As calls to #defundthepolice reach the budget proposals of local and state decision-makers, we are reminded of the prescient call of NCRP members like the Ella Baker Center. In the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2014, the Oakland, California-based nonprofit started a national campaign that has grown to hundreds of community events in more than 30 cities to reimagine the meaning safety and security.

The Night Out for Safety and Liberation was an alternative take on the National Night Out, an effort that started in the 1990s that encouraged vulnerable communities to work together and stand up against violence and crime.

This year, the main sponsors of the event, the National Association of Town Watch has put off the annual August event in light of social distance constraints of COVID-19. While it’s a decision that Ella Baker Center Executive Director Zach Norris generally agrees with, he can’t help but wonder whether the nation’s COVID-19 crisis would be limited if we approached safety “with public health in mind instead of ‘see something, say something’ vision.

We asked Norris to tell us a little bit more about the National Night Out for Safety and Liberation and what in means to boldly reimagine safety in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the uprisings against police brutality.

Elbert Garcia: Why do you think we need a public health safety approach to safety?

Zach Norris: A public health approach to safety recognizes that all of our safety is tied to each other. It is the idea that our overall community health can only ever be as good as the health of our most distressed communities. For example, a public health approach to safety would empower first responders who are trained to deal with mental health issues, drug use and abuse, homelessness and school discipline rather than sending in armed police.

Read the full interview about safety and liberation by Elbert Garcia at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.