Why It’s Dangerous to Lump All Black Activists Under the ‘Black Lives Matter’ Banner

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 20, 2016

The latest round of police-involved killings of Black Americans (and subsequent police killings) has captured the nation’s attention, forcing some to personally confront the value that the criminal justice system places on Black lives—and prompting others to vilify the civil rights workers who attempt to dismantle that system.

From Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump—who recently said Black Lives Matter (BLM)  is “essentially calling death to the police”—to the people who unsuccessfully petitioned the White House to label the organization a hate group, the vitriol directed at the 3-year-old organization appears to be at an all time high. Many of the critics point to individual Black protestors who have advocated for violence against police, calling every Black person who tweets or makes a sign a member of BLM and creating a false a narrative for the network.

This is obviously detrimental to the organization, as the conversation in mainstream media tends to focus on the negative perception of the organization among some communities, rather than its work. But slapping the “BLM” label on everyone who believes in the inherent value of Black lives is also problematic in other ways. The group is not the only organization creating actions meant to bolster the lived experiences of Black people living in America. In fact, there are several independent orgs across the country who collaborate under the banner of The Movement for Black Lives, the coalition that hosted a national convening in Cleveland last July. When every action is attributed to BLM, it can actually undermine the purpose of individual actions, hampering accountability and erasing the work of committed local organizations.

“Part of defining our own narrative and fighting erasure is making sure people are aware of the many organizations doing work in local communities and nationally. It’s important that we give proper credit to those who are putting in the work and putting their bodies on the line,” says Autumn Marie, an organizer with Black Lives Matter: NYC.

Plus, lifting up many organizations makes it clear that there is an actual movement and that it is happening on various fronts, from the streets to the courtroom. “It helps to bring in people with different ideologies and strategies and platforms. Different people are attracted to different things, and we need to have organizations that speak to all of them,” Marie said.

To that end, here is a roundup of the 13 groups who are featured on the website for The Movement for Black Lives, complete with goal statements pulled from their sites:

Advancement Project
Washington D.C. | Founded in 1999
“Advancement Project is a next generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change.”

Baltimore BLOC
Baltimore | Founded in 2013

“Building a grassroots collective of friends, families and neighborhoods, united to decolonize communities and organize for kujichagulia.”

Black Lives Matter
38 chapters | Founded in 2013

“We affirm that all Black lives matter. Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity
Washington, D.C. | Founded in 2011

“BOLD is a national leadership training program designed to help rebuild Black (African-American, Caribbean, African, Afro-Latino) social justice infrastructure in order to organize Black communities more effectively and re-center Black leadership in the U.S. social justice movement.”

Black Youth Project 100
Based in Chicago, 6 chapters | Founded in 2013

“BYP 100 is an activist member-based organization of Black 18-35 year olds, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. We do this through building a collective focused on transformative leadership development, direct action organizing, advocacy and education.”

Blackout For Human Rights
Decentralized | Founded in 2014

“Blackout for Human Rights is a network of concerned artists, activists, filmmakers, musicians and citizens who committed their energy and resources to immediately address the staggering level of human rights violations against fellow Americans throughout the United States.”

Color of Change
New York City | Founded in 2005

“ColorOfChange.org exists to strengthen Black America’s political voice. Our goal is to empower our members—Black Americans and our allies—to make government more responsive to the concerns of Black Americans and to bring about positive political and social change for everyone.”

Freedom Inc.
Madison | Founded in 2003

“Freedom, Inc. engages low- to no-income communities of color in Dane County, Wisconsin. We work to end violence against people of color, women, those that non-traditionally gender identify and our youth, to promote healthy lifestyle.  We create healthy communities by campaigning against the root causes of violence, creating new definitions and solutions of identity and resiliency, and empowering all community members as agents of change.”

Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
8 chapters | Founded in 1990

“The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is an organization of Afrikans in America/New Afrikans whose mission is to defend the human rights of our people and promote self-determination in our community by any means necessary!”

Million Hoodies Movement for Justice
10 chapters | Founded in 2012

“Million Hoodies Movement for Justice is a racial justice membership organization confronting anti-Black racism and systemic violence. Our mission is to build next generation human rights leaders to end mass criminalization and gun violence through grassroots organizing, advocacy and education. We are building a racial justice movement committed to creating a democracy where all Black and Brown people have social, political, cultural, and economic freedom and the right to be safe.”

Project South
Atlanta | Founded in 1986

“Project South is a Southern-based leadership development organization that creates spaces for movement building. We work with communities pushed forward by the struggle to strengthen leadership and to provide popular political and economic education for personal and social transformation. We build relationships with organizations and networks across the U.S. and global South to inform our local work and to engage in bottom-up movement building for social and economic justice.”

The BlackOUT Collective
Oakland | Founded in 2014

“The BlackOUT Collective is a full service Black Direct Action collective, which provides on the ground support, training and the opportunity for deep space visioning in communities that prioritize the liberation of Black people.”

The Organization for Black Struggle
St. Louis | Founded in 1980

“Our mission: To build a movement that fights for political empowerment, economic justice and the cultural dignity of the African-American community, especially the Black working class.”