May 7, 2011

The Following article originated at and is taken from

Founded in 1996, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (EBC) describes itself as “a strategy and action center working for justice, opportunity and peace in urban America.” Based in Oakland, California, this anti-poverty organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit which claims that “decades of disinvestment in our cities” -- compounded by “excessive, racist policing and over-incarceration,” have “led to despair and homelessness.”

Named after an influential 20th-century civil rights leader and avowed socialist who had ties to the Communist Party USA and the Weather Underground, EBC emerged out of the Bay Area PoliceWatch, a hotline for victims of police brutality that Van Jones (President Barack Obama’s future “green czar”) had launched in January 1995. Jones’ bar-certified hotline started as a project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to identify and track police officers and then refer them to a network of attorneys for possible legal action: Said Jones of PoliceWatch: 

“We designed a computer database, the first of its kind in the country, that allows us to track problem officers, problem precincts, problem practices, so at the click of a mouse we can now identify trouble spots and troublemakers. This has given us a tremendous advantage in trying to understand the scope and scale of the problem […] If a caller has evidence of police brutality, then we have a couple dozen cooperating attorneys that we refer those cases to. Those attorneys rely on us to screen to a certain extent-to ask enough questions about the incidents.”

On September 1, 1996, Jones and Diana Frappier, who operates her own private community criminal-defense practice in the Bay Area, established EBC as a new parent organization for the PoliceWatch hotline. That year, EBC targeted Marc Andaya, a San Francisco police officer, who had killed an unarmed black man named Aaron Williams. When the San Francisco Police Commission dismissed disciplinary charges against Andaya, EBC led a community-based “Justice for Aaron Williams” campaign that eventually forced the police department to fire the officer in 1997.

Building upon this victory in the Bay Area, EBC began a period of rapid growth, launching such projects as:

  • a youth group called the Third Eye Movement
  • New York City PoliceWatch
  • the transgender activist collective TransAction
  • the pro-open-borders INSWatch

To combat what it viewed as institutionalized racism in America, EBC rallied behind three ideas – “justice, peace and opportunity” – and developed its four principal campaigns:

  •  Books Not Bars: "campaigning to reform California’s abusive & costly youth prison system"
  • Green-Collar Jobs Campaign: "creating opportunities in the 'green' economy for poor communities and communities of color"
  • Soul of the City: "works to transform Oakland into a socially just, spiritually connected, ecologically sustainable city with shared prosperity for all"
  • Heal the Streets: "a fellowship program that will train Oakland’s young leaders (ages 15-18) to develop and advocate for policies that bring peace and hope to our streets"

EBC is directly affiliated with Van Jones’ environmental powerhouse, Green For All and its allies, including Joel Rogers’s Apollo Alliance, Center on Wisconsin Strategy, and Emerald Cities Collaborative, as well as the labor-green coalition Working Partnerships USA.

EBC also works with Mobilize the Immigrant Vote, an affiliate of many of the most powerful open borders organizations in the country and a member of the We Are America Alliance, which organized nationally coordinated demonstrations for illegal-alien amnesty and conducted voter-registration campaigns for Democratic candidates in 2008.

While Jones ran EBC from 1996-2007, George SorosOpen Society Institute (OSI) was a major funder of its operations. EBC has also received funding from the New Progressive Coalition, the Columbia Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the JEHT Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation , and a number of additional foundations.

In 2007, when Jones left EBC to co-found Green For All with Joel Rogers, Jakada Imani became the Executive Director of EBC. That year, both EBC and Green For All coordinated a strategy to push for the “pathways out of poverty” provision in the federal Green Jobs Act of 2007, which authorized $125 million annually for green-job training. According to EBC, this victory "inspired [the allocation of] $500 million in related green-job training funds in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," popularly known as the Stimulus Package.

From 2007 onward, Imani focused the majority of EBC’s efforts toward directing the crusade for a green economy in California. EBC is currently involved with directing federal stimulus funds towards green jobs and upholding environmental-justice laws.

EBC is a member organization of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition.


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