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“It is not enough to simply utter the words, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ we demand more. So much more. Who will defend and protect Black lives? Who will present a bold and clear vision for our bright futures? We will.” -Kayla Reed, Co-Founder and Political Strategist of the Electoral Justice Project at M4BL
Forty-eight years after the first Black National Political Convention -- and amid a global pandemic, a racial justice reckoning, and upcoming election -- The Movement for Black Lives virtually convened activists, organizers, and leaders to build Black power, navigate the anti-racist movement in 2020, and amplify grassroots solutions, led by Black organizers and people of color for Black liberation.
Here are several takeaways from this year’s Black National Convention (watch it here).
A Movement for Black Lives Requires Inclusion: #AllBlackLivesMatter
Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, reveals how historically marginalized identity groups experience multiple forms of oppression due to ability, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation, in addition to race. To advance the movement for the liberation of Black lives means ALL Black lives must matter.
Consider this data:
- Black people with disabilities are at substantially higher risk for police violence
- Black immigrants face higher rates of deportation
- Black transgender females made up the majority of transgender and gender-nonconforming deaths in 2019
Constructed ideas about race and identities continue to hinder Black people’s freedom. Ola Osaze, Project Director of Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project (BLMP) says,
“Our lives as Black queer people, as Black trans people, are still being questioned. I was just trying to dream of Black masculinity, that affirmed all life. As far as what dominant culture tells us is masculinity is defined by rejection of femininity, it’s defined by dominance, it’s defined by the subjugation of women, of trans folks, of feminine people. And this is not ours.”
To drive progress, we must understand the interconnecting struggles that Black people face, include all Black identities in pursuing justice, and support Black-led solutions.
Expanding and Supporting Black-led Solutions
“Anywhere there is an injustice against Black people, there’s a story of resistance. -Angelica Ross, Actress and Founder of TransTech Social Enterprises
From housing to voting, racism across systems has historically disempowered and created harmful barriers for Black people to attain basic human rights. However, Black individuals are organizing across the country to improve their livelihood and fight racism at every turn.
For example, a collective of homeless and marginally housed mothers in Oakland, Calif. and across the Bay area, are working to reclaim housing for the community from speculators and profiteers. Their collaborative approach amplifies unheard voices as they stand together in solidarity to secure a basic human right -- housing.
Black communities also face a number of barriers to civic engagement, but organizations and initiatives like Black Voters Matter and the Electoral Justice Project are moving swiftly to ignite voter participation and support organizations and activists that are using elections to build power and maintain rights for Black individuals.
“I really look at elections as opportunities to do movement building. Because when you’re engaged on the ground with elections, you’re talking to a lot of people, you’re struggling with a lot of people around their day-to-day lives, their lived conditions, the contradictions that they go through every single day. And I think it’s an opportunity to build power.” -Maurice Mitchell, National Director of the Working Families Party
These are only a few of the many Black-led organizations that tackle important issues in pursuit of further liberation. While this work can be lengthy and difficult, the convention also revealed plenty of Black creativity and joy.
Why Black Creativity and Black Joy Are Part of Black Liberation
“People are talking about joy, they’re talking about the singing and the dancing and bringing the joy to the movement. But when I was coming up, we were working. There wasn’t joy. That’s why the word ‘struggle’ came; we were always in the struggle. And we never took time for self-care. Literally, a lot of us worked ourselves to death. And, so I am just really overjoyed with the joy that the movement today, the uprising today, are bringing about.” -Nkechi Taifa, Founder, Principal and CEO of The Taifa Group LLC
Black joy and creativity can be found at the heart of the Movement for Black lives, and contributes to its overall success. Celebration of Black people who are living, working, and advancing justice, and providing spaces for Black people to heal are essential for the work to continue.
Bklyn boihood helps cultivate these essential spaces. It is a collective led by queer and trans individuals of color that originated due to the urgent need to bring together communities after the Pulse nightclub massacre. Ryann Holmes, Co-founder of JOY and bklyn boihood shares,
“I really love my people. There have been a lot of times where I didn’t feel good about myself and affirmed enough in my life, and when I get to have those moments, they really came through for me when I found community, a community of people that I really feel deeply connected to, so it inspires me to want other people to have that access.”
Black creativity brings community together through shared joy, passion, and art. Aya Brown, a 24-year-old artist from Brooklyn, NY, has spotlighted Black women by centering her art on Black female essential workers during the pandemic. Titled the “Essential Workers” series, Brown’s work was inspired by the women she would see outside her window going to work everyday who she sought to engage with, uplift, and show admiration for.
Guidance for Donors Who Want to Pursue Liberation for All Black Lives
While the Black National Convention was one day, the work toward Black Liberation continues. Donors can get involved in several ways:
- Fund organizations that serve all Black lives and support leaders of color.
- Help advance a multicultural, functioning democracy.
- Review the 2020 policy platform of the M4BL Vision for Black Lives.
- Find opportunities to value and celebrate Black lives, Black creativity, and joy.
By Lucy Brennan-Levine, Content Associate, Giving Compass