If Dallas were to reduce funding for police, it could use the money to invest in arts groups.
So says a ten-point-plan authored by a coalition of activists calling on the city to divest from the police department and move toward community-led solutions to public safety.
Four black and Latinx theater companies hosted a virtual interview Wednesday via Cara Mia Theatre’s Facebook page with three of the proposal’s authors.
Sara Mokuria with Mothers Against Police Brutality helped draft the plan, after Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins asked activists to propose alternatives to policing.
“When we say defund the police, we’re saying 60 percent of the city’s budget is going into policing to solve public safety issues,” Mokuria said during the virtual interview. “They have not been able to solve public safety issues, so let’s invest in alternative solutions.”
Mokuria is referring to the city’s public safety budget, which includes the courts and fire and police departments. (Mokuria spoke more in-depth about the call to defund the police with KERA News.)
Teresa Coleman Wash, founder of Bishop Arts Theater Company, said re-investing some of the $500 million that goes to the Dallas Police Department into arts programs is just one way to reimagine public safety in Dallas.
“We are so much more than a quality of life issue,” Wash said. “When we are taking kids off the streets and placing them in a productive, constructive, controlled environment during the extended workday and during the summer months, we become a public safety issue.”
Reverend Frederick Haynes of the Friendship West Baptist Church agrees. He’s another co-author of “Ten New Directions for Public Safety and Positive Community Change.”
“When our children, teenagers, have an opportunity to discover talents and gifts,” Haynes said. “That means ‘if I’m doing this, I don’t have time to do that.’”
Anyika McMillan-Herod, co-founder of Soul Rep Theatre Company, says the city should reinvest in things that create healthier environments for communities of color.
“Like many arts organizations of color, we traditionally are underfunded,” McMillian-Herod said. “I would hope that moving forward, some of the increased investment we might see might be to ensure that organizations like ours . . . will be valued more in our city.”
Among other demands, the proposal calls for increased funding for recreation centers, libraries and cultural centers. It also asks the city to provide funding to employ young people from underrepresented groups including LGBTQ+ youth.
Got a tip? Email Miguel Perez at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter @quillindie.
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