New Action Research Collective Asks Night Out for Safety and Liberation Participants: What Is Safety?

On August 1, Texas Advocates Justice (TAJ) and allied community groups hosted their first annual Night Out for Safety and Liberation (NOSL), a night to redefine what safety and liberation means to us beyond the oppressive structures of police, prisons, and jails. NOSL was created by The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, CA in response to the National Night Out event sponsored by the National Association of Neighborhood Watch, which invited law enforcement into communities of color to promote the myth that policing equates to public safety. NOSL provides an action-oriented response to challenge what public safety is. 

Today NOSL is a national event celebrated annually on August 1. The TAJ Austin Chapter hosted their NOSL event at Lanier High School, where community members gathered for food, music, dancing and fellowship. TAJ held fidelity to the NOSL spirit of taking action to respond to the false notion that policing equates to safety and liberation.

We asked 39 NOSL attendants a few questions about their perceptions of interactions with police during emergencies. We found that about 49% of survey respondents do not feel safe calling police during emergencies, 68% of which cited police violence as a reason. Across racial and ethnic categories, these negative perceptions remained roughly the same: 50% of African-American respondents, 54% of Latino respondents, and 44% of white respondents do not feel safe calling police during emergencies. Finally, about 77% survey respondents cited friends, family, or religious figures when asked who else besides police they could call during an emergency, suggesting there is broad support for alternative ways of maintaining safety and health that do not involve police.

Surveys collected at NOSL were the first of many Texas Advocates for Justice data collection efforts. Through a participatory action research (PAR) project, the newly formed DecarcerateATX Action Research Collective (ARC) will engage directly impacted community members in data collection and analysis to identify alternatives to incarceration and confinement in Austin and Travis County, Texas. The research will be used for local advocacy campaigns to reduce the number of people who are arrested and jailed. Our work will focus specifically on improving outcomes for communities of color and those with mental health needs who need help not handcuffs.

The ARC will continue developing ideas for data collection and analysis. Over the following weeks, we are looking for TAJ members and and other community members with lived experience of incarceration and confinement to participate in the project. Please contact Cate Graziani at (512) 499-8111 or cgraziani@grassrootsleadership.org if interested in participating in data collection or playing a leadership role. Time will be compensated. 

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