An open letter written by activist Patrisse Cullors demanding “disinvestment from police and investment in Black communities” has received backing from several celebrities including John Legend, Lizzo, and Common, to name a few.
Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and a founding member of the Movement 4 Black Lives, shared the message calling for the decreased funding of police forces and increased investment toward health care, education, and community programs to keep Black people safe.
Dozens of notable names have signed their names to the open letter. In addition to Legend, Lizzo, and Common, they include actresses Yara Shahidi and Taraji P. Henson, rapper Talib Kweli, activist Angela Davis, actor Kendrick Sampson.
The letter begins by naming some of the most recent victims of police and vigilante violence. This includes George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Dreasjon Reed, Tony McDade, and the “devastatingly long list of Black people who have been killed at the hands of vigilantes or law enforcement.” It then dives deep into the compounded issues of COVID-19’s disproportionate effects on the Black community and “anti-Black police terror.”
“Black people are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19, four times more likely to die than their white neighbors,” reads the letter. “It is important to state this within the context of the scourge of anti-Black police terror and the resulting uprisings taking place across the U.S. The COVID-19 deaths and the deaths caused by police terror are connected and consequential to each other.”
Seeking to pose solutions instead of simply calling out problems, the letter goes on to discuss increased military spending by the United States, while issues of public health and wellness remain largely neglected. “The United States does not have a national healthcare system. Instead, we have the largest military budget in the world, and some of the most well-funded and militarized police departments in the world, too…In fact, police and military funding has increased every single year since 1973, and at the same time, funding for public health decreased every year.”
The letter continues, “According to the Urban Institute, in 1977, state and local governments spent $60 billion on police and corrections. In 2017, they spent $194 billion. A 220 percent increase. Despite continued profiling, harassment, terror and killing of Black communities, local and federal decision-makers continue to invest in the police, which leaves Black people vulnerable and our communities no safer.”
Instead of spending money on more resources that could be used for harm, the open letter suggests increased funding go toward “building healthy communities, to the health of our elders and children, to neighborhood infrastructure, to education, to childcare, to support a vibrant Black future.”
The letter closes with a “call for the end to police terror” and three actionable demands for people to take back to their local officials. “Vote no on all increases to police budgets. Vote yes to decrease police spending and budgets. Vote yes to increase spending on Health care, education, and community programs that keep us safe.”