Activists from more than 50 organizations affiliated with the movement for black lives issued a sweeping list of demands and policies on Monday prioritizing a comprehensive approach to the movement’s continued fight against institutional racism.
The agenda, “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice,” was created by the Movement for Black Lives Policy Table, an outgrowth of the Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland in July 2015.
In addition to criminal justice reforms like demilitarizing law enforcement and curtailing the privatization of police, the agenda also demands a minimum livable income, full access to technology, and ending the privatization of natural resources:
“We recognize that some of the demands in this document will not happen today. But we also recognize that they are necessary for our liberation,” read an official statement.
The agenda helps activists take control of their vision as they become more mainstream
The agenda comes at a critical moment in which the movement for black lives has become part of mainstream discussion. And yet, despite the political climate, the movement for black lives policy table’s demands are clear: This is not about politics.
“We seek radical transformation, not reactionary reform," Michaela Brown, a spokeswoman for Baltimore Bloc, said in a statement. "As the 2016 election continues, this platform provides us with a way to intervene with an agenda that resists state and corporate power, an opportunity to implement policies that truly value the safety and humanity of Black lives, and an overall means to hold elected leaders accountable."
The agenda is built on six key platform proposals:
- Ending the war on black people: This section of the platform focuses heavily on criminal justice reform to stop the systemic criminalization of black people. The demands include demilitarizing the police, ending the criminalization of black youth, and implementing anti-discrimination protections for black transgender, queer, and gender nonconforming people.
- Reparations: Here the platform details ways to rectify the harms done to black people, including full and free access to quality education for black people, federal and state legislation to acknowledge long-term effects of slavery, and a guaranteed minimum livable income.
- Invest-divest: The panel offers ways of redirect funds used to criminalize black people toward investing in black communities. The recommendations proposed include reallocating money for policing into local restorative justice services and employment programs and divesting in fossil fuels for local sustainable energy solutions.
- Economic justice: This platform focuses on economic restructuring. In addition to proposing restructured tax codes to better redistribute wealth, the plan also demands the Glass-Steagall Act be restored to break up large banking institutions, protecting the rights for workers to unionize, and ending the privatization of natural resources.
- Community control: This section focuses more specifically on ensuring that the community has control over institutions responsible for protecting and serving them. This includes giving communities the right to determine disciplinary actions for law enforcement at the local, state, and federal level and putting an end to privatized education policies for more democratically controlled school boards.
- Political power: Along with addressing systemic issues, the platform makes the case for fostering black people’s right to exercise their full political power. In addition to decriminalizing political activities, this section demands protecting black people’s right to vote, taking money out of politics, and breaking down the digital divide through full access to technology and net neutrality.
The agenda is, by far, the most comprehensive to date, showcasing the breadth of a movement that has taken the country by storm, but that many Americans still don’t fully grasp.
According to the Pew Research Center, 43 percent of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement, but 36 percent of Americans who have heard of the movement are unclear about its goals.
And the events of recent weeks haven’t necessarily been useful for clarifying lingering misunderstandings. Over the course of just a few short days, July began with two high-profile killings of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. Then, at the tail end of a protest against police brutality sparked by those deaths, a sniper targeted and killed five police officers in Dallas.
During the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump, mischaracterizing the movement as anti-cop killers, fueled the fires claiming that the movement for black lives stands against the “law and order” America needs. By contrast, the Democratic National Convention included many of the mothers of the movement, gesturing, at the very least, that America is stronger together with the movement for black lives included.
“This isn’t about being politically correct,” Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, said on Tuesday night. “This is about saving our children.”
For both political parties, the movement for black lives is largely recognized for fighting police brutality. And each party currently pivots on the degree to which law enforcement is expected to work with or resist black communities’ push against police violence.
But as the agenda shows, saving black people cannot rest on the steps of any convention stage. In order to magnify that black lives matter, activists are calling on politicians and other allies to invest in empowering black people to take control of their own future rather than capitalizing on a movement for political points.