NABG Newsletter Issue 18: Our Uprising Will Lead To Change

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We have a lot to be mad about. We have seen our pain broadcasted over and over, and turned into political plays for power. We have seen companies pay lip-service to Black struggles, but seen very little by way of tangible outcomes. Yet, we know that our efforts toward a just and equitable future where Black Lives Matter are a part of an ecosystem of organizers, activists, political figures, and community. Uprisings and resistance play a major role in creating systemic change, and we won’t stop our resistance until policies and practices addressing the injustices faced by the Black community and communities of color match the rhetoric deployed by people who claim to care about Black lives.

The Power of Uprisings

Organizers and uprisings have the power to change the political landscape — and they have. Social injustices and systemic neglect will be protested. Uprisings happen when such oppression can no longer be tolerated, and as such, applies pressure on politicians to act. History shows governments take action when rebellions happen.The 1960s uprisings paved the way for the Civil Rights Act to be passed after consistent protesting. Similarly, young people drove the Tunisian Revolution, 28 days of civil disobedience resulting in the removal of a corrupt leader and progress towards democracy. This was the first uprising of what is now known at the Arab Spring — a region-wide uprising demanding accountability and recognition of human rights.

Stateside, there have been countless uprisings, often led by young people. The Dream Defenders in Florida was founded after the murder of Trayvon Martin. After the acquittal of his murderer, the youth of Dream Defenders occupied the Florida State Capital for 30 nights and 31 days to work for the repeal of the Stand Your Ground Law. While the law was not repealed, this movement engaged youth who are still incredibly active in protesting policing and gun violence.

After the murder of Michael Brown and subsequent rebellion, political change happened and representation increased. The Ferguson City Council went from having one Black council member to six Black council members, St. Louis elected Kimberly Gardner to the Circuit Attorney seat — she is the first Black person to ever be elected for this position in the city, Wesley Bell was elected as the County Prosecuting Attorney, and Ella Jones was elected as the first Black Mayor of Ferguson this past week. Pressure creates change.

In Baltimore, young people organized to protest the murder of Freddie Gray and demanded accountability. The government responded with state violence, but the young people of Baltimore are still advocating for change — demanding more money to be allocated to youth programs and employment, to limit the power of the police, and to open more youth friendly spaces. Five years later, protesters gathered again to demand justice for George Floyd and the marches are more peaceful, mainly because the Baltimore police are not intimidating the crowds as they did with Freddie Gray. This is slow progress, but organizers and activists have been doing the work for a long time and will continue.

The most recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery catalyzed the uprisings, but this response is hardly new. Uprisings are both a natural response to the constant brutality of policing and the continuation of a long tradition of Black resistance.

The Role of Organizers

A key part of a successful uprising is having strong organizers. The role of an organizer is to create a culture shift, to move people to action, and have the actions taking place in the street help communities come into their own political power. Ella Baker, the mother of the Civil Rights Movement, was a powerful organizer — a field organizer for the NAACP, she also helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, she directed Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as well as, organized countless conferences and peaceful movements such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She brought people together and honed their messaging to one that is digestible and actionable by the government, and so action happened. Similarly, the use of civil unrest, coupled by grief at the loss of Trayvon Martin and social media, the Black Lives Matter movement became global. Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi collectively found the root issue of the United States — that the history, economy, and policy is founded in anti-Blackness. To rebel against this, a digestible power phrase developed — Black Lives Matter — and it is a rallying call for justice.

This is a pivotal time. As Mariame Kaba says: “Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair.” We need action and we know we have needed this action before now. Voting is crucial, but not enough as we know systemic racism and voter suppression is the United States’ cup of tea. We are not implying that electoral politics or voting is liberatory, but they should work together with other tools for liberation. People on the ground practicing multiple tactics for change shift the atmosphere and make it possible for real demands to be met. We need a tandem effort of political pressure, activism, budget reorganization and voting to change this system. History shows us rebellions lead to change, and we cannot wait any more.

Call to Action

The shouts fill the streets remembering George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and so many other Black lives. State-sanctioned violence is everywhere, but we can take a significant step in removing this violence from our schools. We need police-free schools in order for our students to be safe, to learn, and to grow. Call on your city to revoke any contracts they may have between the department of education and the police department. In our actions and collective movement building we will find liberation.

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Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) is an intergenerational organization committed to the physical, psychological, social, and economic development of girls and women