The Atlanta-based Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative (SNaP Co.) wants people to go deeper than visibility. In a new report, “Deeper Than Visibility,” SNaP Co. challenges policymakers and allies to consider many perspectives in pursuing public safety policies.
The report’s release coincided with the 13th annual Trans Day of Visibility. In the report’s introduction, SNaP Co. Executive Director Toni-Michelle Williams said that everyone deserves to feel safe.
“To be transformed by grace and mercy in a way that snowballs into more safety for each of us because safety cannot exist for some and not all,” Williams wrote.
Williams told NewsOne the new report arose from coalition organizing over the past few years in a city that claims it’s “too busy to hate.”
“Our commitment was just to talk to the people and pull the stories that we knew were true, and to be open and curious about the stories that we didn’t know,” Williams said. “We wanted to do a project that focused directly on Black, queer and trans issues, which is why we developed ‘Deeper Than Visibility.'”
Even before the killing of Rayshard Brooks in June 2020, SNap Co has worked with coalition partners to reimagine public safety. But after an Atlanta police officer killed Brooks, SNaP Co took its organizing to a new level. The organization hired 14 trans and queer organizers, including two youth organizers, to launch a community survey on what it means to have a safer Atlanta.
Equipped with PPE and proper safety protocols, the SNaP Co. organizers spoke with people across four counties in the Metro-Atlanta area: DeKalb, Clayton, Fulton, and Cobb. The group worked with allied Atlanta-based organizations like Women on the Rise, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and the Southern Center for Human Rights. The Movement for Black Lives also provided support for the organizing effort.
“As an abolitionist organization, we knew that there were different kinds of conversations that Black people were having about police,” she said. “And there were more conversations that needed to happen.”
From that organizing work, the “Deeper Than Visibility” report emerged. By interweaving narrative spotlights called “Tale From the Trenches” sharing individual experiences and reflections, the report provides expansive rarely explored in conversations of safety or visibility. But as Williams explains, it isn’t either/or, the two concepts are intertwined.
“The premise of the report is about how there is a small group of people in Atlanta who are Black, trans and queer fighting for everybody,” Williams explained. “And this report is an invitation for everybody to jump into the work with us. Especially as we are leading into another election.”
Grounded in a Black trans feminist framework, the “Deeper Than Visibility” report also shares the results of community surveys that engaged people in four Metro-Atlanta counties about Black community experiences with law enforcement. As part of a broader “mixed-methods” study, the survey engaged 565 respondents. Over 76 percent of respondents said they could call someone other than law enforcement.
When asked what the top five issues impacting their communities were, respondents named homelessness, poverty, gentrification, lack of addiction and mental health services, and police misconduct/abuse and police-involved shootings. The report noted that even though homelessness was a concern, respondents had little awareness of the greater risk for unemployment and poverty facing transgender community members.
A part of the coalition that worked to address marijuana decriminalization in Atlanta and closing the Atlanta City Detention Center, SNaP Co. has remained in campaign mode over the past few years.
“We wanted more than anything to lead campaigns that truly center trans people,” Williams shared. “And we know that when we center trans people, that would liberate everyone. A lot of our other campaigns were centered around the experiences of Black cis heterosexual men, and then also the experiences of Black cis women.”
Black trans and queer folks are often front and center in fights for justice. We must hold them down year-round and not just on commemorative days or designated weeks of action.
“At the bottom line, we have to connect when it involves our safety,” Williams said. “We have to hear what people need to be safe and act on it. We have to interrupt violence when it’s happening. We have to show up for trans people and for people when homophobia and transphobia is happening.”
This year’s day of recognition comes as many states are taking action to limit the rights and privacy afforded transgender people. Last year attorney Chase Strangio and writer and activist launched a Trans Week of Visibility and Action to spread awareness about the legislative attacks happening to trans people of all ages and help allies understand how to support efforts to fight back.
All of the work to raise awareness and build new understandings of what it means to keep each other safe must include Black trans folks at the outset and not as an afterthought. Williams said it is important to listen to what people feel they need to be safe and act on it.
“It is imperative that we have a culture shift in how we receive each other’s truths,” Williams said. “We are the embodiment of what it means to love and interrupt time in a real way.”
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