Alicia Garza, an Oakland-based activist who co-founded Black Lives Matter, has discontinued her involvement with the group's day-to-day operations to launch a "generously funded" project intended to build “Black political power” on the national, state, and local levels.
The transition allows for Garza to dedicate more time to her new role as principal of the Black Futures Lab — an advocacy group that was formally unveiled last week. She has been planning its rollout since 2017.
The first phase of her new endeavor begins this month when the lab will train 100 canvassers to interview thousands of black people for its Black Census Project. The initiative will cover 20 states and the District of Columbia, focusing on issues like generational oppression, mass incarceration, and police violence. Organizers hope to poll 200,000 individuals through field studies and an online survey to "clarify the diversity of wants and needs that Black people imagine," and “transform” their communities.
"We can't say [that] what black people in Oakland are experiencing is the same thing that black people are experiencing in Jackson, Mississippi," Garza said in an interview with "Mic." "Black communities are incredibly complex and not to the stereotype of what people have said they are."
The targeted neighborhoods were chosen for their diverse, intersectional sample of black residents that organizers say have "consistently been left at the bottom of legislators' agendas," including unlawfully present immigrants, transgender persons, and formerly (and currently) incarcerated people.
The project expects to release its findings at the end of the year after partners have analyzed the responses. The results will help shape the platform of the Black Futures Lab, which maintains "a transnational outlook."
"For a country built on the exclusion of Black votes, the Black Census Project is a vital step towards asserting the power of our community's voices in an era where our president is leading a white nationalist movement against us," said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a co-sponsor of the undertaking.
Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice group, built the lab’s website and designed its digital questionnaire. Information collected could potentially be used to dispute data that is soon to be compiled by the federal government.
As "Mic" reported:
Launch of the project comes as the U.S. Census Bureau readies its 2020 population count, which some civil rights groups worry has been underfunded by the Republican-controlled Congress. A lack of funding could lead to undercounting of certain communities, such as nonwhite or minority communities. ...
Unlike the bureau's count, which collects information about race, household size, income and education level through in-person interviews and mail-in surveys, the Black Census Project's online website aims to catch a litany of data points specific to the black experience in the U.S.
Garza said she believes the effort may constitute the largest, targeted survey of black people "after Reconstruction."
Garza went on to tell "Mic" that the new initiative is "generously funded," and several progressive organizations are likely to benefit from the data gathered. Presumably, those groups would include both Black Lives Matter and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, where Garza still serves as special projects director. The Roddenberry Foundation also provides Garza with financial support, as she is among several "activists, leaders and disrupters" that were recently awarded $50,000 fellowships.
Along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, Garza co-founded Black Lives Matter in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Since then, the organization has evolved into a global network of more than 40 official chapters.
In January, Tometi stepped away from the group to focus on other like-minded projects. She is currently executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, where Tometi has worked for nearly eight years.
Cullors, based in Los Angeles, will remain with Black Lives Matter as a spokesperson, senior advisor, and chief strategist. According to its official website, she "will continue to work with BLM staff and network members as the Black Lives Matter movement enters its fifth year, and formulates and implements its 2018-2023 strategic plan."
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.