The Movement for Black Lives is still figuring out how to move forward in Trump's America
Since the election of President-elect Donald Trump, the organizations that make up the Movement for Black Lives have been in soul-searching mode.
About 35 organizers from the Movement for Black Lives — including the Black Youth Project 100, BlackBird and the Southerners on New Ground — met at an undisclosed location in Tennessee, just over a week after the presidential election, to discuss what they will do to protect their communities under Donald Trump's administration. Dante Barry, executive director of the national racial justice group Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, who attended the retreat, said emotions among the gathered activists were palpable.
"I think we're all terrified," he said. "All of our communities are on the brink of being attacked in different forms."
The Trump administration will inevitably present new challenges for grassroots organizers, Barry said. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence campaigned on a "law and order" platform like one that, decades ago, brought about socio-economic decline and systemic oppression in the black community. In the past few weeks, nearly every person being tapped by the president-elect to fill a major government post has anti-civil rights, anti-abortion rights, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, anti-black views or some combination of thereof. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is being floated for attorney general, in spite of his well-documented record of being anti-civil rights, anti-voting rights and racially insensitive. Trump's other choices — including those for housing, national security, education and health — are on-record as having views that aren't progressive and are contrary to the movement's aims.
Movement leaders are fully aware that hard-fought gains, civil rights and liberties are at stake for black communities, even if they don't have a full-fledged resistance strategy figured out just yet.
"Our lives don't revolve around election cycles and presidential elections." — BLM national spokeswoman Shanelle Matthews
"We don't assume we have all the answers," Shanelle Matthews, national spokeswoman for the Black Lives Matter Global Network, said in an email. "Our lives don't revolve around election cycles and presidential elections," she added in response to a question of whether activists had failed to anticipate the potential fallout of Trump's ascendance to the White House.
The BLM network released an official statement on the results of the election and declared their fight for justice and equality is far from over.
"Donald Trump has promised more death, disenfranchisement and deportations. We believe him," BLM network said in a statement released exclusively to Mic on Nov. 15. "The violence he will inflict in office, and the permission he gives for others to commit violence, is just beginning to emerge."
Matthews said the BLM network "will iterate on strategies until we find something that works." The group would potentially engage policymakers on eliminating voter disenfranchisement among imprisoned and formerly incarcerated people, and help elect more black women to office.
Other movement leaders who spoke to Mic said some of their objectives are already clear: They will expand political education campaigns, grow their efforts to protect black immigrants and continue protesting police and state violence through direct actions, among other aims.
Barry said one of Million Hoodies' objectives will be to launch mass political education campaigns through text messaging and other digital means, as a way to warn communities of color about what lies ahead under a Trump presidency.
Trump has vowed to snatch federal aid from cities that pledge not to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in immigration raids.
"Many black folks are undocumented, as well," Zellie Imani, an organizer of the Black Liberation Collective, said. "We want to make sure that black folks, whether they are documented or undocumented, are safe on college campuses."
Imani said his group will launch a sanctuary campus movement, which includes plans to pressure universities to ensure, either through policy or public statement, that they protect undocumented students from ICE agents.
Some leaders in the Movement for Black Lives didn't wait until Trump had finagled his way to a 306-232 victory over Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College, before they started strategizing within their communities.
BYP 100, which has chapters throughout the country, ran voter engagement campaigns in 10 locations and held a lobby day on Capitol Hill in September. The Black Liberation Collective, a coalition of college activists at predominantly white institutions, pushed for administrators to divest any holdings they have in the private prison industry, out of concern that a Trump or Clinton win could mean more mass incarceration. Million Hoodies, which launched in the wake of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, ran "get out the vote" efforts, Barry said.
Meanwhile, many young activists held firm on an unofficial movement pledge not to endorse candidates for president. However, prominent movement activists DeRay Mckesson and Brittany Packnett offered endorsements to Clinton. In light of Trump's victory, Matthews said the BLM network was not second-guessing "our commitment to not endorse candidates this election season."
The Movement for Black Lives has broad national recognition for its anti-police brutality agenda, largely because of the role it played in amplifying the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, among several others. In August, movement groups collaboratively released "A Vision for Black Lives," its sweeping policy platform on policing, gender identity, environmental injustice and immigration, among other issues.
But civil disobedience and protests, which have become synonymous with the BLM movement, will continue to be part of BYP 100's strategy, Charlene Carruthers, national director for the group, said.
"It is important to recognize the work that we've all been doing," she said. "We didn't start it because Donald Trump was [running for president]."
Carruthers said many organizers do see that it's "time to dig deeper and ask the questions that maybe we didn't ask before." But she also cautioned supporters against believing that movement organizers had all the answers for facing a Trump America.
"Before any of us are organizers, we are people," Carruthers said. "Everyone has to take a moment to figure out how they are situated in the world, now that a new regime is coming into the White House."