Just nine months after launching, Black-led abolitionist community defense organization, Harriet’s Wildest Dreams (HWD), has made a major impact across the local Washington political, community, and legal defense landscape. HWD builds alternatives to oppressive systems through legal empowerment, political and civic education, mass protest, organizing campaigns, and community care programs.
The work of HWD centers on three pillars of organizing, action, and defense:
Ella’s Emancipators is the political and community organizing pillar of HWD, that focuses on base-building, advocacy, and winning budget and policy campaigns to change living conditions for Black people.
Harriet’s Responders is the community defense pillar of HWD, focusing on building local power through transformational direct actions—including organizing, strategizing, and responding to oppressive systems.
Ida B. Free is the legal defense pillar of HWD, practicing participatory defense, court watches, and mobilization of lawyers to ensure those involved in the criminal justice system have the best outcomes.
The tangible, effective results of these foundational pillars, in such a short period of time, illustrates HWD’s unique sense of organizing, and radical politic that the Meyer Foundation is proud to support.
During the summer of 2021, HWD led the #BoycottNellies protests in response to video footage of bar security dragging a young Black woman by her hair down the stairs of Nellie’s Sports Bar— the latest in a string of reported racist incidents at the popular gay bar, located on DC’s U Street. Thanks to the “rapid response mode” of HWD, and other local activist and racial justice groups, what started as a single protest over the treatment of Keisha Young, turned into a movement that not only helped raise money for Young’s legal support, but also sent formal complaints to the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, and gathered a town hall to continue citywide discussions on race, gentrification, and accountability in LGBTQ spaces.
On November 15th, 2021, a more than month-long occupation of the Blackburn Student Center at Howard University ended. Students began occupying Blackburn to protest housing insecurity and a range of associated concerns, including poor on-campus living conditions, food insecurity, exorbitant fees for academic resources, inappropriate interactions with on-campus police and the Metropolitan Police Department, lack of reliable internet infrastructure, poor financial aid resources, and other basic student on-campus necessities. HWD organized alongside students, providing them meals, tents, sleeping bags, water, pillows, blankets, clothing, and medical care. In addition to the resources that helped students with the protest, HWD worked to train students as young Black organizers, to support and develop them as new leaders and advocates for justice.
HWD’s recent advocacy work around the District of Columbia’s Central Detention Center is helping to ensure that Black people charged with a crime have support in navigating the system to obtain the best possible outcome in their cases. In March, HWD launched its Courtwatch DC program, through which staffers sit in the back of courtrooms, collect notes and aggregate data about judges’ decisions, and then use that information to inform their grassroots campaigning. The Courtwatch program and related advocacy ensures a humane environment for pretrial defendants, advocating for improved conditions at the DC facility, the potential for pretrial defendants to be sent to home confinement until their court date, and a reduction in defendants being transferred to other jurisdictions.
As prison abolitionists, Harriet’s Wildest Dreams is fighting for a world where the response to social problems does not include prisons, policing, prosecution, or any form of surveillance, supervision, or incarceration. HWD is working to put liberation and justice in the hands of Black people and communities, and to build transformational relationships and face-to-face conversations that lead to change. In just nine short months, HWD has:
-Hosted a 6-week paid organizing fellowship
-Recruited 600 supporters, 200 volunteers, and 15 volunteer leaders
-Saved defendants a collective 15 years in prison
-Hosted two healing retreats at Mama Harriet’s Hometown
The Meyer Foundation is a proud supporter of Harriet’s Wildest Dreams and the work they are doing to build leadership and power to advance racial equity in the Greater Washington community.
Just nine months after launching, Black-led abolitionist community defense organization, Harriet’s Wildest Dreams (HWD), has made a major impact across the local Washington political, community, and legal defense landscape. HWD builds alternatives to oppressive systems through legal empowerment, political and civic education, mass protest, organizing campaigns, and community care programs. The work of HWD centers …