In the spring of 2021, a dear friend of mine asked a question: “I wonder if there are graves there?” They were referring to the ruins of the City of Atlanta prison farm. At the time, the news was dominated by stories about the mass, unmarked graves discovered on the grounds of residential schools in Canada. The “honor farm”, as we mistakenly called it back then, operated around the same time as these residential schools, and generally in an era when people, especially poor people, were buried in unmarked pauper’s graves. It was a question worth answering, and knowing a few like-minded nerds, we decided to research the property now slated to become a police and fire training center
We had no idea what we’d gotten ourselves into.
In the nearly two years that followed, we published a twenty page report delving into the history of the prison farm, correcting the prison farm’s historical narrative and disproving a 1999 report that claimed the city only started operating the prison farm in the 1950s. We recorded a three-part podcast series summarizing the history. We helped people from all over the country learn about the violent history of this land first settled by, then stolen from, the Muscogee people. Following that, it became a plantation, then a prison farm, and finally a recovering forest named “one of the four lungs of Atlanta.”
Through publishing open records requests documents, blog posts, Twitter threads, Instagram stories and having one-on-one or small group conversations, we sought to bridge the information gap between the general public and local governments beholden to the backroom dealings of the “Atlanta Way” and a disinterested corporate media landscape rife with ownership conflicts of interest. As we delved into covering this small part of our political landscape, we saw the need to push ourselves and expand our coverage across more areas of government in the hope of increasing the accessibility of this vital information.
Finding time to work on what we lovingly call “ACPC stuff” over the past two years has never been easy. Juggling poor-paying day jobs, we carved time out of our personal lives to carry on this project. We consistently came up against the limitations of the resources available to us, especially time and money. We learned our own limitations and accepted that we couldn’t do everything we wanted with the resources available to us.
I planned to take a 10-day vacation starting January 20th with a laundry list of ACPC tasks to complete in my mind; on the 18th, however, GSP killed Tortuguita, and I called in to work to start my vacation two days early. The next day, I wrote a few words with the family’s consent about Tort through the tears of my own barely-processed grief, hoping to publish Tort’s name and an idea about who they truly were before the police had the chance to poison their name in the public’s eye.
And it worked. National and local media requests began pouring in and through them the narrative about who Tort was and the circumstances of their death did not reflect police talking points. Our small platform became a clearinghouse of information for other media outlets. Each of us dedicated more time that week to respond to requests, write reports, and talk with community members to learn the full story. The demand for our time grew rapidly. Still exhausted and grieving, we wondered how the hell we had gotten here.
With the demand of our regular jobs, ACPC’s biggest bottleneck is always time. In the weeks following Tortuguita’s killing, that bottleneck became a ceiling. Prior to hitting that ceiling we never truly considered accepting pay for what we viewed as a labor of love (and sometimes stubbornness and frustration), but seeing the amount of time dedicated to this project, some friends inquired about our interest in transitioning to funded work while others reached out to potential funding partners on our behalf.
We occasionally mused at the impossible outcome of doing this work full time and suddenly that remote dream became a distinct possibility.
Funding gives us time. More time to engage and educate, more time to fight for open records requests, more time to shine light on government meetings. More time to do what we love and the community deserves while still caring for ourselves.
We partnered with Open Collective Foundation for fiscal sponsorship. Retaining our identity and our mission is vital, and as a solidarity driven organization OCF holds the same values of transparency, democratic organizing, the importance of pay equity, and livable wages.
Our initial budget is $250,000. This enables us to pay a livable wage and benefits for two full time collective members and an equitable wage for two members dedicating themselves part time, work with freelancers at an equitable rate, cover expenses we currently pay out of pocket, and grow or improve the tools we use to carry out our work. Our fiscal sponsor, OCF, takes between a 5% and 8% administrative fee in return for providing the technology, platform, and financial administration and all our transactions will be viewable on the Open Collective platform.
The bulk of our funding will come from journalism and research focused grants. Any support by the community while we work through the lengthy grant process would be an honor. We also wish to acknowledge the many other groups needing financial support, including Atlanta Solidarity Fund and the GoFundMe for Tortugita’s family – and the demands that we all face in this world where our labor is exploited for so little pay.
To donate see our Open Collective Page.
If you have any questions, reach out to us at email@example.com.
-S, and the rest of the collective: C, V and G