Mass Liberation Project
Leslie Ann Turner is the force behind the Mass Liberation Project and the Vegas Freedom Fund out of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN). The Mass Liberation project is a decarceration program which kicked up dust in 2017 with the state’s first District Attorney’s campaign, aiming at changing the culture in the DA’s office. Although the project was not able to get the victory in that race, they came within 5000 votes, in a race of over 200,000 voters, and all within a 5 week campaign. Coming off the momentum of that election, Leslie continued the dialogue in the community around the power of not only the DA, but also judges, and legislation. Leslie led grassroots efforts, with formerly incarcerated people at the forefront, to drastically change the bail system in Nevada.
Leslie also founded the Vegas Freedom Fund, which started out bailing Black mother’s out of jail for mother’s day, assisting them in fighting their cases, and providing support to them to regain stability. This work has evolved into a fund that today has paid over 300k dollars in bail, bailed out and paid for legal fees of hundreds of protestors during the Black Lives Matter uprising over the summer, assisted hundreds people pretrial including those most vulnerable to COVID19, while also paying for housing, food assistance, transportation, and many other needs of people in the community.
It is Leslie’s belief and a guiding principle in her work, that our people need care not cages, and if we invest on the front end to resource our community, we will begin to create a world in which prisons and police are obsolete. As a 2019 cohort fellow for Law 4 Black Lives (a national Black policy initiative) Leslie focused on building local strategies to Divest from the carceral system, and invest in communities.
Leslie is also a UNLV alum, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a mother of a fabulous 5 year old, Nasir, and a writer, documenting black life through the lens of activists and organizers on the ground. Leslie has been recognized by both national and local non-profits, as well as the city of Las Vegas, for her work. She is definitely considered an African American trailblazer - continuing to carve out a niche for Black mamas at the intersection of the criminal justice system, academia, working class life, and movement.
Leslie works through the lens of Black Liberation Organizing, with an emphasis on the abolition of prisons and police. She often teaches that as much as Abolition is about what we are dismantling- it is just as much about what we are building, thus - Leslie works to create political education & collective learning opportunities. She works to build self-sustaining systems of support that are rooted in the community. The future of the Mass Liberation Project will have an emphasis on creating movement alliances across the Diaspora, while continuing to uplift the leadership and advancement of directly impacted people.
As Glen E. Martin said "those closest to the problem are closest to the solution; yet furthest from power" - it is Leslie's goal to redefine who is considered an "expert" on critical issues that impact communities everyday. In this moment more than ever, she believes that placing those most impacted at the center of resolution discussions will be the new normal, and those most impacted will begin to take their place at the seat of power. When she speaks about power, she does not mean power over individuals, but rather, the power to thrive, the power to self determine one's own destiny, and the power to live in abundance.
One of her guiding affirmations are the words of Assata Shakur “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains." Leslie is doing the work everyday to fight for our collective liberation, support our most vulnerable, and break mental, physical and spiritual chains that have plagued our people for centuries.