A submitted and undated photo of Advancement Project Executive Director Judith Browne Dianis.

Judith Browne Dianis is the Executive Director of the Advancement Project, a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, they exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive, and just democracy. They use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high-impact policy change. In an interview with The Atlanta Voice, Browne Dianis highlights the Advancement Project’s mission.

“We do work in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, and education, pretty well known for our voting rights work, and our work around ending the school to prison pipeline,” Browne Dianis said. “I’m an attorney by trade and I grew up in New York City. I always remind myself that I’m just a Black girl from Queens. That’s so important to me because that’s what I bring to the work of racial justice is someone who grew up in a Black community who saw all people of all walks of life.”

Browne Dianis, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and attorney with a law degree from Columbia, believes America continues to be unjust to Black people, she says that anti-Blackness continues to be one of the tools used to oppress African-Americans. Browne Dianis says the adverse and disproportionate trauma that Black men continue to suffer in American society cannot be ignored and must be addressed if any candidate wants to win in 2022 and beyond.

“And there are like significant collateral consequences for when you have had even one engagement in the criminal legal system that lasts a lifetime,” Browne Dianis explained when asked about Stacey Abrams’s fireside chats centered around Black men’s collective concerns. “Whether it’s getting a job or getting housing, those things have got to be addressed. And they do disproportionately impact Black men. I know that Black men often feel that they are being marginalized, even within the Democratic Party. But again, it’s about making sure that we are all being heard, and that all of our issues are being raised because it’s about our community.”

The other portion of Advancement Project’s mission is empowering Gen Z to make informed choices at the ballot box. During the 2022 Midterm Elections, the organization released findings from a survey conducted in September 2022:

  • The top issues for Gen Z voters of color include abortion access, the economy, and systemic racism and discrimination.
  • 52% believe their vote has a lot of or some power to make a change on abortion access, and 49% believe their vote has power to make a change on the economy.
  • 87% believe that abortion should be legally protected. Half of the respondents believe they can positively change abortion access and the economy through voting.
  • 40% believe their vote has power on police reform.
  • Approximately 6 in 10 young voters of color say that they are motivated to vote, likely to vote, and believe that their vote has power.

“Those are the kinds of issues that we know young Black voters care about,” Browne Dianis said. “And part of our job at avancer project and other than other organizations is to connect the dots. If you care about police violence in Georgia, for example, every four years, you can vote for your sheriff. And that’s a power that people have that they don’t necessarily always exercise.”

As of Monday evening, more than 1.5 million people voted early in Georgia, up by nearly 40% from this time four years ago. When asked about this huge turnout, Browne Dianis says it can be directly tied to the work that grassroots organizations have done to help educate the Georgia electorate.

“There has been work done by grassroots organizations in Georgia to increase civic participation for a number of years,” Browne Dianis said. “So we saw that in 2018, we saw that in 2020, the Black people are turning out and there was an investment made into people who said, ‘we actually have the numbers to change this state.’ If we get our folks registered and get them engaged, we actually could change the politics of this state and change the conditions for our people. And so what we’re seeing now are the fruits of that labor.”

Speaking of those organizations, Browne Dianis talked about the relationships with The New Georgia Project with outgoing Executive Director Nse Ufot and LaTosha Brown of Black Voters Matter. Browne Dianis says she loves the fact each outreach group centers their strategies around Black joy.

“One of the things that’s really beautiful is the way in which they tap into Black joy as a way of building community,” Browne Dianis said. “And building it out of the idea that, like, we have Black joy and Black power. So, let’s tap into Black power. So it’s been great to be in partnership with them making good trouble.”

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...