Here is my intro text
Executive Director Abdi Soltani and
Board Chair Adam Bailey
Photo by Michael B. Woolsey
We THE PEOPLE
When our nation’s founders wrote the Constitution, “We the People” excluded enslaved Black people, Native people, and all women. Throughout our history, countless laws restricted who was considered “We the People.” But, our history also includes significant struggles to expand the meaning of “We the People.”
Today, ACLU NorCal continues to ask: Who is included in “We the People”? Who deserves the full protection of our Constitution and its ideals?
In this annual report you’ll find examples of how we work to answer those questions.
We know that “We the People” includes:
Dez Martinez—a formerly unhoused woman who translated love and knowledge of her “street family” into fierce advocacy for the rights of unhoused people. Dez successfully challenged Fresno’s ordinance barring her from filming and offering assistance during the city’s encampment sweeps.
Jay Hockley, Sr.—a formerly incarcerated person who channeled his experience and knowledge of prison life to advocate for the rights of currently and formerly incarcerated people. Jay was a key leader in a campaign to secure the voting rights of people on parole.
Roman C. Rain Tree—an Indigenous leader who led the campaign to rename Sq**w Valley in Fresno County, in honor of his mother and Yokuts ancestors from what we today call the Central Valley and surrounding foothills. Roman built powerful support to pass state legislation banning “Sq**w Valley” from all place names, and to secure federal action removing a slur from his ancestral lands and renaming it “Yokuts Valley.”
We the People also includes you. As someone who lives in this country, as an ACLU member and donor, as a person who supports other organizations and causes financially and politically, you embrace and embody an inclusive, expansive, and bold vision of “We the People.”
Roman says, “Yokuts means ‘the people.’” We raise up the work that our supporters and partners like Dez, Jay, and Roman do every day to ensure our values of equality, freedom, and justice encompass everyone.
With gratitude for all you do,
Abdi Soltani, Executive Director & Adam Bailey, Chair of the Boards
The ACLU of Northern California exists on the occupied territory of over 100 tribes. This land acknowledgment, filmed on Coast Miwok land at Tomales Bay, was originally created with our partners at the Alliance for Felix Cove for our 2022 ACLU Partners for Justice event.
The Central Valley
Nearly a decade ago, ACLU NorCal recognized the need to place greater emphasis on the Central Valley—taking on more cases and advocacy projects and opening our Fresno office. The stories below highlight the importance and impact of our partnerships with leaders in this area.
Voting: The Right to be Heard – Jay’s story
ACLU NorCal litigates, advocates, and educates to expand voting access for people impacted by the criminal legal system. Jay Hockley, Sr. of Initiate Justice shares the story of how he came to vote for the first time on parole in 2022.
Free Speech for the Unhoused – Dez’s Story
Advocates, organizers, and the media play a critical watchdog role during sweeps of homeless encampments. When the city of Fresno attempted to violate the rights of these observers, the ACLU sued. Dez Martinez, founder of We Are Not Invisible, shares her story of blocking an unconstitutional ordinance that put lives at risk.
Reclaiming Yokuts Valley – Roman’s Story
The state of California was founded on the forced removal, enslavement, and genocide of Indigenous peoples. Roman C. Rain Tree of Seeds of Sovereignty shares the story of how a years-long effort resulted in renaming his ancestral homeland from the former pejorative of “Sq**w-Valley” to “Yokuts Valley,” in honor of the Valley’s first inhabitants.
By the Numbers
Together with our partners and plaintiffs, ACLU NorCal took on 48 new legal actions in 2022, adding to the 54 active cases from 2021. Check out our full legal docket.
We publish a range of Know Your Rights Guides on topics like voting, abortion access, and student rights. Guides are available in English and Spanish.
ACLU NorCal offers many avenues for engagement and action. In 2022, 1,789 people participated in community organizing event, lobby visits, and activist trainings.
Stop Pregnancy Criminalization
Despite existing law stating that losing or ending a pregnancy is not a crime, prosecutors were still charging people with homicide for pregnancy losses, disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. This bill clarifies that pregnant people and those who assist them shall not be held liable for their pregnancy outcomes.
Ban Racist Place Names
For decades, Native American leaders and organizations have advocated for the removal of the word “sq**w,” a racist and misogynistic slur that was used by early California settlers. This bill creates a process for eliminating racially offensive place names, prohibiting the s-word for geographic features and place names in California.
Racial Justice Act for All
The existing Racial Justice Act prohibits the state from seeking or obtaining a criminal conviction or imposing a sentence based on race, ethnicity, or national origin. With this bill, the Racial Justice Act now applies retroactively and prior racist convictions and sentences are to be overturned.