Coalition of activists affiliated with Black Lives Matter outline policy agenda

  • More than 25 groups unite under ‘Movement for Black Lives’ – M4BL – banner
  • Reparations, criminal justice reform and end to ‘surveillance’ among demands

A broad coalition of US black activist groups including the Black Lives Matter Network released a policy document demanding reparations and an “end to the wars against Black people” on Monday, as the second anniversary of Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, approaches.

“We are dreamers and doers and this platform is meant to articulate some of our vision,” the agenda reads.

More than 25 groups including the Black Lives Matter Network, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), Dream Defenders and the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice joined together under the banner the “Movement for Black Lives (M4BL)” to present the expansive demands that span issues of economic, social, environmental and racial inequality.

Many of the organizations involved began working in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal over the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and increasingly gained traction as police killings like those of African Americans such as Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice put national focus on the racially disparate use of police force against black people.

The demands include an end to bail, privatized prisons, solitary confinement, and the death penalty, along with the complete decriminalization of drugs and prostitution.

“We seek radical transformation, not reactionary reform,” said Michaela Brown, communications director of Baltimore Bloc, one of the groups involved. “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 coalition also demands an end to what it calls the “mass surveillance of Black communities”, including the elimination of police body cameras. The recording devices have been rapidly adopted by municipalities nationwide to quell outrage over police killings. Other activists have called for a greater use of such cameras, to deter police from using disproportionate force and provide evidence if they do.

The groups’ demands do not stop at policing. “Our grievances and solutions extend beyond the police killing of our people; state violence includes failing schools that criminalize our children, dwindling earning opportunities, wars on our trans and queer family that deny them of their humanity, and so much more,” said Montague Simmons of Organization for Black Struggle and the M4BL Policy Table, two other groups who have contributed to the document. “That’s why we united, with a renewed energy and purpose, to put forth a shared vision of the world we want to live in.”

The demands for reparations, for example, include full and free access to lifetime education for all black people and the retroactive forgiveness of their student loans, and “a guaranteed minimum livable income for all Black people”.

Many of the demands closely resemble those made by student groups after protests erupted at dozens of universities in late 2015 over social justice issues. Built on the “intersectional feminist” framework that undergirds much of the modern Black Lives Matter movement, the M4BL document states that it believes in “elevating the experiences and leadership of the most marginalized Black people”, including those who are women, queer, trans, differently abled or undocumented.

Alongside the race-specific measures are also progressive wishlist items such as forgoing fossil fuels for renewables, universal healthcare, cuts in military spending and public election financing.


Jamiles Lartey

The GuardianTramp

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