Organizing in Chicago is a matter of strategy
By: Chaya Crowder
Young Black activists in Chicago are wholly committed to local community engagement and cultivating a new generation of politically empowered leaders. Chicago’s chapter of the Black Youth Project 100 continues to lead the way in the innovation of community organizing strategies and building efforts.
Black Youth Project 100 is an all Black, member-based organization comprised of young people ranging in age from 18 to 35, as well as a partner organization of Black Youth Project (BYP). BYP got the opportunity to speak to activists from Black Youth Project 100, including Johnaé Strong and Asha Rosa to discuss the organization’s goals and strategies towards achieving Black Liberation.
Here’s what they had to say.
Establishing Organizational Goals
BYP 100 works toward Black liberation by utilizing transformative campaigns, leadership development, political education, policy advocacy, as well as engagement in electoral organizing. They do this all through a Black, queer, feminist lens with a goal to work towards Black liberation via a movement that centers on the most marginalized people and youth leadership development. Leadership development is at the core of what BYP100 does. The organization intentionally does not have a singular face or a singular leader, but tries to develop all of their members to be organizers.
This grassroots community organization creates a space for unapologetic Blackness.
Utilizing Organizing Strategies
Before discussing organizing strategies through leadership development, the organization and its members work, first, to understand what organizing is and to differentiate that from activism. Their work creates connections between various forms of oppression. When strategizing around specific campaigns and policies, it is important that these issues fit into a broader vision for overall change.
BYP 100’s work engages with the interconnectedness of multiple forms of economic, racial and gender oppression. BYP 100’s primary form of outreach is in-person; they make sure to go where people are. Meanwhile, many young Black people are also on social media, so their presence is felt both within the community as well as online.
Black Liberation Movement
BYP100 considers itself as a part of a larger Black Liberation Movement. It is not a single-issue movement. It focuses on breaking down multiple structures. The current Black Liberation movement can be differentiated from past movements in its intentionality in talking about gender and sexuality. This means exploring how systems of hetero-patriarchy, homophobia, and sexism intersect with anti-Blackness in fundamental and structural ways. For BYP 100, their two policy agendas are 1. Keeping US Safe and 2. Building Black Futures.
As a standard practice, BYP 100 does not endorse candidates, but they also do not ignore elections. BYP100 views electoral politics as important, however, their engagement with them is not about individual candidates and instead addresses the larger system that these candidates work within. BYP 100 members position themselves outside of the electoral system, so that they have leverage to hold all elected officials accountable.
The organization approaches civic engagement in a way that is issue based. Electoral politics can be a source of harm reduction and reform. Specifically, reform that can become transformative in the long run. Additionally, while voting does not directly equate to salvation; it is one key and recognizable way for people to be engaged and express their voices.
Learn more about BYP100 at their website.
Photo: Gerry Lauzon/Flickr