*Editor’s Note: Toni-Michelle Williams requested that she be referred to by her first name in our coverage.
“Fighting for everybody in Atlanta — even when they don’t fight for us!”
SnapCo., a local collaborative that was founded almost a decade ago, has been selected as the Georgia Voice’s organization of the year for 2022. SnapCo. was founded in 2013 for the purpose of “building safety within Black, LGBTQ communities,” said Toni-Michelle Williams, the executive director and one of the founding members of SnapCo.
Specifically, the organization was founded in response to an ordinance that the city of Atlanta was considering — one that would have banned sex work within the city. Recognizing that this ordinance would disproportionately impact Black trans Atlantans, Toni-Michelle and other founding members decided to create a community initiative to help support and protect that community. Toni-Michelle said that the founders also wanted to empower that community to engage in organizing and politics, especially when taking on or starting campaigns that could bring about change to public safety.
The first project that the organization launched in response to the proposed ordinance was its “policing alternative program.” The program, offers diversion to people experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, or other circumstances that might result in the police being called on them. Diversion, as Toni-Michelle described it, is an opportunity for people who may be inclined to call the police on someone who is homeless, facing addiction, or facing other circumstances, to call an alternate number and connect that individual to support networks without involving the police. It also allows police officers to connect individuals who may have broken a law, whether it be squatting, drug use, or another infraction, to resources instead of arresting them. Toni-Michelle explained that this project, which is now its own organization called PAD (Policing Alternatives and Diversion Initiative), uses de-escalation methods to keep people safe and, ideally, out of jail.
This first project from SnapCo., which is now its own successful organization, is a testament to the hard and meaningful work that SnapCo. members have put in over the past 10 years. Toni-Michelle said that 2022 has been a big year for SnapCo. The organization increased membership, provided aid and emergency relief to those in need (including four trans youth), and engaged with the greater Atlanta community through events, such as membership activation initiatives and film screenings, that have helped educate the public on what SnapCo. does and why its work is important, particularly for the Black and brown communities in Atlanta.
Sean James, who works in media communications for SnapCo., said that SnapCo. has “really [been] the organization that’s on the ground,” especially since the pandemic began. “They’ve been fighting for causes that help make the city of Atlanta better to live in for everyone.”
One example James and Toni-Michelle gave of the work that SnapCo. has done since 2020 was its mutual aid fund, called the “taking care of our own” fund, which has been used to provide aid to 70 people in total, 26 of whom were helped in 2022.
The organization also held a screening of the film “DE-ESCALATE!” which portrays the protests that happened in Atlanta following the killing of Rayshard Brooks in June 2020.
And for one of its biggest projects in 2022, SnapCo. released a 46-page report this year, entitled “Deeper Than Visibility.”
The report “explores historical timelines of policing, reformist and abolitionist efforts in Atlanta,” explained Toni-Michelle. “We center Black voices, trans voices, and queer voices, and offer policy recommendations for a safer Atlanta.” The report explores abolition-focused solutions to policing in Atlanta, specifically in the interest of protecting transgender and nonbinary folks from potentially violent police interactions.
Lots of research and surveying went into the report, and SnapCo. talked to people from all over Atlanta in order to gain a better understanding of the past, present, and future of police interactions with transgender and nonbinary people, particularly those who are people of color. Toni-Michelle discussed how this report was just the beginning of a bigger project, which she hopes will debut in 2023.
In the next year, Toni-Michelle said that SnapCo. has big plans and projects that she hopes can be shared with the public. During its 10th year, the organization hopes to find new office space, hold informational clinics regarding changing legal documents for transgender and nonbinary folks, and launch a trans safety initiative in partnership with the Citizen Safety App.
Toni-Michelle said that, while 2022 had been a busy year, it had also been a successful one, and she’s excited to see what SnapCo. will accomplish in 2023.