200 WOMEN | Alicia Garza

9781452166582_3D (1)Interviews with 200 women from a variety of backgrounds provide a snapshot of female life around the globe. Interviewees include: • Jane Goodall, conservation and animal welfare activist • Margaret Atwood, author and winner of The Booker Prize • Roxane Gay, author and feminist • Renée Montagne, former host of NPR’s Morning Edition • Alicia Garza, activist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter • Alfre Woodard, award-winning actor and activist • Marian Wright Edelman, head of the Children’s Defense Fund • Lydia Ko, professional golfer and Olympian • Dolores Huerta, labor activist, community organizer, and co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association • Alice Waters, chef, author, and food rights advocate • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author and Macarthur Foundation fellow.

Each woman shares her unique reply to the same five questions: What really matters to you?, What brings you happiness?, What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?, What would you change if you could?, and Which single word do you most identify with?

With responses ranging from uplifting to heartbreaking, these women offer gifts of empowerment and strength – inviting us to bring positive change at a time when so many are fighting for basic freedom and equality. Each interview is accompanied by a photographic portrait, resulting in a volume that is compelling in word and image—and global in its scope and resonance. This landmark book is published to coincide with an interactive website, building on this remarkable, ever-evolving project. A percentage of the originating publisher’s revenue from book sales will be distributed to organisations nominated by the women featured in the book.

The following is an extract from 200 Women Who Will Change the Way You See the World, edited by Ruth Hobday, Geoff Blackwell, Sharon Gelman and Marianne Lassandro, photographs by Kieran Scott.


© 2017 Kieran E. Scott kieranscottphotography.com
© 2017 Kieran E. Scott kieranscottphotography.com
Alicia Garza

Alicia Garza was born in Carmel in California, USA. She is an activist and organiser based in Oakland, California. In 2013, Garza co-founded Black Lives Matter (BLM), an ideological and political organising network campaigning against anti-black racism and violence. In 2016, she and her two BLM co-founders were recognised in Fortune’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. Garza is the director of special projects for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She is also an editorial writer, whose work has been featured in publications including The Guardian, The Nation, The Feminist Wire, Rolling Stone and Huffington Post.

Q. What really matters to you?

I want to be able to tell my kids that I fought for them and that I fought for us. In a time when it’s easy to be tuned out, it feels really important to me to be somebody who stands up for the ability of my kids – of all kids – to have a future.

The other thing that really motivates me is wanting to make sure we achieve our goals. As I was coming up as an organiser, we were told we were fighting for something we might never see in our lifetime. I’m just not satisfied with that; I think change can happen much faster, but it requires organisation, and an understanding of power and how we can shift it from its current incarnation. We need to transform power, so that we’re not fighting the same battles over and over again. This is what I wake up thinking about every single day. And every night when I go to sleep, I’m thinking about how we can get closer to it tomorrow.

Women inspire me to keep going. My foremost in influence was my mother; she initially raised me on her own, having never expected to be a parent at twenty-six. She taught me everything I know about what it means to be a strong woman who is in her power. I’m also very much in influenced by black women throughout history. I’m inspired by Harriet Tubman, not only for all the work she did to free individual slaves – which, of course, was amazing – but for everything she did to eradicate the institution of slavery, the alliances she built to do so and the heartbreaks she endured in pursuit of her vision. And it’s not only women in the United States who inspire me. In Honduras in 2016, Berta Cáceres was murdered while pursuing her vision of ecological justice and a better life for the people in Honduras being preyed upon by corporations and the United States government.

Black Lives Matter has been a big part of my activism. When it came onto the scene, there was a lot of pushback; people responded by saying, ‘All lives matter.’ I think the intensity of these reactions against Black Lives Matter is a testament to how effective our systems are in isolating these kinds of issues – they make them seem as though they impact individuals, as opposed to entire communities. The all-lives-matter thing is simultaneously fascinating and infuriating to me, because it’s so obvious. Obviously all lives matter; it’s like saying the sky is blue or that water is wet. But, when people say, ‘Actually, all lives matter,’ it feels like a passive-aggressive way of saying, ‘White lives matter.’

People seemed shocked that police brutality was an issue, but I thought, ‘Um, where have you been?’ The police are supposed to serve all communities, but instead, they aren’t accountable to black communities in the same way they are to white communities. The United States is rooted in profound segregation, disenfranchisement and oppression in pursuit of profits. And it feels like the country is being powered by amnesia.

Q. What brings you happiness?

My community – absolutely. This includes both of my families, blood and chosen – because my family is also my friends, the people I’ve been through things with. These are the people who stand with me, support me and love me. They are the people who feed me, and we just let each other be, because we understand each other.

Q. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

I’d call it capitalism. There is nothing on earth that makes people as miserable, that kills people as avidly and that robs people of their dignity so completely as an economic system that prioritises profits over human needs. Capitalism prioritises profits over people and over the planet we depend on. There are millions and millions of people living on the streets without homes because of capitalism. And there are millions and millions of people suffering from depression and other emotional and mental afflictions because of it – because the things we are taught should drive us and make us happy are unattainable for the majority of people on this planet. Capitalism shapes every understanding you have of who you are and of what your value is. If you have no monetary value – if you can’t sell something that you produce in this economy – then you are deemed unusable, unworthy and extraneous. There is no other force in the world that is so powerful and that causes so much misery for so many people.

Q. What would you change if you could?

I would start with all of the people who are suffering right now. I would give whatever is needed to every mama who is living in a car with her kids and is trying to figure out how she’s going to make it another day – if not for herself then for the people who depend on her. I would give to all the people who are dying in the deserts right now, trying to cross artificial borders pursuing what they think will be a better life here in the United States – if I had a wand I’d make it so that that journey was easier and that there wasn’t punishment on both sides. In fact, I would ensure that no one ever had to leave their homes in pursuit of survival – they would have everything that they needed right there at home.

The other area I would work on is within our own movements. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we could be clear about what we’re up against and how we each fight it differently; I think about how we can advance our goals without tearing each other up along the way. So, if I could wave a wand, I would also change some of the suffering of organisers and activists in our movements who are tired and burned out, who feel disposable and don’t feel seen.

Q. Which single word do you most identify with?

Courage. It takes real tenacity to be courageous.


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200 Women is out from 31 October, find out more here. You can view the official project website here, which includes the trailer and additional extra media content. Follow 200 Women on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers

Power to the People

Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers by Stephen Shames and Bobby Seale

The following is an extract from Power to the People by Stephen Shames and Bobby SealePower to the People contents page

What Was the Black Panther Party?

The Black Panther Party was a revolutionary political organisation. Although its members were leaders of the Black Power movement, they were not black nationalists. Their “black pride” was not based on denigrating whites, but on showing the black community how to take control of its own destiny. The Black Panther Party worked for economic justice and power for all people.

Bobby Seale explains, “The Black Panther Party was an ‘All Power to All the People!’ organisation. It was a powerful grassroots activist organisation that formed coalitions seeking to further our civil human rights and achieve real freedom and justice for all the people. These were the political revolutionary objectives of my Black Panther Party.”

In their landmark book, Black against Empire, Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr. wrote:
What is unique and historically important about the Black Panther Party is specifically its politics. . . . They created a movement with the power to challenge established social relations. . . . From 1968 through 1970, the Black Panther Party made it impossible for the U.S. government to maintain business as usual, and it helped create a far-reaching crisis for U.S. society. . . . At the center of their politics was the practice of armed self-defense against the police. . . . The Panthers’ politics of armed self-defense gave them political leverage, forcibly contesting the legitimacy of the American political regime.{2}

Many scholars have characterised the Black Panther Party as the most influential black movement organisation of the late 1960s. Professor Judson L. Jeffries has called the Panthers “the most effective black revolutionary organisation in the 20th century.”{3} Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Héctor Tobar called the organisation a “serious political and cultural force” and “a movement of intelligent, explosive dreamers.”{4}

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The Legacy of the Panthers

The Panthers remain cult heroes today, a half century after their founding. They left a legacy of hope to black people in America—both youth and adults. Their courage, discipline, and dedication to serving the community continue to inspire.

Their survival programs provided a model for political action. We can thank the Panthers for shaming the federal government into action by feeding tens of thousands of children while the richest nation in the history of the world let them go hungry. The Panthers’ Free Breakfast for Children Program preceded the government’s school breakfast and lunch programs.

Many of the free medical clinics they started are still operating today. The Panthers were among the first to bring national attention to sickle-cell anemia, a disease that primarily affects black people.

The Panthers founded their own school to educate children of Panthers. Their charter school was cited as excellent by the California State Legislature and became a model in poor communities.

The Panthers’ efforts for community control of the police, including their failed referendum to establish such control in Berkeley, paved the way for community policing.

The Panthers electrified a generation of black youth. The Black Panther Party gave purpose to aimless, angry young people who loitered on street corners. The Panthers molded them into disciplined, hard workers who served their community and showed respect for their mothers, fathers, and elders in general. The Panthers provided a model for how to reach these disaffected kids. By comparison, our underfunded, piecemeal efforts to reach youth today often end in failure.

The Panthers were ahead of most of their contemporaries in regards to equality for women and gay rights. As Ericka Huggins observes:
Another thing that is part of the legacy of the Black Panther Party is that we were not afraid to look at race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. All of it. Huey wrote in support of the woman’s movement and the gay liberation movement. Who the heck—what black man, what white man, what any man was talking like that in 1970? Huey talked about it in terms that anybody could understand. We had our own gender issues, not so much sexual, but gender issues within the Black Panther Party. But, we worked that too. We really were ahead in terms of thinking and acting. {10}

The Panthers’ voter registration drives and Bobby Seale’s unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1973 led to the election of Oakland’s first black mayor four years later. Even before that, Huey Newton’s 1968 Peace and Freedom Party campaign led to Ron Dellums’s election to Congress in 1970. Dellums finished his illustrious career in the House of Representatives as chairman, and then-ranking member (senior Democrat), on the Armed Services Committee. The number of elected African American officials at all levels nationwide in 1968 numbered in the hundreds. Today, tens of thousands of black elected and appointed officials serve our nation, including the president of the United States, the attorney general, and sheriffs in Mississippi and Alabama. Numerous former Panthers have held elected office in the United States, including Charles Barron (New York City Council, then New York State Assembly), Nelson Malloy (Winston-Salem City Council), and Bobby Rush (House of Representatives, from Illinois).

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This Book

Bobby and I created this book with the future in mind. We believe that a look back at the role of the Black Panther Party during the turbulent 1960s will help us better understand the present, and perhaps facilitate a brighter future. This book tells the story, in pictures and words, of the heroic men and women of the Black Panther Party who tried to bring a dream of freedom and justice, both political and economic justice, not only to African Americans, but to all Americans—in fact, to all the poor and oppressed people of the world.

Power to the People is a photography book coupled with a bit of oral history from people who were there. It deals with the vision and legacy of the Black Panther Party. This book is not meant to be a comprehensive or scholarly history. Charles E. Jones, in his book The Black Panther Party Reconsidered and his essay in my first book on the party, The Black Panthers; Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin Jr., in Black against Empire; and others have done an excellent job putting the Panthers into context.

My photographs deal with aspirations and vision. While I am not ignoring some of the negative aspects of the Black Panthers, that is not what is most important about them. To err is human, and the errors of the Panthers pale in comparison to those of the United States government at home and abroad during this period. They also are minuscule in comparison to the virulent racism and violence born out of the enslavement of millions of Africans. This racist strain continues to haunt us as we struggle toward our multiracial future. Building a wall will not keep the badness out. The bad is already here and has been since the beginning—as is all that is good about our country. We must continue to dream and organise, as the Panthers did, to ensure that the good triumphs, so we and our children enjoy a better future.

Bobby and I hope this book will be a tool to help you learn things you did not know about the Black Panther Party. The Panthers have a great deal to teach us: about their vision of community, about service, about ethnic pride and love, about coalition politics, about freedom and justice, about their Ten Point Program. We hope what you discover in this book motivates you to act.

I will leave the last word to Bobby, because he always says it best:
At this time more than ever we need activists who are motivated and dedicated to organising people, raising consciousness and instilling self-respect. . . . We especially need creative Black youth who know our history and who understand that Black Unity is the catalyst to help humanise this racist world. We need socially conscious activists who will work toward the . . . economic empowerment of our people. We need activists who cross all ethnic and religious backgrounds and colour lines who will establish civil and human rights for all. . . . We must create a world of decent human relationships where revolutionary humanism is grounded in democratic human rights for every person on earth. {13}

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Text copyright © 2016 Stephen Shames and Bobby Seale

NOTES

{2} Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr., Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: Universityof California Press, 2013), 9, 14, 13.

{3} Quoted in Jordan Green, “The Strange History of the Black Panthers in the Triad,” Yes! Weekly, April 11, 2006.

{4} Héctor Tobar, “‘Black Against Empire’ Tells the History of Black Panthers,” Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2013.

{10} Also see The Black Panthers, photographs by Stephen Shames, essay by Charles E. Jones (New York: Aperture, 2006), 144–45.

{13} Bobby Seale, introduction to Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton
(Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1991).