Alana Greer and Meena Jagannath
Community Justice Project (FL)
The Miami-based Community Justice Project (CJP) is not your typical legal organization. While it provides legal services to low-income communities of color on racial justice and human rights issues such as housing, employment, public benefits, immigration, and community economic development, it also incorporates training of lawyers/law students and innovative tactics like arts advocacy to lift up the stories that come out of the communities it represents. Even under the best of circumstances, the work is challenging. Yet while 2020 created additional urgency and demand for CJP’s services, it also brought heightened visibility to issues of racial justice and human rights that are at the heart of its mission.
“There are certain moments that rip the roof off what’s going on in communities to reveal both the suffering of what people there live with every day and their resilience,” says co-founder and CJP director Alana Greer. “The reckoning that has taken place this past year is only scratching the surface, but it has made more people aware of issues that disproportionately impact certain communities.”
CJP is one of many South Florida organizations that collaborate together, and complement one another, to ensure that the communities they serve are aware of available resources and legal rights. When COVID-19 hit, CJP helped expedite a moratorium on evictions so that renters wouldn’t become homeless. Other areas of ongoing focus include capacity building, immigration reform and ending mass incarceration, improving workplace conditions for low-wage immigrant women and other workers, and building community-led coalitions to counter gentrification and displacement. It also worked with artists to use music, poetry and visual arts to highlight the lived experience of its client communities.
Fellow CJP co-founder Meena Jagannath says she is cautiously optimistic that the national conversation around the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Brown communities, and the parallel conversation on systemic racism baked into every facet of life in the United States, are signaling a turning point. “We’ve seen how disasters can bring people together. In disaster moments, whether they be hurricanes or George Floyd’s murder, we see people reaching out to help and support each other with compassion and empathy. How do make sure that the windows that open around these issues don’t close? What if this way of being was our everyday reality?”