Yes, Black Lives Matter Has an Agenda — and Philadelphians Helped Write It
Don’t say Black Lives Matter doesn’t have an agenda.
The Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 50 organizations around the country that represent African-Americans, released a six-point platform on Monday. It includes demands for reparations, adequate education funding, the end of the death penalty, and the decriminalization of drugs.
At least two local groups are part of that coalition: the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice and the Philadelphia Student Union.
“This is a huge milestone. We needed to take it to the next level,” said Asa Khalif, leader of the Pennsylvania chapter of Black Lives Matter and a member of the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice. “We really needed as Black Lives Matters activists to come in solidarity and say, ‘This is where we stand. This is our list of demands, so there is no misunderstanding.'”
Hiram Rivera, executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union, said the educational demands in the platform “definitely had their roots in a lot of the issues in Pennsylvania that we’ve been facing: school privatization, lack of state funding, budget cuts.”
Rivera praised the “intentional” way that the agenda was developed. “We’re really appreciative of the long process that ensured everyone’s voices were heard. The fact that high school students were able to contribute to this national policy, and have a meaningful say, is really important to us.”
The Movement for Black Lives says it spent a year drawing up the platform, which it unveiled days before the second anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The group described how it got started on its website:
“A year ago, over 2,000 of us gathered in Cleveland to reflect on the state of our movement for liberation and celebrate our people, both those who have fallen and those who have survived. It was there that we began the process of uniting to articulate a shared vision of the world we want to live in.
Cleveland reaffirmed what we already knew. Neither our grievances nor our solutions are limited to the police killing of our people. State violence takes many forms — it includes the systemic underinvestment in our communities, the caging of our people, predatory state and corporate practices targeting our neighborhoods, government policies that result in the poisoning of our water and the theft of our land, failing schools that criminalize rather than educate our children, economic practices that extract our labor, and wars on our Trans and Queer family that deny them their humanity. On the last day of the conference hundreds gathered to have strategy conversations about what liberation would look like and the policies, organizing and resources that would be needed to get us there. During those conversations we received a mandate — it was time to articulate our vision and unite behind it.”
In the past, observers of Black Lives Matter have argued that it lacks specific goals. This new document takes aim at that criticism, calling for concrete legislation at the federal, state and local level. Khalif said activists in Philadelphia are going to push Mayor Jim Kenney, City Council members, and local candidates to adopt the proposals. One city election in which this agenda could have a major impact is the 2017 District Attorney’s race.
“We absolutely plan on taking this to Kenney,” said Khalif, “and we plan on doing more action in City Council. They have been avoiding Black Lives Matter, and not only are we going to remind them we’re here, we’re going to bring our demands as well for them to address.”
Likewise, Rivera said the Philadelphia Student Union will “definitely be talking with Mayor Kenney, definitely taking to state legislators.” He also said it will try to convince more organizations to sign onto the platform.
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