On Friday, May 27, the staff at Faith in Texas sent a message to constituents and social media followers: they were taking a week off for a sabbatical. Just to breathe after weeks of working overtime during the pandemic, during which their main mission had been helping those incarcerated be released to social distance safely at home.
But once evening fell, staffers began getting alerts that protests were starting in Dallas. “We were already planning to show up just as individuals, because it’s important to note that a majority of us are Black,” says Akilah Wallace, executive director of Faith in Texas, a nonpartisan, multi-racial, and multi-faith grassroots movement based in Dallas.
Their involvement as a group, however, was imminent.
When protesters began getting arrested, a tweet went out asking if anyone knew of a local bail fund. As fate would have it, Faith in Texas had just done a soft launch for the web page of its Luke 4:18 Bail Fund, a new component of their prison reform work. A reply to the tweet went out that linked directly to the Faith in Texas fund.
“That call to action set off a firestorm. By Saturday morning, I had to call a meeting as soon as I woke up with my communication and organizing director, both Black people. We said, ‘Oh, this is something else.’ People had been making donations—ranging from $5 to $1,000—all through the night,” recalls Wallace, Young Black & Giving Back Institute’s 2019 Philanthropist of the Year. “The community was calling us to another level of responsibility to bail out those who were being arrested during Dallas protests. We had to answer that call.”
The night was a game changing moment for the five-year-old, multi-faith organization, which has seen a drastic increase in individual contributions over the summer. They’ve been able to create a monthly bailout schedule, called Freedom Friday, and are guiding more conversations about the value of understanding the incarceration system as a whole.
“It was monumental, and from an organizational standpoint, we had a lot of scaling to do to accommodate all of the donations and make sure everyone is being properly stewarded,” Wallace says. “And then, how do we ensure that these thousands of donors not only feel compelled in this moment, but that they received information about where we stand on incarceration in general — not just in a moment of protest.”
Fortunately, the donation momentum hasn’t slowed much since the start of June, for Faith in Texas and other social justice reform organizations.
“Things haven’t really tapered off. There have been a lot of different folks contacting us to either work together or engage with us in some way. Which is very exciting, especially because we’re an organization that is unapologetic about building Black futures, talking about prison abolition, and defunding police to bring more money into the community,” says Samantha Daley, national development coordinator for BYP100, which has a local chapter in Dallas. “I think it’s really exciting that folks really want to engage with that, and are open to learning what we’re about.”
The Faith in Texas staff still hasn’t taken that sabbatical, though they have gotten some scattered breaks here and there. The massive scaling of their organization and increase in donation attention has opened up opportunities to hire more staff members, as well as organizers who can help spread their work to Collin and Tarrant County. “We want to be able to hire those who have been volunteering,” Wallace adds. “And provided a livable wage and benefits, especially during a pandemic.”
For those looking to stay involved with Faith in Texas, Wallace recommends keeping an eye on their social media channels for upcoming events. Next up: the Road to Liberation Campaign Launch on August 30.