I’ve been going to racial justice marches in New York City for nearly 20 years (for Abner Louima, for Amadou Diallo, for Sean Bell, for Ramarley Graham) and I’ve never seen anything like the mass protests in response to Eric Garner. This gives me hope.
This is one view of what the movement looked like last night in New York City:
Protests like this one happened all over the U.S. With respect to Gil Scott Heron (who told us that The Revolution Will Not be Televised), this movement is and will be digital. More precisely, this new civil rights movement is spreading quickly because it is digitally augmented through Twitter, Vine, Instagram and other social media platforms. The movement is also, simultaneously, in the streets. It is both/and – both digital and material – at the same time. And this, too, gives me hope.
The both/and, digital/material feature of the new civil rights movement means several hopeful things.
It means that it’s both youth-led movement, and it is intergenerational. It means that it’s both youth-led and leaderless, in the traditional sense. It also means that it both circumvents and subverts legacy civil rights organizations that are now mostly corporate-funded or corporate-affiliated. It means that it is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement.
The both/and quality of the new civil rights movement means that while much of the organizing is happening online – through websites like Ferguson Action, and email newsletters like thisisthemovement published by DeRay McKesson (@deray) and through Twitter hashtags #EricGarner #BlackLivesMatter #ShutItDown – people have been showing up in the streets for 118 days now.
The demands of the new civil rights movement are, of course, both posted online and demand real, concrete action in the material world.
Today is a day for hope.
Since the 1980s black leaders have held several State of the Black Union overview conferences. In 2006 a document, “The Covenant with Black America,” was presented to eight thousand attendees at the seventh conference in Houston, a book-length statement of strong recommendations to policymakers that would improve the lives of African Americans. In addition to suggesting action options for African Americans with regard to issues such as renewal of voting rights legislation and boycotting discriminatory companies, these conferences have generated renewed interest in an array of political campaigns accenting issues of concern to black communities.
Subsequent black conferences have confirmed these goals, and the book version of the Covenant became a New York Times best-seller. A third book in the Covenant series is now out, and is described on the website thus:
Accountable is the the yardstick that will determine whether we, the people—both political leaders and citizens—have lived up to the aspirations enshrined in The Covenant and operationalized in THE COVENANT In Action. It offers a pragmatic model for holding our new president and political leaders accountable for what they have promised and must deliver. It also holds us accountable both as individuals and as a community for our actions or inactions in keeping our agenda on track. Because the stakes have never been higher, Accountable teaches American citizens how to be driven by “the cause and not the candidate,” and how to sustain the new political dialogue in which “our votes cannot be separated from our voices.”
The Covenant with Black America website has some very useful interactive maps (from http://www.blackstat.com) dealing with important statistical data by state on Health, Education, Justice, Democracy, Environment, Digital Divide, and Rural America.
There is also a good link to race, poverty, and related news events.
This is a good site for students to access.