Alicia Garza on Importance of Voting, Disruptive Black Power

By Kenrya Rankin Jun 22, 2016

Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza is not one to mince words, and her June 20 interview with The Huffington Post is no exception. In it, she tackles many subjects from the concept of “All Lives Matter” to the presumptive presidential nominees and the impact the political system has on Black America. Here is a taste of what she had to say:

On “All Lives Matter”:
The basis of “All Lives Matter,” specifically when deployed in response to the assertion that Black lives matter, is deeply flawed. Of course, theoretically all lives should matter. But that’s not the context we live in. For example, every day, many of us walk by people without homes who are literally living on the streets. Black families are seven times more likely to be homeless than white families. The majority of people in prisons and jails in this country are Black. One in 13 Black people are barred from voting and influencing the decisions that impact their lives. When we address the disparities facing Black people, we get a lot closer to a true democracy where all lives matter.

On the importance of voting:
There are Black people who have made the decision not to vote this year, and while that’s not a choice I’m making, I can certainly understand why people decide to make that choice. The Democratic Party has a lot of work to do to restore the trust that it’s lost…. However, for us to seize the power that exists within that dissatisfaction, it means we have to direct it towards something. Non-participation is a viable strategy in some contexts—but in my own opinion, not this one. We need to build a different and viable alternative and, in the meantime, we can direct our energy towards jamming the gears of power. Non-participation doesn’t allow us to do that. It just creates more room for the forces that we don’t want to win, to win. We should also remember that there are state and local elections that are happening at the same time—and those matter.

On disruptive Black power:
It creates room to challenge the status quo, and to demonstrate our ability to stop bad things from happening. How disruptive Black power is important is when it is directed strategically—disrupting institutions and corporations that prey upon our people is a great way to immediately stop harm, while also creating a political stage to win hearts and minds. Every successful social movement in this country’s history has used disruption as a strategy to fight for social change. Whether it was the Boston Tea Party to the sit-ins at lunch counters throughout the South, no change has been won without disruptive action.

Read the full interview here.