A look back at the work we did in 2022
This post was originally an email series with additional content. You can read the individual emails here.
Some of our favorite moments from the past year
From left to right, starting at top left: Mya Hendrix & Janet Asante on IG Live for Reimagine LA Coalition & JusticeLA; The Defenders of Justice; Titilayọ on Reproductive Justice; Megan, Gabi, and Bryanna at Rate My Judge community outreach; Little Miss Abolitionist meme; Ivette & Eunisses Leadership Transition Announcement; Leah on Voting Day; Election Analysis; We celebrate our La Defensa team at The Robinson Space
Come on friends, hop in the sleigh;
We begin this journey with…
With La Defensa’s MEGAN CASTILLO as the Reimagine LA Coalition Coordinator, we have moved $300MM in funding out of systems of harm and into systems of care through LA County Care First Community Investment (CFCI). We’ve also fought for our vision for a #CareFirstBudget and participatory budgeting in LA County more broadly. We’ve co-created strategic recommendations via the CFCI advisory body to redirect CFCI funding in ways that will #CloseMen’sCentralJail , #FullyFundODR, #DefundProbation , and invest in #YouthJusticeReimagined.
Because of grassroots advocacy by directly impacted folks, this year, the first dispersal of CFCI Funds has gone to projects that are 96% percent Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)-led. While we’re still fighting for the FULL reinvestment our communities are promised, week after week, Megan, Mya, and other RELA coalition members continue to show up: to organize and rally, call in to BOS meetings and CFCI meetings, and to work together as coalition partners to build real public safety in LA.
MEGAN brought relational leadership and a strong political analysis to our work in the Re-Imagine LA Coalition, creating a Coalition climate where each member can shine. [Sun emoji] She strategically mentors new organizers, relentlessly focuses on basebuilding, and always strives – come what may – to remain focused on #DoingTheWork and on embodying our deepest abolitionist values.
Check out some of our favorite Reels from the past year
We also welcomed to La Defensa and the Reimagine LA Coalition, MYA HENDRIX (our beloved RELA Community Organizer), a young femme organizer and who recently arrived to the LA area from Chicago. Mya is a wonderful addition to our team, showing leadership in our community outreach and basebuilding efforts. She has already been lighting up the digital airwaves with her all-star presence on IG Live, and brings fresh perspectives, a deep commitment to this work, and a beautiful heart to our org & coalition.
The funding fight continues,
But we must away;
To drop down the chimney of
We accomplished extraordinary things this year in our work with The Defenders of Justice.
We sounded the clarion call and our community showed up to support these judicial candidates for in-person canvasses, text banks, sharing our events and social media posts, volunteering your talents as visual artists and comedians – and we saw firsthand the power of what a small grassroots campaign can accomplish.
Holly Hancock was the first Black public defender elected to office in the history of the Los Angeles Superior Court. As a community, we literally made history this year. The indomitable spirit and persistence that Holly, Anna, Elizabeth, and Jiyoung brought to the campaign trail humanized this work and shone a light on the obstacles and inequities in the campaign process, as well as the challenges we face to practice harm reduction in an institution that has never represented vulnerable communities, nor acted in our best interests. Now that we have elected the first-ever public defender to the LA County Superior Court, we look forward to ongoing partnership with Holly on our Board, and to pushing for structural change to end the harm the judiciary has on our communities.
The campaign started conversations that are already beginning to change the ways judicial candidates are vetted, endorsed, and viewed by the public, and how we view the judiciary, in general. Our favorite new holiday tradition (we’re making it a thing) is tearing open the establishment.
We look forward to continuing this work in partnership with Holly Hancock, Elizabeth Lashley-Haynes, Anna Slotky Reitano, and Carolyn Jiyoung Park.
Big love and congratulations to our teammates GABI VÁZQUEZ (Deputy Director), who lead all campaign strategy from a bird’s eye view and learned all aspects of creating and running a PAC to bring our team to victory. More kudos to LEAH PEREZ (Campaign Coordinator), who executed the day-to-day nitty gritty of the campaign – including planning numerous fundraising events and arts and culture events, as well as leading text banks and voter engagement work with finesse.
And massive shoutouts to BRYANNA SIGUENZA (Judicial Accountability Coordinator), who led canvasses for the Defenders many weekends, and plugged in to many digital efforts to get Angelenos to the polls. And of course, we applaud charismatic TITILAYỌ RASAKI (Policy and Campaigns Strategist) for their deep collaboration with Comms this year in producing (and starring in!) much of the fire poli-ed content we used throughout the election season.
We’re ever so grateful for our partners at Ground Game LA (Anthony, Bill, and Brittani, we’re looking at you), campaign consultants Mary Lizardi, Ruby Western, Scott Mann, Ericka Persson, and Victor Valle at Siempre Agency, for all your work, guidance, and creativity in running this campaign. What a beautiful team effort it was. <3
What’s Santa desire more than cookies and fudge? He wants your review on
Our team at a Rate My Judge courthouse outreach day; a volunteer holds RMJ flyers
An RMJ Analytics Holiday Carol
On the twelfth month of this year,
Bryanna (who bottom-lines a lot of the Rate My Judge work) gave to me,
some data for you-ooh to see:
12 courthouse outreach days!
6.3k total users –
That’s a 93% increase!
7.2k sessions –
Which is a 67% increase!
(Take a deep breath and go hard on this next line, it’s our fav:)
6,273 NEW USERRRRRRRRS!
…and an 85% increase in reviews!
Wanna know more about Rate My Judge?
Visit our RMJ website to view ratings or make your review today!
The RMJ tool gives LA County voters the opportunity to learn more about the judges who sit on LA Superior Court. With greater transparency about the courtroom demeanor and behavior of our local judges, comes clarity about who we should vote for (and challenge!) in upcoming elections. Transparency around our judiciary and its inner workings is crucial to the transformative work we’re doing. In 2022, Rate My Judge also celebrated its ONE YEAR anniversary. <3
Big ups to BRYANNA SIGUENZA for leading many Rate My Judge canvasses in partnership with the rest of the Judicial Accountability team, and for her vision to keep growing the platform, analyzing the data we’re generating through its use, and scaling the impact that it has. We can’t wait to see the power #RMJ will continue to have in 2023!
Here’s a tale that will fill you with cheer,
About two badass leaders we hold very dear:
Straight outta the primaries, Eunisses – elected!
To rep CD1 (with a lead uncontested)
She slayed her opponent, incumbent Cedillo
Which led to the move of Ivette Alé-Ferlito –
To lead in our mission against pre-trial cages,
And build up our base with folks of all ages.
We welcome their brilliance and can’t wait to see
Their leadership continue our
femme-led, abolitionist organizing legacy!
We’ve talked quite a lot about our projects and mission, let’s tell the story of
IVETTE ALÉ-FERLITO, one of the co-founders of La Defensa, has officially stepped into the role of Executive Director of the organization, as our other co-founder, EUNISSES HERNANDEZ, has now officially been sworn in and had her FIRST DAY as Los Angeles City Council Member of the First District. (And remains on our Board!) 🙂 Ivette transitioned in October to be La Defensa’s Executive Director, from their prior role as Policy Director at our movement partner, Dignity and Power Now.
We’re so lucky to have Ivette’s vision and leadership to guide our organization – they are a transformational abolitionist feminist leader bringing principles of radical kindness, transformative justice, and equity to La Defensa and many Coalitions. They’ve spearheaded the Justice LA Coalition, and supported the creation of statewide and local coalitions such as the Care First Coalition, A Budget to Save Lives Coalition, the ReimagineLA Coalition, and SNAC – the Survivors Network Against Criminalization.
Eunisses and Ivette are longtime comrades in organizing. Spanning multiple years, coalitions, and organizations, their advocacy has helped shape the abolitionist movement in LA County and beyond. They founded La Defensa after their years of organizing together, passing legislation at the CA state level, and growing the Justice LA Coalition in partnership with other grassroots organizers.
Together, they saw the need for abolitionist electoral organizing, as well as an organization that held a vision for judicial accountability and #pretrialjustice. Knowing it was important to center the how of organizing, rather than just the what, their vision for La Defensa also centers femme leadership development, sustainable work cultures, and radical gender justice values being woven into all levels of organizing.
Ivette’s sharp policy analysis and innovative leadership will continue to propel La Defensa forward. In addition to their policy chops, they’re a cultural organizer whose work has spanned queer art curation and global music event production from NY to Mexico City. Their body of work uplifts the creativity of queer and TGI BIPOC artists.
Ivette has already shared their brilliant thought leadership as La Defensa’s Executive Director through their powerful presence on the Fruta Fresca and In the Thick Podcasts, and KPFK’s Feminist Magazine radio interview show. They’ve also shared their insights and analysis in The Appeal, Bolts Magazine, KPCC/LAist, and on Telemundo. They continue to redefine what is possible, setting the curve in our politics and in our collective political imagination.
We are so excited to collectively continue building the momentum of La Defensa’s work in partnership with Ivette. We are so proud of Eunisses for her powerful victory in CD1, and are excited for Eunisses and Ivette to remain in thought partnership and co-struggle together in their various new roles.
We wouldn’t get far without them at the helm –
Supporting our team is their magical realm:
From workshops, to eating, to sweet salutations
We present our dear teammates who run
We wouldn’t be able to do this work without organizational scaffolding and structure, and that’s where our amazing operations team, KAITLIN RUIZ (Director of Operations & Development) and LAUREN BOLLINGER (HR Coordinator), come in.
They handle everything from coordinating fundraising, to making sure our org events are accessible (and have the best snacks!), to hiring, to supporting our ongoing political education, including organizing staff workshops around Language and Disability Justice, combating Anti-Blackness in our communities and organizing spaces, and more. They also ensure that our team’s wellness and sustainability is well cared for, including organizing healing justice events for our team, like body healing, and creating memorable team bonding experiences. We are so grateful for the care and heart-centeredness that they lead with!
As we head into 2023, our ops team continues to put in place structures and rituals that help us actualize our collectivist intersectional feminist values and restorative culture. They’re building rituals around restorative practices, and organizational leadership development models that spread leadership amongst each of our powerful organizers. Their intentionality makes real the ongoing practice of embodying our antiracist, abolitionist politics.
AND, we’ve built SO much capacity together. We’ve:
- Tripled our staff since 2020,
- Raised $300k in C4 funds, and
- Raised $1.66 million in C3 funds…
All of which are critical components to La Defensa’s success.
Cookies and kudos to our beloved Ops team, who keep us running like clockwork.
A special thanks to Language Justice mentors + translation and interpretation teams: Jen Eleana Hofer (Channel, Transmit, Repeat), and Kevin De La Rosa (Pro Bono ASL); our Disability Justice guides at LA Spoonie Collective, and everyone else who has helped us on our journey to making our work more accessible to all Angelenos.
We are the meme-stars, the makers of graphics,
We send you the Roundup, and run all the adverts.
We work with reporters, who uplift our team,
Strong poli-ed is our ongoing theme!
Let’s wrap up this wondrous holiday journey with an update from the elves over in
Our job here in comms is to uplift the vision and demands of our abolitionist ecosystem, and to make sure the world understands the transformative work we’re collectively doing. On the job of sparkling up our websites and graphics, you may know JESS ESTES (Digital Media Specialist) from social media posts and the weekly Roundup. Jess’ handmade illustration skills and ability to break down complex info into simple poli-ed graphics helps make our campaign work accessible and engaging – we appreciate her! <3
Our campaigns also require narrative shift work as a key element that softens the ground for policy change and electoral victories. That’s where LAURA COHOLAN (Communications Manager) plugs in, to ensure that journalists are covering our campaigns, and uplifting antiracist, abolitionist, and feminist perspectives.
A huge thank you to our communications organizing partner and White People 4 Black Lives comrade BRITTNEY POLLOCK for their amazing work as La Defensa’s election-year 2022 digital field organizer. This campaign season, they brought brilliant skills supporting the La Defensa media team with graphics and community outreach. We are so grateful for your partnership and contributions Brittney, and wish you luck as you continue on your path as a radical, antiracist educator <3!
Communications efforts to shift power all come together when digital media and messaging are married so the communities we hail from – and are fighting alongside – mobilize around shared goals for lasting structural change. We will keep storytelling for abolition in 2023 – can’t wait to partner together on that. <3
Well, there it is, folks. We did it.
We grabbed 2022 by the boughs and whipped it into shape like that cream on your champurrado. We’re already looking forward to revealing and realizing the big visions we hold for the coming year. As always, stay tuned to the Roundup for our latest news, and follow us on social media.
Happy Holidays, and HAPPY NEW YEAR, family.
The La Defensa Team
Our team is taking a winter sabbatical for restoration and reflection from December 16, 2022 through January 17, 2023, during which time our offices are closed. We can’t wait to keep building together upon our return!