Reviewing the platform and demands of Movement for Black Lives in its booklet “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice,” recalls current and past platforms, including ones proposed by the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, Amnesty International, Moral Mondays, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, the Democratic Party and the Revolutionary Communist Party among others.
Even so—and it’s difficult not repeat some possible solutions because very little has changed over the decades—there are several marked distinctions as the present consortium of 50 organizations have “renewed energy and purpose to articulate a common vision and agenda.”
This fresh resurgence of concentrated activism is an outgrowth of the Black Lives Matter movement, and although the demands are hardly novel, they do need to be renewed from generation to generation, given the incessant, unbroken repression and hostility from every facet of a racist society. In effect, past is prologue, but it must be bolstered with a more empowering message and action for systemic transformation.
Members and activists of M4BL appear to be amply aware of those who have gone before, those who have stood valiantly and determinedly against the forces of oppression, against the lethal menace of a state power and its militaristic praxis on steroids.
The esteemed writer and scholar Robin D.G. Kelley, in a recent column in Counterpunch, does a wonderful job explicating and summarizing the M4BL document that was not drafted with “the expectation that it will become the basis of a mass movement, or that it will replace the Democratic Party’s platform.” Kelly explains, “Rather it is a vision statement for long-term, transformative organizing. Indeed, ‘A Vision for Black Lives’ is less a political platform than a plan for ending structural racism, saving the planet and transforming the entire nation—not just Black lives.”
In the article “What Does Black Lives Matter Want?” Kelley cites that they want an “end of war on Black people.” This statement has all the meaning and intent voiced by the Panthers’ in No. 6 and No. 7 of their Ten-Point Program. The Panthers are also invoked when M4BL calls for community control of food distribution, although the Panthers extended the notion to include the total control of all the “means of production.” Nor does M4BL insist on the overthrow of the capitalist system in keeping with the chief change demanded by the Revolutionary Communist Party. Perhaps this demand is inferred in via the words “transforming” and “remaking” the system.
Several other key points from the document are highlighted by Kelley. They call for a “universal basic income,” that goes beyond DNC’s minimum wage demand. He applauds the group’s “devastating critique of U.S. foreign policy,” as well as their inclusion of reparations. There is nothing new about this stance, and the document appends a veritable history of institutional and legislative moves in this regard, none more notable than Rep. John Conyers’ longstanding H.R. 40 bill that has been tabled and tabled since it was introduced in 1997.
The call for reparations echoes what the Institute of the Black World has been doing for many years and most recently from the Caribbean perspective, a focus emboldened by the historical and political heft provided by Sir Hilary Beckles. Reparations lodged by M4BL is also, to some degree, similar to one made by the NOI, only their idea of reparations denoted an appeal for a separate land grant that the government would subsidize for a score of years until the new Black nation was financially stable.
If there was a call for community control of the police as promoted by such renowned activists as Dhoruba Bin Wahad, it did not standout, although this demand is a given because the very essence of M4BL is the resolute stance against police brutality. From Ferguson and the murder of Michael Brown to LaQuan McDonald in Chicago, the founders and activists of the organization have been steadfast and bonded by this central cause.
What is most rewarding about M4BL’s document is its sense of history. And this sense of history is boldly spelled out at the close of the platform. “The policy briefs also elevate the brave and transformative work our people are already engaged in, and build on some of the best thinking in our history of struggle,” the document states. “This agenda continues the legacy of our ancestors who pushed for reparations, Black self-determination and community control; and also propels new iterations of movements such as efforts for reproductive justice, holistic healing and reconciliation, and ending violence against Black cis, queer and trans people.”
Clearly, we have here the annealing elements to bridge the generation gap, to make whole the political continuum, so vitally needed in our struggle to bring about a more lovable and livable society. It’s time the proponents of Black Lives Matter sit down, break bread and forged ties with the Black Liberation Movement. Yes, past is prologue, but rarely has the time gap come together as it potentially must in these days of siege and chaos.