Since I wrote "Why I Do Not Support The Women's March on Washington," in November, many people have contacted me wanting guidance on whether or not they should attend, so let's get to it.
The answer is quite simple..
If you want to go, you should go. If you don't want to go, you shouldn't. Make whatever decision you'd like, which is something I've advocated for since the very beginning.
However, after the marches are over, people should seriously consider the following questions:
- What will you commit to doing after the march?
- Which organizations get funded and which ones don't? Why?
- When you donate, do you know the money is being spent?
- Can you identify the body of work being produced? What's being done?
- What types of people are being given opportunities to speak? People from that community or people OUTSIDE of that community?
- How and why do certain issues become top priorities for who and why?
- Which strategies worked and didn't work in the past? The organization you trust should be able to explain this and if they can't, you should reevaluate your commitment.
These are BASIC questions that we should always asking ourselves and if we can't have dialogue about it, then what's the point? Activism is not about how many panel discussions you can do. It's about centering the stories and voices of people who are MOST affected.
From the beginning, my concerns with the organizers claiming to represent me from a viral Facebook event is not about "personal politics" or "call-out culture" -- As a Black woman, both of these terms support white supremacy and have been created to dodge accountability because conforming to the status quo is much easier and more comfortable than challenging it.
Despite the cooptation of the historic 1997 Million Woman March by Dr. Phile Chionesu (video below), this is actually quite bigger than the name. This is bigger than just recruiting women of color. It's about principle and erasure of work that black women already did. It's also about organizing from the grassroots with goals, not just beliefs or principles.
Structural and institutional racism did not start with Donald Trump and in fact, it is ingrained into our entire political system. Racism may not have been real to people who have had the privilege of not dealing with it, which ultimately means these people have been ignoring what Black people have been saying since our very existence.
This is why it's so important to give credit where credit is due. Black people, especially women, been putting in work. This is what Dr. Chionesu did and she deserves recognition for her efforts.
Case in point, the Baltimore Uprising took place in 2015 and there has been little change in our communities, a predominantly Black city. Where was Pantsuit Nation for Black women and girls when our city was on fire? North Ave still looks the same. The officers who were involved in the death of Freddie Gray got off free and the performance activists who came here to take savior-complex selfies for social media are gone. Sure, the consent decree was filed in January, but if you know the history, you know we've got a long way to go.
What I'm trying to say is..this is real life. This is serious. These are Black people's lives at stake. I have a right to demand more because my ancestors paved the way for me to do so.
Marching is a tool, not a goal. If you have no plan before and after the march, it will not be sustainable. It will merely just be a memory and that won't be powerful enough to overcome ANY racist administration. Solidarity that is not connected to concrete investment in Black grassroots collective enterprises and organizations is exploitation.
Whether it be in office spaces or in living rooms, Black women and their communities have been doing work before and they'll likely never get asked to be on the cover of Vogue Magazine or secure book deals.
Some talk, others tweet, but there are people who do work every single day even when the cameras are turned off. The success of individuals don't equate to the masses.
Ignoring power dynamics in mainstream feminism or women's rights generally is racist, unproductive and one of the many reason why it does not resonate to the masses suffering. Overall, if Trump being elected was shocking, it's because you were not listening.
Grassroots work is not sexy, but the revolution will not happen on Facebook live. Don't talk about social justice if you're not ready to call out discriminatory systems that sometimes even YOU benefit from.
Since the Baltimore Uprising and especially now after the election results, I've been thinking a lot about what I am actually doing to make a difference.. While I am very proud of the work I've done so far, I can do better. In fact, we all can do better as advocates.
I'd also like to point out how I've noticed the lack of support I got from the overall feminist movement when I stopped advocating for agendas that don't truly represent me and because I understand why, I don't take it personally. Advocating for myself can put some people out of the business and redirects the measure of accountability. No surprise to me.
Overall beautoful people, if you want to march to represent inclusion, by all means, stand in your truth. But afterwards, if the current social, political and economic state and conditions of Black people continue, be bold enough to stand up and say enough is enough because you know what's real outside of the catchy buzzwords and phrases that claim we are all the same. In theory we are, but our current laws, systems and institutions prove otherwise. That's it. No magic. No tricks.
If you want my recommendations for Black-led efforts that promote autonomy in Baltimore, please take a moment to support (donate, volunteer, etc) the list below. These organizations believed black lives mattered before it became a hashtag:
- Dream Reiki Project
- Out For Justice, Inc.
- The National Great Black In Wax Museum
- Black Money Matters Project
- Justice for Tyrone West
- Baltimore Algebra Project
- The Living Well Center
- The Historic Million Woman March
- Eddie Conway Liberation Institute - ECLI
- Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle
- Orita's Cross Freedom School
- The #HealASista Project: Sista Space
- Heal a Woman to Heal a Nation, Inc.
I'll also include a list of a few of my favorite organizing resources:
- Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow
- The Leadership Conference Grassroots Tool Kit
- 20 Principles for Successful Community Organizing
Lastly, if you're in the DMV areas and want to connect, please don't hesitate to reach out.
I appreciate all those who have been supportive along the way. I hope this helps.
Brittany T. Oliver