Patrisse Cullors, co-founder and Executive Director of Black Lives Matter Global Network (BLM), is urging the enactment of the “BREATHE Act,” a 128-page federal omnibus bill that would end “criminal legal systems harms” by “divesting federal resources from incarceration and policing.”
In a political opinion piece published in Teen Vogue, the artist and activist wrote, “While it has not been introduced into Congress just yet, we do have champions: Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib spoke at the press launch for the bill. We want the next Presidential administration to prioritize the passing of this powerful modern day civil rights legislation.”
“The BREATHE Act is a legislative love letter to Black people. When I read it for the first time, it made me emotional to finally see a law that made me and my community feel seen and our needs addressed. That is what we have been missing for too long. Practically speaking, the BREATHE Act is a landmark civil rights bill,” Cullors wrote.
The website promoting the act says the legislation “divests our taxpayer dollars from brutal and discriminatory policing and invests in a new vision of public safety – a vision that answers the call to defund the police and allows all communities to finally BREATHE free.”
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Cullors said, “The BREATHE Act brings four simple ideas to the table: divest federal resources from incarceration and policing; invest in new, nonpunitive, non-carceral approaches to community safety that lead states to shrink their criminal-legal systems and center the protection of Black lives – including Black mothers, Black trans people and Black women; allocate new money to build healthy, sustainable and equitable communities; and hold political leaders accountable to their promises and enhance the self-determination of all Black communities.”
Fox News reported that the act calls for “the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to create a plan that ‘provides for full decarceration of federal detention facilities within 10 years’ and ‘enacts a moratorium on all new federal prison, jail, immigrant and youth detention construction.’”
“In addition, the BREATHE Act would create a commission to study reparations, give voting rights to undocumented immigrants, decriminalize all drug offenses, end cooperation with immigration authorities, pilot programs for universal basic income, among other sweeping changes,” Fox said.
In the Reporter interview, Cullors called on Hollywood to cooperate in passing local, state and federal versions of the act. She told the entertainment world to “Use your platform to drown out those who attempt to spread misinformation on the electoral process. Lift up stories of the everyday people that are doing their civic duty as election volunteers. Black Lives Matter is often targeted and blamed for violence incited by white counter-protesters. Help push back against these false narratives and lift up the many examples of peaceful protests led by BLM and our allies.”
The BLM director asked Hollywood supporters to “join our BREATHE Artist Council today to become active in the next phase of moving from protest to polls to policy.” The council includes filmmakers, actors, singers and artists such as Jane Fonda, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Amy Schumer, Kendrick Sampson, and dream hampton.
A writer and actress for the television series Good Trouble, Cullors recently signed a multi-year deal with Warner Bros. Television Group to “produce original programming for all platforms including streaming services, cable, and the five broadcast networks. This includes but is not limited to live-action scripted drama and comedy series; longform/event series; unscripted docuseries; animated programming for co-viewing among kids, young adults and families; and original digital content.”
Cullors claims that BLM “had direct voter engagement with more than 60 million people via phone banking, text messaging and ads for this historic election.” With the BREATHE Act, she hopes to see the movement grow from “protest to polls to policy.”
The organization sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris, “to really ask for a seat at the table.” Cullors said, “We have not heard back from them.”
Photo from Ronen Tivony/REUTERS