Even with a new administration in office, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) isn’t taking its foot off the gas in its efforts to defend Black lives. A national network of organizations and individuals creating a broad political home for Black people, M4BL is active in communities across the nation with initiatives to learn, organize and take action.
Always looking to the future, the movement is currently focused on investing in policies and institutions that directly benefit and impact Black communities. Its goal is clearly defined: “We demand investments in the education, health and safety of Black people, instead of investments in the criminalizing, caging and harming of Black people.”Since the Biden-Harris administration earned 87 percent of the Black vote in the 2020 election, M4BL is holding legislators accountable to the demands and needs of the people who put them in office. The organization is also leading a charge to divest from ineffective, racist institutions like policing and incarceration in order to invest in people and communities.
“We want investments in Black communities, determined by Black communities, and divestment from exploitative forces including prisons, fossil fuels, police, surveillance and exploitative corporations,” M4BL continues.
This includes reparations for the devastating impact of the “war on drugs” and the criminalization of sex work, as well as reinvestment in restorative services, mental health services, job programs and other efforts supporting those impacted by the unjust criminal legal system that engenders police violence and mass incarceration.
“With the new administration now in office, the Movement for Black Lives will keep mobilizing and organizing to reverse centuries of disinvestment in Black communities to invest in a future where we can all be connected, represented, and free. We will ensure that elected leaders make good on their promises to the movements that hold them accountable and the communities who put them into office,” Karissa Lewis, M4B National Field Director, recently wrote.
M4BL’s Frameworks for Change in 2021
One of M4BL’s biggest goals is an ongoing push to defund the police and reallocate funds at federal, state and local levels, a move that would hopefully put an end to the correlating incarceration boom. Redirected funding could then be used on long-term strategies like education, community employment programs, restorative justice services and more.
While some may still have concerns around how we will keep our communities safe, defunding the police doesn’t mean an immediate elimination of all law enforcement. It’s understood that peacekeeping is an essential service, and replacing institutions that don’t serve Black people won’t become a reality overnight. But through a shared vision of safety that actually works, communities can transition to innovative new approaches to security and accountability that better serve the needs of the people.
As Lewis writes, “Last year, our movement made defund the police a national rallying cry in the streets. In 2021, we will advance strategies to transition from overreliance on excessive, brutal and discriminatory policing to new systems of public safety that included demilitarized safety strategies, which is the right path forward.”
Always ready to roll up its sleeves and get the work done, M4BL is also focused on passing legislation like the BREATHE Act, a historic civil rights bill that offers a radical re-imagining of public safety and community care. It includes four vital proposals:
- Divesting federal resources from policing and incarceration while also ending inequalities in the criminal legal system.
- Investing in creative community safety methods that lead states to shrink their criminal legal systems.
- Allocating funds specifically for building equitable, healthy and sustainable communities.
- Holding all officials (elected or otherwise) accountable while enhancing the self-determination of all Black communities.
For M4BL, it’s a step in the direction of true justice reform, and it’s committed itself to achieve this by pushing the BREATHE Act on national and local levels. In states like Illinois, M4BL has increased public awareness of the bill; to date, over 150,000 individuals and organizations have signed up to be community co-sponsors of the act.
In January, the group won a hard-fought battle when the Illinois General Assembly voted to advance the BREATHE Act (officially known as HB 3653), which currently awaits the signature of Governor J.B. Pritzker (D).
According to M4BL, it has a local-to-national strategy: “The BREATHE team is encouraging local organizers across the country to form coalitions to be able to create and pass the BREATHE Act at both state and local levels, following the lead of Illinois.”
Building local power is central to driving change at the federal level. As witnessed in November 2020, millions of people took up their individual power and came together to vote Trump out and push back against white supremacy. This reaffirms that the power of the movement lies within the people and their communities –– including Black women and trans, gender nonconforming and intersex people.
“Uprisings around the country changed what was possible. What felt impossible two months ago is being accomplished now; what seems impossible today is doable tomorrow, and we will be the ones to make it happen. We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams,” M4BL affirms.
Looking Ahead to a Bright Future
For Black History Month, M4BL has launched an initiative of its own: “Black Futures Month,” a celebration of Black artists, community leaders, creators and others who have a wealth of stories to share.
In partnership with Root Story Films, M4BL released a short Afrofuturist film that imagines a future where Black people are truly free. Of the film, M4BL says, “With a bold vision and our hands on the freedom plow, we are erecting a world in which all Black lives matter. We do this by telling new stories that illustrate our vision of society; by abolishing harmful and violent institutions and replacing them with a new vision of society that invests in people and community; and by loving ourselves [and] each other and basking in our excellence.”
As always, the Movement for Black Lives keeps its pulse on the culture while driving the bold change needed to make a true impact in our communities. On February 23rd, M4BL will take over the airwaves — timed to the President’s State of the Union — to broadcast the State of Black America and share the full breadth of its Vision for Black Lives and the plan to achieve it. Join in by donating or learning more about M4BL here.
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