No matter how deep grief and fear cut, they will not immobilize us. Faced with a destructive Trump presidency, the theme of Facing Race 2016 couldn’t be more prescient: “Our Stories, Our Solutions.” More than 2,000 racial justice activists gathered in Atlanta this week to connect, to heal, and to advance a multiracial, inter-generational, multi-issue agenda for justice.
In dozens of breakout sessions, several brilliant plenaries focusing on issues such as the Multiracial Movements for Black Lives, and keynotes from Roxane Gay and Jose Antonio Vargas, Facing Race attendees laid the groundwork for continued resistance.
Highlights from two Friday sessions offer a taste of solutions that racial justice leaders are already implementing across the United States:
Poverty, gentrification, and displacement disproportionately affect communities of color under capitalism and White supremacy. These conditions are poised to worsen once a real estate developer with notoriously shady ethics and business practices occupies the White House.
In “#OurNeighborhoods: Sharing Policies for Anti-Displacement & Equitable Development,” Seema Agnani (Policy Director of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development) and Sacajawea Saki Hall (founding member of Cooperation Jackson) shared a robust set of strategies the housing justice movement has used to advocate safe and accessible homes for all.
With case studies of racial justice-focused land and housing activism from New York City to Jackson, MI, and participatory insights from the audience, attendees learned successful tactics for fighting displacement of neighborhoods of color and promoting equitable development, including:
- forming community land trusts to make home ownership accessible to low- and middle-income families
- winning renters’ rights ordinances
- shoring up rent control regulations that already exist, in addition to fighting for the creation of new affordable housing stock
- building tenants’ unions
- Just Cause eviction models
- sustainable community land development that moves away from capitalism and toward community health and longevity
With an avowed sexual predator as POTUS and a rabid religious right legislator as VP, we are about to face arguably the biggest threats to reproductive freedom than we’ve suffered in decades. Reproductive Justice framework — coined in 1994 by African American women to radically re-envision reproductive politics by centering the social and structural conditions that impact our ability to form the families we choose — is more important than ever.
In “RJ SQUARED! Exploring the Connections Between Reproductive Justice and Racial Justice,” SisterSong co-founder Loretta Ross, Executive Director Monica Simpson, and Mateo Medina, Program Coordinator of CLPP, discussed how a human rights framework is crucial to winning multiracial feminist movements for bodily autonomy and healthy families. To win a racial justice agenda, we have to dismantle gender oppression; to unseat patriarchy we also have to disrupt White supremacy. The session drew direct connections between feminist efforts to control when and if they will have children to forced sterilization of Black and brown women, to mass incarceration, to the Movement for Black Lives’ efforts to ensure the safety of all Black children and adults.
Once the public understands that things like economic security, shelter, education, and freedom of (and from) religion are inalienable human rights, it will be a lot harder to convince us to give up those basic needs. Waging reproductive justice battles through an eight-point international human rights framework is crucial to winning, Ross explained, because it helps us understand not only the obstacles we need to fight against, but also what we should be fighting for:
- Civil rights: non-discrimination and equality
- Political rights: voting, freedom of speech, assembly
- Economic rights: living wage, workers’ rights
- Social rights: food, health care, shelter, clothing, education
- Cultural rights: language, dress, and freedom of (and from) religion
- Environmental rights: clean air, water, land
- Developmental rights: the rights of the global south to develop their own resources
- Sexual rights: the right to have or not have kids, to marry and when, same-sex rights, birth control, the right to sexual pleasure, and the right to define families
Additionally, Simpson shared solutions ranging from using reality TV shows like Love & Hip Hop as a conversation-starting tool to make reproductive justice concepts accessible, to how Trust Black Women organized at the intersection of the RJ and BLM movements to free domestic violence survivor Marissa Alexander from jail.
Consider: these are just two sets of inside and outside strategies among hundreds offered throughout Facing Race as activists, community organizers, scholars, writers, filmmakers, artists, and legislators rolled up their sleeves and helped each other get to work undoing racism in schools, interrupting implicit bias, securing economic and environmental justice, fighting mass incarceration and deportation, defending immigrants’ rights, building concrete racial equity plans to achieve systemic change, standing with Standing Rock, and much more — not to mention raising the funds needed to sustain all this work.