It’s Time For Our Leaders To Make Good On Their Promises To Black People

Hand raised during protest in Washington D.C.

Black people voted out Trump and dealt a blow to white supremacy. Now that the previous administration has packed its bags, we know the work to upend systemic racism and systems rooted in white supremacy won’t end with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. We have to hold steadfast the power of organizing.

The Biden-Harris administration was made possible by decades of organizing by Black people in the face of centuries-old efforts to suppress our vote and deny our political power—and by everyday Black people who stepped up to get people registered and who voted themselves. We organized and won in Georgia even as white supremacists emboldened by Trump perpetrated violence at the Capitol and all over the U.S. in a desperate bid to hold onto power.

Our present-day movement is rooted in our ancestors’ legacy of organizing and building sustained political power. We believe in the power of Black community, particularly Black women, trans, gender nonconforming, and intersex people. The 2020 election season saw wins for Black women, trans and nonbinary leaders while ensuring Trump was voted out.

We believe in conditions over candidates, and Black women transformed conditions for Black working-class people through months of organizing. Defund campaigns and police accountability measures garnered public support across the nation last November including in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Portland.

We know our liberatory vision for Black lives does not rest on any one election or elected leader. We will continue organizing until all Black women and femmes are free—because when we center the needs and wisdom of people who are most harmed by current systems in order to transform them, we will all be free.

In service of this vision, we have big plans for 2021. The organizations that make up M4BL will lead and build power in their local communities. Building local power is central to the vision for Black lives. Make no mistake, M4BL only exists because of the organizations that make up this vast ecosystem. Together, we coalesce into a transformative, healing and powerful political home for Black people across the diaspora where we can discuss what’s at stake for us politically and build community and power together.

We are championing the BREATHE Act and demanding the new Biden administration make it a priority in its first 100 days. A version of this historic civil rights legislation has already passed the Illinois state legislature with other parts of our network exploring similar legislative action in states across the country.

The Act will divest taxpayer dollars from brutal and discriminatory policing and invest in a new vision of public safety—a vision that answers the call to defund the police and allows all communities to finally live free and thrive.

Our vision for Black lives is expansive and we are joining the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy to advance a forthcoming Black climate agenda. We recognize the urgent need for a far-reaching policy platform that will create jobs, redistribute resources toward Black and indigenous communities who are most harmed by the climate crisis and invest in bold solutions for climate justice.

Community leaders like Asantewaa Boykin in California are already innovating new approaches to safety and accountability that serve the needs of the people without allowing harmful institutions to continue to wreak havoc on our families and communities.

e’re often told by political pundits that our vision is too radical or not supported by the will of the people. Yet tens of millions of people took to the streets, organized in their neighborhoods and showed up at the polls because they share in our vision and values. Since the uprising in defense of Black lives began in May 2020, poll after poll found the majority of Americans affirm that Black lives matter, with 26 million people mobilizing last summer.

The power of our movement lies within our people and our communities. That’s why we’ve joined United We Dream, Working Families Party and the Rising Majority in a cross-movement campaign called The Frontline to move #ForwardTogether and ensure our bold vision for Black lives is at the top of the new administration’s agenda.

As we continue to see the ravages of climate disasters, a failing health and economic system and the expansion of slavery we call mass incarceration, M4BL organizations and our partners are determined to put forward bold visions, smart solutions and meaningful alternatives.

History tells us that this is the work of the brave and the courageous. We are planting seeds of change that our children and grandchildren will reap.

Karissa Lewis is National Field Director at the Movement For Black Lives. M4BL is a national network of more than 150 leaders and organizations creating a broad political home for Black people to learn, organize and take action. 

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