|Purpose||Civil rights advocacy|
Advancement Project is an American civil rights organization.
The mission of the Advancement Project is to be "a next generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change."
The co-directors of Advancement Project’s national office are Judith Browne Dianis and co-founder Penda D. Hair. The organization also has a California-based office whose co-directors include co-founders Constance L. Rice, Molly Munger, Stephen R. English, and executive director John Kim.
Advancement Project was founded in 1999 by civil rights lawyers in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. Advancement Project's co-founders include Constance Rice, Penda Hair, Stephen English and Molly Munger.
They believed that structural racism could begin to be dismantled by changing public policies, supported by lawyers and communications strategies. The experience of Advancement Project's founders suggested that when this method of change is employed, it can have much better results than policy advocacy or litigation have on their own. The founders believed that racial justice efforts that incorporated this mix of lawyers, organizers, and communication experts rarely occurred.
The Washington, D.C. office of Advancement Project supports three major issues as a part of the organization's mission: Power and Democracy, Quality Education for All, and Strategic Initiatives. In addition to these programs, other campaigns supported by the organization include I Dream A+ School, Protect our Vote, and Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track.
Power and Democracy
There is no right more important than the right to vote. This is because the right to vote is preservative of all other rights. The voting booth is the one place where all are presumed equal, yet the reality is that the playing field is far from level. Citizens are still denied an equal opportunity to cast a ballot and have it counted, disproportionately voters of color. Advancement Project’s Voter Protection Program works to eliminate barriers to voting in the hopes of achieving a more just democracy.
Advancement Project’s main goal in its national Redistricting Project is to build power in communities of color through engagement in redistricting planning relevant to local campaigns. Advancement Project provides grassroots organizations representing communities with the tools they need to participate in the redistricting process.
Advancement Project’s Rights Restoration program focuses on restoring the rights of the disenfranchised citizens with past felony convictions in Virginia, who, because of stringent and outdated laws, permanently lose their right to vote, even after completing their sentences.
During summer 2012, Advancement Project launched a campaign aimed at winning automatic restoration, supporting the disenfranchised people, their families and advocates who have organized around this issue for nearly two decades. Advancement Project has fought for automatic rights restoration in Virginia with community organizations since 2003.
Quality Education for All
Advancement Project works to end school disciplinary measures that push children off of an academic track and on to a track to prison through its Ending the School House to Jailhouse Track program. Advancement Project works with communities throughout the country to end the use of school policies that push young people out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. This is widely known as the school-to-prison pipeline. Through Advancement Project’s nationally acclaimed research and analysis of school discipline data and policies, communication strategies, and policy advocacy, Advancement Project has been able to eliminate the needless exclusion of young people from their schools through the use of suspensions, expulsions, and arrests.
The goal of Advancement Project’s Immigrant Justice Project is to stop the passage and implementation of immigration laws that threaten vulnerable children and families. The Immigrant Justice Project defends the rights and privileges of immigrants, particularly those who do not always have a voice. The Immigrant Justice Project conducts legal and policy research to inform the strategy of local groups, files litigation where necessary, and helps build bridges between African-American and Latino communities.
Advancement Project has worked in partnership with grassroots organizations and community groups across the country to expose educational inequity, inadequacy, and injustice. The I Dream A+ School Campaign is a web platform created to lift the voices of youth, parents, teachers, and others to the forefront of the national conversation about American public education.
Advancement Project has worked to protect the voter rights through the Protect Our Vote campaign.
Advancement Project and Election 2012
Advancement Project worked before and on Election Day 2012 to ensure that all American citizens would be given the opportunity to vote. Politicians tried to restrict the type of ID that voters could use, and attempted to purge eligible citizens from the rolls.
In June of 2012, Advancement Project and co-counsel filed a lawsuit on behalf of several organizational and individual plaintiffs challenging Florida's purge of purported non-citizens. After the lawsuit – and after many of the voters on the list turned out to be valid U.S. citizens – Florida backed down from its voter purge. The state agreed to inform all eligible citizens on the list that their voting rights would be restored. These citizens will not have to vote with a provisional ballot, and the inclusion of anyone’s name on the list of potential non-citizens will not be interpreted as a determination of his or her eligibility to vote.
In May of 2012, Advancement Project and co-counsel filed suit in Commonwealth Court alleging that Pennsylvania’s voter ID law deprives voters of their fundamental right to vote without justification, and that the state lacks the ability to effectively or fairly implement the law. In October, the court issued a preliminary injunction against the law, guaranteeing that strict photo identification requirements will not be in place for November 2012’s general elections. Although the state is continuing its public education campaign encouraging voters to get photo ID, and election officials are allowed to ask for it at the polls, photo ID was not required to vote in November. All eligible voters, whether or not they have ID, were able to vote using a regular ballot.
Board of Directors
Advancement Project's national office in Washington, D.C. is governed by a 17-member board of directors including several prominent attorneys and Civil Rights activists. The board includes:
- Board chair veteran Civil Rights attorney Bill Lann Lee, Esq.
- Labor movement advocate Joe Alvarez
- Former AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker
- Renowned singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte
- Advancement Project co-founder Stephen R. English
- Prominent labor attorney Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia, Esq
- Advancement Project co-director and co-founder Penda D. Hair
- Executive Vice President of SEIU Gerry Hudson
- Attorney Barrett S. Litt
- Co-director of Padres & Jovenes Unidos Pam Martinez
- Attorney Molly Munger, Esq.
- Senior Vice President of Programs, Gill Foundation Katherine Peck
- Civil Rights attorney and activist Connie Rice, Esq.
- Plaintiff's employment attorney Sheila Thomas
- Professor of Law at Cornell University Gerald Torres, Esq.
- Founding partner at Rustic Canyon Tom Unterman
- Actor and advocate Jesse Williams