"Now is the Time for Monsters"

19 November 2020

In our most recent newsletter, Osborne's President & CEO Elizabeth Gaynes reflects on the recent presidential election. 

You can read the newsletter in its entirety here.  

Two weeks after the election, it is clear that a gut punch to the “old world” came about because Black and Latinx people showed up. Despite the hand-wringing of those complaining that activism to reform bail and sentencing laws, protest police violence, and demand universal health care led to defeats down-ballot, the top of the ballot swung precisely because of the margins in Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. In every state, large majorities of voters of color demonstrated that they care about justice.

Consider Stacey Abrams, keynote speaker at Osborne’s 2019 Lighting the Way breakfast (the last time the whole Osborne family was able to gather in a room together). Ms. Abrams lost her 2018 bid to become Governor of Georgia in an election marred by aggressive anti-Black voter suppression. But she did not pick up her toys and go home. Like so many of Osborne’s participants and staff, she took a hard defeat, learned the lessons it had to teach her, and transformed her work with renewed purpose. In this year’s national election, the organization Ms. Abrams founded – Fair Fight – was active in 20 battleground states, educating voters and mobilizing volunteers to protect their neighbors’ right to the ballot.

Because over-policing and mass incarceration have a grossly unequal impact on people of color, the disenfranchisement of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people still weakens the power of the Black and Latinx vote. Even when voting rights are restored to people with felony convictions, as happened in Florida, fines, fees, and bureaucratic obstacles continue to keep them from the polls. But they – we – still vote. And that, too, is transformative. As one formerly incarcerated man reported, in a story published by The Marshall Project, “Voting makes me feel like I am welcome back into the community.” “Voting for me is literally my freedom,” another man said. “It’s my stamp that I am free.” And this feeling will only grow: Californians just voted to re-enfranchise people on parole with felony convictions.

Many different groups came together to reject (too narrowly!) the old world, including young people, labor unions, indigenous nations, and LGBTQ voters. The drug war lost battles in both red and blue states that legalized recreational marijuana, and many cities expanded police accountability. But while the power of the people was unleashed in this election, so were the monsters – armed militias, violence against peaceful protesters, attacks on bail reform. They are with us still, along with a surge of Covid-19 in prisons and jails, where social distancing is impossible, and calls to release vulnerable people are denied. But monsters only have as much power as we give them; as we face the struggles ahead, I believe that all of us who are part of Osborne – staff, participants, board members, friends, and supporters – can be midwives to the new world that struggles to be born.

La lucha continua...

Elizabeth Gaynes
President & CEO