Social justice is Alana Greer’s family business.
Nearly everyone you meet in the United States has a smart phone with a camera. This year, worldwide, we’ll take around a trillion photographs. This has turned us all into photojournalists, documenting our lives for the world to see.
So, what has come out of this experience? Pictures of Big Foot? No. UFOs? No. What has become painfully clear is that black, brown and poor folks have a dramatically different experience than others. It is as if there are two Americas. One for light-skinned, well to-do folks and another for the rest of us.
Alana Greer grew up in Miami in Latino neighborhood in a Latino family who was social justice oriented. Her father is a doctor who devoted his life to serving homeless and uninsured people. During the height of the crack and AIDS epidemic, she accompanied her father as he visited homeless people. There she learned a sense of empathy.
Early on she was fortunate enough to meet mentors who worked with lawyers as organizers. She attended Boston College and then Harvard Law School. She worked with several social justice organizations advocating for the homeless, working to end the school to prison pipeline and providing social services for the poor.
On July 13, 2013, Alana had just landed at the airport in Orlando. She was in town to speak at a racial justice conference. She heard that the jury in the George Zimmerman case had just finished deliberation. If you recall, George Zimmerman is the man who shot Trevon Martin. Because Sanford, Florida is only minutes away from Orlando, she and a friend jumped into a rental car and started driving toward Sanford. As she said in her interview, “We just didn’t know what else to do with ourselves.”
As they were driving, they heard on the radio that Zimmerman had been found not guilty. When they arrived, they found very few local people outside. “We shared in grief and shock that such a senseless killing of a young person could happen again, and that our justice system could turn its back.”
When she returned to Orlando and participated in the racial justice conference, she felt the defeat of the moment. “It felt really empty,” she explained.
Today, she is the cofounder of the Community Justice Project, Inc. They serve grassroots organizations, mostly those started by black and brown people. They center their services on the needs of the organizations instead of asking the organizations to fit into a set of practices.
She and her cofounders have seen some early victories, advocating on behalf of a Haitian neighborhood in Miami and on behalf of residents of a mobile home park among others.
Social Justice Quotes from Alana Greer
“We believe if you put resources behind organizing, behind people who are directly impacted by injustice, we’re much more likely to get better outcomes than the way we’ve historically done it as lawyers for generations.”
“So many of these instances of injustice are related to the same root causes.”
“What would it look like if we built our advocacy around those needs rather than build our advocacy around a specific area that we think should be the priority?”
“It’s understanding the experience of folks who are directly impacted, who are the experts on what’s going on and have the best solution for moving forward. And they are systematically and so often kept from the table where the suggestions and policies and the demands are being shaped.”
“The tactics we use, whether it’s in the UN hall or in a courtroom in Miami, it can also be about shining a light on organizing, creating opportunities for folks to understand what’s going on.”
“If your project is making a social impact, other people are going to want to support that and you need to be OK with accepting that support.”
Social Justice Resources:
- Community Justice Project: http://communityjusticeproject.com/
- Community Justice Project on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/communityjusticeprojectfls
- Community Justice Project on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cjpmiami