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Sun, 09.01.1996

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights Opens

*The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights was founded on this date in 1996.  It is a non-profit strategy and action center based in Oakland, California. The stated aim of the center is to work for justice, opportunity, and peace in urban America.  

It is named for Ella Baker, a twentieth-century Black activist and Virginia and North Carolina civil rights leader.  The Ella Baker Center works primarily through four initiatives to break cycles of urban violence and reinvest in urban centers. The organization calls for ending recent decades of disinvestment in cities, excessive and sometimes racist policing, and over-incarceration to stop violence and hopelessness in poor urban communities and communities of color.  The Ella Baker Center supports better schools, a cleaner environment, and more opportunities for young people and working people.  

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights was developed as an offshoot of Bay Area Police Watch, a 1995 project by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.  Van Jones officially launched the organization.  The group was known for its passion and willingness to tackle tough fights that few other organizations would tackle. It said its mission was "to document, challenge and expose human rights abuses" in the criminal justice system." The Ella Baker Center works toward its goal of "justice in the system, opportunity in our cities and peace on our streets" through four campaigns which promote alternatives to violence and incarceration: Books Not Bars, Soul of the City, Green-Collar Jobs Campaign, and Heal the Streets.

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