Headshot of Anna Hernandez against a black background. She has long, red hair and is wearing a green top under a white jacket.

With midterm elections quickly approaching, countless issues impacting our communities— healthcare, public safety, climate, and affordable housing—are on the ballot. This month, Communities Transforming Policing Fund (CTPF) checked in with our Participatory Grantmaking Committee Member, Anna Hernandez, to learn about her vision as the newly elected Arizona State Senator, her commitment to ending state violence, and what motivates her work and vision. 

CTFP grantees are reimagining community safety and developing alternatives to policing. What models or examples of this work inspire you? What visions are you carrying with you as you assume this new role in the Arizona State Senate?

The models that inspire me are the models that are community-centered and have people at the center of policy-making and investment into resources. How do we center our communities in everything we do? And how does that dictate how we see safety and how we want to determine what policing looks like in our communities? That’s the same vision I’m taking into the Senate. I always want to center people in how I govern by bringing community groups to provide feedback. And who better to tell us what policing should look like than the people living in heavily policed and criminalized communities? 

What motivates your work and vision for a more just future? What joys do you find in your work?

My family motivates me. I lost my little brother to police violence, and shortly after that, I lost my dad to COVID. That fuels me. That’s why I continue to do all this work. And I find joy when I’m able to help somebody. When I can have conversations with people who know somebody is fighting for them, they feel like somebody cares for them and speaks for them.  

What message do you have for community-based groups working to end state violence?

I think it’s important that the most directly impacted folks are centered and that we are hearing from them so that we can build policy and push measures dictated by our most impacted community members. Poder in Action, a group I’ve closely worked with, centers families that have experienced police violence and is a good example for others doing such work. 

What legislative actions can help prevent state violence? How can communities best organize to support the successful passage of protective and progressive legislation?

On the legislative side, we need to call out violence when it happens; we need to start speaking out on the hearing floors, in committee meetings, and in caucus meetings. And we need to make it more accessible for people to come and testify, share their experiences, and share their stories.  Because if we hear from actual constituents, that will help connect your representative or your senators to their true experiences. Then you can start getting support around pushing back against the harmful policy.

On the community side, connect with groups already organizing around these issues in the community. There are a lot of community organizations that are advocating and fighting against state violence and police violence. Connect with them to support different events and find candidates you believe have the same values. I think that’s one of the biggest things:  support value-aligned community organizations and partners and plugin. If you plug in with these organizations doing the work, they will often facilitate getting you to the capital to testify or a city council meeting. They also come up with plans of action to build a grassroots movement of pressure around certain representatives. We need support to ensure that we are championing and passing progressive things that protect us, a progressive policy that protects us. 

And speak to your circle of friends about things that are happening. That’s also something we can all do to help.

In addition to public safety, your interests include public education, affordable housing, climate, and reproductive justice. Borealis’s donor education is built around highlighting the intersection of those issues. Can you speak of interconnectedness between some of these issues? What opportunities do funding and organizing opportunities offer?

Not enough people are connecting the dots between police violence and reproductive health care, and abortion access. In Arizona, for example, there’s confusion around what law is taking precedence here. Right now, there’s a 15-week abortion ban, but there’s still an all-out ban on the books. And the police are tasked to enforce these laws—so we see the intersection of violent police action and abortion access. 

School Resource Officers (SROs) and schools are also an intersection. SROs are still police officers. And you have their presence in schools in many communities with immigrant students. The presence of anybody in any law enforcement uniform will cause safety concerns for those students because of their immigration status or their family’s immigration status. Policing is in almost every aspect of our lives, and not enough of us are advocating for change. We need to start focusing on root-based solutions, which will eliminate policing from some of these layers.

What message do you have for funders who support or are interested in supporting work to end deadly and discriminatory policing practices, increase police accountability and transparency, and redefine safety? What does philanthropy miss in this work?

Funders should be plugging in with grassroots movement organizations and asking candidates and their elected officials whether they support police accountability and transparency.