Earlier this year BYP100 released the Agenda to Build Black Futures, followed by A Vision For Black Lives policy platform that they signed on to this summer, both of which spread wide in the digital space. Last week BYP100 and the National Black Justice Coalition joined each other in Washington, D.C. to take both platforms from the digital space to the congressional space for the first Build Black Futures Advocacy Day. This was a huge step in the Movement, as members of congress on both sides of the aisle have struggled to understand the Movement and it’s asks of our government.
The Movement for Black Lives has been criticized and characterized as violent, without leadership/vision, and aspirational; last week the momentum shifted to bring down those characterizations and uplift the power of the people.
“This was our opportunity to set the tone for connecting inside and outside strategy, and put some feet to our public policy agendas,” wrote Janae Bonsu in an email. Bonsu is BYP100’s National Public Policy Chair and helped to organize and participated in the advocacy day.
Advocacy days, or “lobby days” are not uncommon, but typically lobbying is associated with the money and greed that goes into our politics. On these days, individuals and organizations mobilize to meet with elected officials and their staffers to use their collective power in efforts to raise awareness about their cause and policy needs to those that have the political power.
“We had intentional conversations with legislators about what different forms of reparations for Black people looks like, what public safety beyond policing, and supporting with wealth and health and queer and trans people…” Bonsu said.
Overall, there were promising conversations, and as expected there were some challenges.
“Members of Congress are generally on board for what we mean when we talk about investing – (e.g., college for all, raising the wage),” Bonsu shared, “but it seems to be difficult for [members of Congress] to think about public safety beyond policing; it is difficult for [members of Congress] to think about accountability interventions for people that commit violent offenses that don’t look like mandatory minimums…”
So what now? Not everyone has the access, time, or capacity to attend lobby days and do some of the work that goes into advocacy on a large scale but that doesn’t mean we should only leave the fight to a select few that can. Here are some ways you can get involved and continue to push for policies that advocate for Black liberation:
- Visit The Movement for Black Lives platform and get familiar with the demands. “Organize your friends to read a section and the accompanying briefs of the platform together, discuss how the issues resonates in your city and/or state and think about how you might be able to adapt some of the actions proposed in the platform to where you live.”
- Endorse the platform to stay informed. Specific ways to plug in will be announced, along with webinars and people’s assemblies;
- Stay in the know about local politics. Lobby your elected officials at the state and city levels.
- Find local social justice campaigns in your area to get involved in.