Power Coalition for Equity and Justice

Power Coalition for Equity and Justice

Executing A “People’s Agenda” for Louisiana’s Future Amplifying Voices, Expanding Power

In Louisiana, Black-led social justice organizations are tackling big problems. Dismal facts and figures lay bare the interconnected structures of discrimination and exploitation in Louisiana, which has the highest rate of incarceration in the country. Residents frequently confront the devastating consequences of climate change, facing off against extreme weather and heat that threatens their lives and communities. More than two hundred thousand Louisianans live in extremely low-income households. The state is one of only five in the United States that does not have its own minimum wage. Unemployment, high across Louisiana, disproportionately affects the state’s Black population and caps benefits at $247 a week maximum, the lowest in the nation. It should be no surprise, then, that the state leads the country in food insecurity. The challenge is formidable.

The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice understands and respects the often-unheralded work of the grassroots BIPOC-led organizations confronting these enormous challenges in Louisiana. Wanting to elevate and nurture that work rather than duplicate it, the Power Coalition formed as a statewide POC-led civic engagement umbrella organization. The Power Coalition focuses on coordinating with, advocating for, and building capacity among grassroots activists working throughout the state, bringing people-centered organizations together in order to amplify their voices and expand their power.

The Power Coalition’s strategy and agenda are entirely informed by the collective expertise of a core set of “anchor partners,” organizations across the state active in advancing the cause of equity, justice, and liberation for Black and brown communities. Those anchor partners include organizations working in criminal justice reform, voting rights, worker’s rights, and housing.

Broadly speaking, the Power Coalition’s collective agenda, called the “People’s Agenda,” is centered on two deceptively simple ideas: equity and justice. Equity, as director of strategic partnerships Morgan Shannon explained, “is making sure that folks have what they need to be able to thrive and survive,” while justice is “righting the wrongs of the past.”

The coalition, then, wants to empower citizens to confront the overlapping structures of racial and class discrimination and marginalization in their communities. Its agenda works to challenge public policy that privileges corporations over community, impoverishes and targets Black and brown communities for over-policing and mass incarceration, and leaves citizens hungry and living in unsafe, tenuous conditions. Those values are reflected in the four core pillars of the coalition’s work: true economic opportunity, sustained criminal justice reform, fiscal fairness, and equitable redistricting.

The Power Coalition functions as an organizer and executor of the People’s Agenda. It builds coalitions across the state and within local communities among activists and justice organizations. It serves as policy advocate, engaging with elected officials to advance policy changes and coordinating statewide campaigns on issues like voting rights, criminal justice reform, and minimum wage instatement. It also acts as a research hub and information clearinghouse, gathering data, providing training, and amplifying programs and resources serving Louisiana’s citizens.

For Power Coalition leaders, capacity-building represents an underappreciated but deeply impactful area of the coalition’s work–with massive reverberating effects. One program, the She Leads: Community Activist Fellowship, reflects the organization’s significant investment in the leadership of women of color. Participants are active and engaged advocates in their own right, precisely the sort of leaders that the Power Coalition seeks to cultivate and support. Fellows are granted a small sum of seed money, technical assistance, leadership training, and mentorship opportunities as they take on big fights.

The Power Coalition knows that to invest in Black female leadership is to change the course of life in under-resourced communities. Shannon cited one recent fellow’s work as a ringing example of the fellowship’s potential revolutionary impact. As executive director of a prison reform coalition, the fellow successfully blocked the opening of a prison in her parish and is now leading the search for a new sheriff. Cohort by cohort, the She Leads: Community Activist Fellowship is building a network of Louisiana Black female leaders on the bleeding edge of transformation in the state. 

The Power Coalition’s collaborative model keeps them rooted in the lived experiences and values of grassroots organizers. Working together, the coalition can have an impact greater than even the sum of its formidable parts.

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