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By Don Rojas —

Speaking with eloquence and passion, three dynamic members of the new generation of Black leaders–Maurice Mitchell, National Director, Working Families Party; Tarana Burke, founder of the MeToo Movement and LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter—electrified the audience on the closing day of the historic State of the Black World Conference held recently in Baltimore, MD.

While they laid emphasis on different areas of their work and mission, all three agreed that the time has come for Black people in the USA and around the world to collectively build political and economic power from the grassroots up. They were also in one accord that as the Black freedom movement confronts the challenges of the 21st Century, the modern-day freedom fighters must uphold the principles and practices of our “common humanity”.

Maurice Mitchell, National Director, Working Families Party

Maurice Mitchell, National Director, Working Families Party.

In his presentation, Bro. Mitchell called on organized labor to vigorously confront organized capital with independent political power. “Capitalism will not save us”, he said. “It is a system built on the exploitation and oppression of black bodies. And, let’s not have any illusions that simply getting people into elected office is a panacea for Black people. Thank God for union jobs,” he said.

He argued that climate change is posing an existential threat to black communities and countries around the world and cited his own family experience in Long Beach when Hurricane Sandy decimated many of the black-majority towns on Long Island, NY, including where he and his family had lived. “We were storm refugees who became homeless and had to rebuild our lives from scratch”. That experience, he said, helped to catapult him into activism and community organizing.

Bro. Mitchell invited the audience to join him and the Working Families Party in the struggle to build political, economic, cultural and spiritual power, for working people across the nation.

Tarana Burke, founder of the MeToo Movement

Tarana Burke, founder of the MeToo Movement.

Sis. Tarana Burke, leader of the #MeToo Movement, said there is an urgent need to highlight the issue of gender violence against Black women, which she described as “an issue that has been bastardized.” She added that sexual violence is linked to all racial and social justice movements.

“There’s no special depravity among Black men,” she stated. “Sexual violence has been weaponized against Black men from Emmiet Till all the way down. It has also been weaponized against Black women. African-American women have the second highest incidence of sexual violence in the USA with Native-American women at the top. You cannot talk about police brutality and not talk about sexual brutality of Black and Brown women.

“If Black lives are to truly matter, then the quality of our lives also has to matter. We need to talk more about healing and repair when we tall about sexual violence in our communities,” she added.

LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter

LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter.

When it was her turn to speak, Sis. LaTosha Brown, Co-founder of Black Voters Matter, started off by singing a soulful Negro Spiritual.

“It has been that spirit that has brought our people this far,” she said. “We are here because we have created a space for us to be our own true selves…we have come through the civil rights movement, the Black Power Movement and recently, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and now we must shift the narrative and create different messages. We need a narrative of re-imagining instead of re-acting… we must continue to breath life into our people, we must start envisioning.”

“What will America look like without racism?” she asked the audience.”What would a new world look like where all people feel valued and respected.

If we don’t envision, we will not create a new world….let’s pay more attention to the twin anchors in our humanity: Black Love & Black Power. Our politics should be an expression of our humanity, our politics should support our black humanity….there is not Black Power without Black love for ourselves and each other.”

She concluded with a rousing call to “build movements, not empires,” and to generate a “new level of thinking.”

Photos by Williams Enterprises Photography

Don Rojas

Don Rojas is the Director of Communications for the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW21) and the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC), a member of its board of directors and former Press Secretary to the late Prime Minister Maurice Bishop of Grenada. Before joining IBW in 2013, Mr. Rojas served as Executive Director and CEO of Free Speech TV, a Denver-based, multiplatform, national media network.