All of us at Greater Waco Legal Services are outraged at the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. These beautiful souls represent the countless Black and Brown lives that have been stolen from their families and friends, from their communities, and from our nation since 1619. Their murders, and all those others whose names we do not know, were predictable consequences of inhumane police brutality empowered and protected by racist, prejudiced systems that have always treated Black and Brown bodies with violent contempt. We constantly see the carnage that our insidious web of unjust and inequitable systems wreaks on Black and Brown people in our nation — legal, health, education, economic, political, religious, and so many more. Nothing in our nation is left untouched by the false idol of white supremacy. Yet we have turned a blind eye all too often. Our outrage is long overdue, and it is pure garbage lip service if we do not respond with action. Because Black Lives Matter, it’s time for us to dismantle white supremacy.

GWLS was founded upon a mission of holistic advocacy and community-driven problem-solving. We do not exist to provide band-aids alone for individual legal needs. Instead, we must strive to address the deeper causes and root out the harmful sources of our collective afflictions. We now find ourselves more deeply committed than ever before to work that dismantles systems of injustice, destroys racist structures, and dethrones ideologies hellbent on protecting the whiteness of America. Revolution starts at home, and GWLS commits to fight for racial justice in deed and not just word. Therefore, as a starting point, GWLS pledges our commitment to: 

  1. Support local, state, and national advocacy for criminal and racial justice reforms guided by Black and Brown led organizations and leaders, including but not limited to the following:
    1. Advocate for continual Waco Police Department reforms and community oversight through an independent Civilian Review Board
      1. The City of Waco should hire an African American for the Waco Chief of Police, including the establishment of a civilian committee tasked to work alongside the City of Waco during the hiring process for the new police chief
      2. Call upon the Waco Police Department to implement specific reforms or strengthen existing policies, including the #8CantWait and/or Campaign Zero 10 solutions and/or the 21st Century Policing recommendations and/or whatever else works!
      3. Mandate annual police historical/racial bias training for all law enforcement officers
      4. Implement stronger community policing practices
      5. Begin diverting responsibilities away from law enforcement agencies and instead provide resources to meet the community’s needs through other mechanisms, such as social workers and mental health providers
    2. Urge Waco, McLennan County, and others to pass Cite and Release Ordinances
    3. Support creation of a Criminal Justice Committee on Equity within the McLennan County Justice System (courts and jail oversight)
    4. Require a robust mental health policy and mental health budget line item for all law enforcement agencies/officers
    5. Support, participate in, and promote ongoing Criminal Justice Community Education through panels, workshops, clinics, and all other avenues for empowering education and dialogue
  1. Use our tools of law and advocacy to dismantle white supremacy
    1. Create a Client Advisory Council (CAC) composed predominantly of Black and Brown members who will have regular say in how GWLS operates on every level
    2. Recruit CAC members as part of the GWLS Board
    3. Regularly examine cases and client demographics, looking for patterns and opportunities to advocate for holistic justice – e.g. Economic, Education, Health Justice through Property & Housing Law, Family Law, Immigration Law, Probate, etc.
    4. Implement organizational race equity (aka white supremacy dismantling) best practices and regularly participate in staff training and organizational evaluation/assessment
  1. Utilize the services of and otherwise support local Black and Brown owned businesses, community leaders, nonprofits, and other institutions
    1. Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce
    2. Centex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
    3. Any others identified through community lists and relationships
  1. Support local, state, and national opportunities to enact a formal process of Healing and Reconciliation.

In all likelihood, we will mess up occasionally. When we do, it will be wholeheartedly and with wider open arms, clearer eyes, more focused listening ears, and humbler hearts. We ask our community to hold us accountable, to speak truth to us, to trust us to use our power and privilege no longer for the false good of unjust law and order but to trouble the narrative and confront the powers that be. The power of Love and Justice is never more powerful than among those who suffer unspeakable indignities, crushing inequities, and oppressive injustices. We commit ourselves to join those who suffer more fully, where Grace and Hope abound, and together work for a better tomorrow.