A Letter From the Board
February 1, 2016
Dear friends and partners,
I write on behalf of the Board of Directors of A Better Way Foundation to share that after more than ten years at the helm of this organization, Lorenzo Jones will be transitioning out of his role as Executive Director to help launch a new national organization.
When Lorenzo became Executive Director of ABWF in 2005, Connecticut had just become the first state in the country to equalize the sentencing disparities in crack and powder cocaine. At the time, ABWF was well known and highly regarded for its grasstops policy, advocacy and coalition-building aimed at shifting Connecticut’s approach to drug policy from a paradigm that prioritizes punishment and incarceration to one that promotes public health and treatment. While changing drug policy, advancing public health approaches, and reforming the criminal justice system remained at the center of our work, Lorenzo’s leadership helped ABWF redefine how we understood our “work” - and how we defined success.
Building the power of communities to manifest their vision of justice became our lodestar, and community organizing became our core strategy. This theory of change was exemplified by Laresse Harvey, who joined ABWF first as a member later became our policy director, leading to a succession of legislative victories that have made CT a national leader in progressive drug policy and criminal justice reform.
Over the past year, ABWF has been engaged in a strategic planning process to think deeply about what the next decade of our work will entail. As the change agenda we have long supported has gone from “taboo” to “mainstream” we are excited to explore new ways in which we can work to make CT a more just state, and we are drawing great inspiration from the work of youth organizing groups we have been supporting across the state. ABWF’s commitment to advancing justice and building community power is enduring.
In the meantime, we have assembled a transition team, which Lorenzo will be joining, to help refine our strategic plan and identify the next leader of this organization. We will continue to keep you apprised of our progress and plans as they develop.
Cassidy Weatherington, Board Chair
A Message from Lorenzo Jones
After over 10 years as Executive Director, I am transitioning out of A Better Way Foundation (ABWF), and am launching a new organization.
I am proud of what we’ve accomplished at ABWF over the last decade. We’ve succeeded not only in changing policies and practices, but in changing politics, changing narratives, and changing lives. My involvement and support of ABWF will continue as I join the organization’s board. I will assist in guiding the transition to new leadership, led by a cohort of young women, predominantly women of color, and ensure that ABWF is stable as it grows into this next era. I’m excited to announce that over the next year, ABWF will deepen its work training a new generation of community organizers in Connecticut through our BLOC program -- Building Leadership and Organizing Capacity -- which we operate in partnership with the Perrin Family Foundation. This innovative partnership will allow ABWF to remain strong while continuing its work in Connecticut. You can learn more about my transition out of ABWF by checking out this article in New England’s oldest Black-owned newspaper, the Northend Agent’s.
My transition out of ABWF is informed by our current historical moment. Today, as a result of years of solid organizing around the country by groups from Alabama to Connecticut to California, there are growing movements working to end mass incarceration and the war on drugs, reform broken policing practices, end economic inequality, and advance racial equity. I am reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization.” Such an opportunity is before us now, and that’s why I believe it’s critical to support, build, and strengthen these movements around the country.
I’m excited to bring my 25 years of organizing and advocacy experience to build and launch a new organization: the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. Katal (pronounced Ka’tal, like Jamal) is a growing team of professionals with decades of collective experience in community organizing, policy advocacy, strategy development, training, political campaigns and communications. Our name – Katal – is inspired by the process of catalysis: the acceleration of change by a catalyst. We collaborate with our partners to build powerful, research-based campaigns to dismantle mass incarceration, end the war on drugs, strengthen organizing and movement infrastructure, and advance health, equity, and justice. We’ll have more to share about Katal in the months ahead, as we build and grow.
It’s a potentially transformative time in our history. I look forward to working with you to make the most of it.