Most of the work of movement building takes place away from cameras and doesn’t get reported. There aren’t any splashy headlines to write about the number of conference calls and meetings and e-mails that make up the bulk of an organizer’s work. Photos of research, fundraising, and community outreach aren’t as appealing as those showing thousands of people marching in the street, or bricks flying through windows, or businesses being burned to the ground. As such, it’s easy to think a movement is dwindling because it’s fading from headlines or not as visible in the streets.
Such is the case with the Black Lives Matter movement, the most recent incarnation of the racial-justice movement here in the United States. “[T]here are fewer protests than before, fewer Black Lives Matter protesters at those protests, and fewer media outlets covering them,” Deadspin’s Greg Howard writes, while an anonymous source tells him that “Movement is dead.” But the work of organizing is as much about knowledge production and base-building as it is about direct action and media attention. The movement isn’t dying; organizers are doing the work that organizers do.
Last week, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), an organization formed in the wake of the not-guilty verdict in murder trial of George Zimmerman, released the most important document to come out of the Movement for Black Lives. The Agenda to Build Black Futures sets forth a thoroughly researched, comprehensive, and transformative set of proposals for not only reducing the presence and impact of police and prisons in black communities, but for strengthening those communities through public investment. Not only that, it provides blueprints for campaigns that could be successful in achieving these goals.
“The liberation of all Black people rests upon achieving a greater margin of economic justice for our families and our communities,” writes BYP100 National Director Charlene Carruthers in the agenda’s introduction. While this is a movement rooted in a response to police- and state-sanctioned killings of black youth, organizers and activists have consistently worked to show that police violence is but one of a range of interconnected issues facing black communities. BYP100’s focus in the Agenda to Build Black Futures is economic injustice, and as such opens with the dire statistics about black poverty and unemployment. But this is a forward-looking document and it moves on to show us what a path toward economic justice in black communities could look like.
The first proposal presented is for reparations. While the issue has gained more national attention in recent years than it has enjoyed in some time, BYP100 puts actual ideas on the table for how reparations could be allocated, helping to end the debate over reparations’ being an impractical policy goal. One area they recognize is in education. BYP100 couples a call to cancel student-loan debt, since blacks are disproportionately impacted by it, with the idea of a “national scholarship fund be established for Black students to be paid by colleges and universities that benefitted directly from slave labor.”