Movement for Black Lives Members Hit Capitol Hill to Press Elected Officials on Economic and Criminal Justice Issues

By Akiba Solomon Sep 15, 2016

Yesterday (September 14) about 60 youth organizers from BYP100 and the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) hit Capitol Hill for the first-ever Build Black Futures Advocacy Day. 

At the center of the effort, which dovetailed with the kickoff of this year’s Congressional Black Caucus Foundation legislative conference, was BYP100’s Agenda to Build Black Futures. That agenda is made up of economic goals and structural changes that would, according to the BYP100 web site, create "a more economically just society that values the lives and well-being of [all] Black people, including women, queer, and transgender folks, the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated as well as those who languish in the bottom 1 [percent] of the economic hierarchy." Participants in the federal advocacy day—a first for most—also pushed the The Movement for Black Lives’ policy platform released on August 1. 

"Our asks during this day included eliminating mandatory-minimum sentencing, supporting reparations for Black people, raising the minimum wage, ending college tuition, and investing in long-term safety strategies for our people," BYP100 wrote in a statement sent to press, including Colorlines. 

The BYP100 and NBJC activists met with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.). They live-streamed their discussion with Bobby Scott (D-Va.). And they talked to a wide range of senior staffers including those from the offices of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

In addition to talking with officials, some activists silently protested a House Budget Committee meeting. No arrests were made, according to a BYP100 source.

Build Black Futures Advocacy Day marked somewhat of a pivot for BYP100, an anchor group in a movement including Black Lives Matter, that refused to endorse a 2016 presidential candidate.

Says BYP100—D.C. member Samantha Master: "This issue advocacy day shows the emergence of a fuller, multi-pronged strategy for actualizing a Black legislative and political agenda that centers Black women, queer, trans, disabled and undocumented Black people in addition to our political education, base-building and direct-action strategies.