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BLM Co-Founder Alicia Garza is Bringing Black Queer Folks to the Polls


The activist is launching several groundbreaking initiatives to ignite a new wave of Black leaders. 

Black voters and LGBTQ+ voters have been rising in prominence as strong Democratic blocs throughout the last generation. How well those communities are being served is another question, especially among those voters who are both Black and LGBTQ+.

"I'm young enough and old enough to remember the fight around same-sex marriage and really all of the cultural and policy shifts that had to lead to the highest court in the land saying that love is love," says organizer Alicia Garza, one of the cofounders of Black Lives Matter hashtag and movement. "With that being said, there have been critiques over a long period of time that within LGBTQ communities that largely communities of color and Black communities have been pushed out of that fold."

Garza, however, has been working to shift the conversation within the LGBTQ+ community as well as among policymakers targeting Black voters to be more inclusive of queer Black people through the Black Futures Lab as well as the women-centered political collective, Supermajority, and Black to the Future. "I'll be honest, I got sick and tired of seeing every four years plates of fried chicken and soul food untouched," she says in a roundtable hosted by The Advocate.

WATCH: In Our Shoes: A Roundtable On Black Queer Power By Patrisse Cullors

Most notably, she said the lab ran the Black Census Project in 2018 and 2019, which was "the largest survey of Black people in America in 155 years," by working with organizations across the country to dig deep with more than 31,000 Black people in all 50 states to understand their views and experiences around politics, economic opportunities, and society as a whole. What surfaced, Garza says, was a clear picture of how "incredibly diverse and complex" Black people are across the country. "That's what makes us wonderful." So many typical political polls and surveys, she says, "don't capture the breadth of our communities."

One of the results was a deep look into the voting habits and patterns of LGBTQ+ Black voters, and surprise: they are highly likely to not merely vote but to volunteer and donate money to candidates. Their engagement happens even if this group isn't particularly excited about the candidate. Often for the most marginalized groups, voting is about exerting a plan for survival.

"We're 13 percent of the country, but 90 percent or more of us who vote end up voting for solutions that benefit all Americans," she says. "And yet what we're finding time and time again is that LGBTQ communities are under attack. Whether it be Black trans communities who are being murdered at rates that are quite concerning. Whether it be Black LGBTQ folks who frankly also report that low wages that are not enough to support a family is one of the top issues impacting us and impacting our lives."

On a personal note, Garza's first choice for the Democratic nomination was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who she endorsed in February. However, like many on the left (and some on the right), Garza is prepared to rally around former Vice President Joe Biden as the nominee to take on Donald Trump in the general election this fall. The prospect isn't exactly thrilling, but ultimately, she says, the broader goal is to further the advancement of Black and queer people.

"Black folks have been through so much, not just in the last decade, but ever since we were brought here at the bottoms of boats in chains, and frankly, we deserve better," she says. "We deserve the things that all communities deserve. We deserve to be safe. We deserve to live with dignity and we deserve to be powerful."

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