The Color of Freedom Summit

This report documents the Color of Freedom Summit, hosted on December 8, 2016 to forge intersectional movement strategies to resist racially-biased mass surveillance in the era of Trump.

Digital surveillance is certain to expand under the presidency of Donald Trump, who portrayed himself as the “law and order” candidate throughout his campaign. Trump and his administration have gained control of a vast and largely unaccountable system of national surveillance. Mr. Trump has indicated that during his first 100 days, his administration will vastly increase the numbers of police in Black urban communities, register Muslims into databases and place them on watch lists, round up Latinx immigrants and deport them at will, blatantly discriminate against queer and trans people, and violently suppress democratically protected dissent using expanded surveillance powers. 

The Color of Freedom Summit is a response to these conditions, and is part of a larger Color of Freedom Initiative launched by the Center for Media Justice (CMJ) in Fall 2016. Color of Freedom is a five-year initiative to mobilize racial-justice leadership and strategy to confront and curtail police surveillance with research, policy, training, and technical assistance. The initiative has three components: an annual Color of Freedom Summit, Digital Security Services, and Freedom Now campaigns.

The first Color of Freedom Summit took place just one month after the presidential elections. The Summit provided a unique opportunity for local racial-justice change makers to turn analysis into action, amplify local leadership, and forge lasting collaborations with legal and technical allies to resist and reform racially-biased surveillance in targeted communities. The gathering brought together 80 people from across the country to share strategies for how to fight back against state surveillance technologies.

This gathering centered conversations at the intersection of racial justice, media representation, and the new technologies that have unleashed an unprecedented level of government surveillance. Private business and law enforcement have combined to surveil Black and Brown bodies—individuals who are portrayed in the media as criminals, their very existence deemed “illegal.” There was a consensus at the Summit that at this moment we cannot accept incremental policy reforms, but must take bold steps toward protecting ourselves and confronting a state that is bent on over-policing communities of color.

Download the full report for an overview of surveillance and digital security issues, critical intervention points, and key concepts that emerged from the Color of Freedom Summit.



This report is published by the Center for Media Justice based on the discussions at the 2016 Color of Freedom Summit, a convening held in partnership with the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown University Law Center, Free Press, members of the Media Action Grassroots Network, and Color of Change. Thanks to the staff of these organizations for their planning and leadership. We are especially grateful to the Open Society Foundation, the CS Fund, and the Ford Foundation for their support of this timely conversation.

This report was written by Brian Dolinar, Malkia Cyril and Steven Renderos, based on notes taken by Angella Bellota and Evan Feeney. Much appreciation to the participants in the 2016 Color of Freedom Summit for their valuable contributions, to the note-takers, and to staff for additional editing of this report.