Semillas Arizona started organizing in 2015 as a response to the death of Jose de Jesus in Eloy detention center under a different name. Semillas would stay organizing, working with migrant families who had gone through family separation. In 2016 and 2017 after the deaths of Dalvin Hollins and Antonio Arce, Semillas Arizona would cross paths with BLM Phoenix Metro where we began to collaborate in multiple actions and coalitions.
BLM Phoenix Metro started working in Tempe in 2016 after the police murder of Dalvin Hollins. At that time, our strategy was to work closely with impacted families, determine one-off reforms that could have prevented that particular incident, and organize protests around those demands.
BLM Phoenix Metro and Semillas began working together in 2019 when Antonio Arce, an unarmed fourteen-year-old, was shot in the back by a police officer. Working in coalition with several student justice-oriented organizations, we formed the Tempe Action Coalition Against Brutality (TACAB) and continued to fight for justice for both Arce and Hollins, demanding a series of reforms that would have prevented their deaths. While we had some mild successes, such as the temporary removal of guns from G4S, the security guards in the parks, we did not see institutional changes.
We attempted to engage the City of Tempe in their 2020-2021, demanding that the City Council reckon with the abuses and misconduct of their police force and not increase the department’s budget. However, the procedures around public comment discouraged participation. Furthermore, the City was hearing public opinion in May and June, when major decisions for the operating budget had already been made. There was no room for substantive changes based on the community’s input. It was at this point we realized that we would have to work year round to better understand the departments, the budget process, and their timeline so that we could engage before the decisions were already made.
We crafted a proposal for the Community Reinvestment Roundtable: a BIPOC-led group of directly impacted people, community activists and leaders in Tempe working to strengthen the social safety net. An important aspect of this proposal is that we committed to not only put pressure on the City from the outside, but also work with and alongside them.
We have participated in the City’s Equity in Action initiative as well as their Public Safety Task Force. We also spent the first half of 2021 meeting with the heads of departments to better understand the programs and services the City of Tempe currently offers and where there were gaps that need investment.
In the second half of 2021, we refocused our efforts to connect with directly impacted people, community activists and leaders in Tempe through the Tempe People’s Budget campaign and survey. The goal is to get the community’s input on what kinds of investments would really increase their safety and wellness, which will guide and drive our advocacy as we continue to engage with the City.
In 2022, we are engaging the City throughout the budget season as well as participating in three Equity in Action pilot projects connected to our People’s Budget campaign and alternatives to policing.
At the end of the day, we have never forgotten why we are doing this. We are still fighting for #JusticeforDalvinHollins and #JusticeforAntonioArce, and every other life impacted or lost to police brutality. However, instead of focusing exclusively on fighting police brutality, we have invested in a broader aim to redefine safety for our communities, and advocate for reinvestment in things like affordable housing, support for our unsheltered community, increased access to social programs, mental health and climate change.
This is informed by an abolitionist perspective. Most often, petty “crimes” are committed out of a place of poverty, hurt and needs not being met. They stem from social problems that do not go away by criminalizing behavior. Locking people in cages only temporarily removes the reminders of these problems. By investing in community food, housing, healthcare, education and jobs we can truly create safer communities. The safest communities are not the over policed ones, they are the ones with the most resources.
People have the right to self-determine their needs. They should be served regardless of documentation status, housing status, ability to pay, enrollment status in specific programming, neurotypicality, abstinence or sobriety, having a dog or carts, etc.
We focus on redefining safety to mean providing the care and services necessary to build strong and healthy communities, rather than depending on the use of police and prisons.
Just Transition: We understand that a world without police, prisons and fossil fuels will not happen overnight because we cannot leave anybody behind. We are building the infrastructure to ensure we have the resources to transition both those most impacted as well as those employed by these unjust institutions.
Change cannot happen without education. We are committed to supporting the skills and knowledge necessary for residents, city staff and elected officials to move toward a more just city.
We always ask those most impacted
Center BIPOC power and lived wisdom, not just their understanding of their needs but their wisdom about solutions
Roundtable members can serve as liaisons, bridges to those most impacted
WHAT is the Tempe People's Budget?
The Tempe People's Budget reimagines city spending in a way that increases community safety, sustainability and well-being by centering the environment, experiences and needs of Black, Indigenous & People of Color, queer, and other heavily marginalized community members. It redirects funding historically over-distributed to police to alternatives that support mental health, transit, childcare, housing and other social services that create a strong social safety net.
WHY should I care?
Because your voice deserves to be front and center! The city has demonstrated a willingness to revisit how it allocates public money with fresh input from the community it is in place to serve, collected by local organizations that are committed to an equitable, sustainable future for Tempe. It's time to build on this energy and speak out for a new way forward.
WHO is leading this effort?
The Tempe People’s Budget is collaborative effort spearheaded by Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro and Semillas, two grassroot Black & Brown community organizations seeking to strengthen the social safety net in the community supported by White People Against White Supremacy (White PAWS). We are actively inviting additional local groups and individuals whose missions and values align with the goals of the People’s Budget and support a Tempe that puts communities ahead of cops so that we fully acknowledge, access and represent the many diverse segments of our city.
WHEN is this happening?
Systemic change is a long-range goal, and we are committed to a three-year-minimum timeline for shifting the political climate and implementing a People’s Budget for Tempe. Each fiscal year, we will be actively and consistently participating in the existing municipal budget processes, from joining working groups to submitting public comment, as well as continually collecting, analyzing and reporting on data collected in our communities to accurately represent to City appointed and elected leadership the values, priorities, needs and desires of the full spectrum of Tempe’s residents.
HOW can I get involved?
1. Take the survey visiting bit.ly/pbtempe
2. Join us for public events such as People's Assemblies, Virtual Town Halls, Block Parties and other gatherings where you can speak out, listen in, and learn more.
3. Volunteer to help make the People's Budget campaign a success.
4. Spread the word to neighbors, coworkers, friends, family—anyone who lives, works, and plays in the Tempe community.