • The function of law enforcement to suppress and control
  • The systemic divestment of education in Los Angeles
  • Defining Defunding the Police and its implications
  • Reimagining public safety without heavy law enforcement presence
  • Redirecting investments into safer systems of care
  • Negative long-term health effects of over-policing for South LA residents

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