To honor Black history is to celebrate Black futures and the radical imaginings of our ancestors. Generations of Black freedom fighters have put forward liberatory political, social, and economic platforms, and Black artists have charted a future where Black people live abundant, healthy, safe, and joy-filled lives. Black History Month is an opportunity to study and uplift the work of the Black organizers, cultural workers, and militants who make a transformed world irresistible.
Our political commitment – which has grounded and guided the Center for Constitutional Rights for 55 years – is to center the future vision of Black communities and to protect the ability of movements for justice to realize their freedom dreams. This month, we invite reflection on the political values and the guiding principles behind historic and contemporary Agendas for Black Liberation that have informed our relationships, our analysis, and our practice.
From the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), we recall the visionary leadership of Black youth in the 1960s and the power of principled grassroots organizing. From the Black Panther Party’s 10-Point Program we reclaim the human rights framework as a tool of the people to meet material needs, and we reflect on the incompatibility of racial capitalism and collective flourishing. As we study the Black Agenda that emerged from the Black National Convention in 1972, we recommit to the principle of self-determination and, like our elders, reject U.S. politics and institutions premised on “profits for some and white supremacy above all.” The Sixth Pan-African Congress in Tanzania in 1974 situates our political analysis in the Global South and within a transnational Black freedom struggle to end neocolonialism, imperialism, and Western hegemony. And thanks to the leadership of Black lesbian feminists of the Combahee River Collective, our politics are refined in 1977 to appreciate how those who are on the margins of the margins are most primed for radical political activity and must be central to our collective freedom struggle. Until Black women, Black trans, and Black non-binary folks are free, none of us are free.
Building on this rich Black radical tradition of imagination, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) – which formed in 2014 and now represents the largest mass movement in U.S. history – is seeking transformational change on every level so that Black people can thrive. The Vision for Black Lives of 2016 set the public and political conversation on the need to divest from the systems and institutions that exploit and harm Black people and to invest in Black communities, as determined by Black communities. And in 2021, the M4BL policy table is aiming to pass an ambitious Black-centered piece of legislation named “The Breathe Act” to formally demand the defunding of police and the commitment of public wealth to the safety of Black people so as to allow “all communities to finally BREATHE free.”
As we enter 2021, we celebrate and stand with the people who have organized a mass movement and created an unprecedented opening to advance visionary, affirmative, Black-centered agendas. The Center for Constitutional Rights is proud to be part of this continued legacy of resistance, and invites all to join us as we build towards irresistible Black futures in a liberated world.