In all lasting movements for civil rights and social justice, there comes a moment when the torch must be passed from the leaders of yesterday to tomorrow's movement-shapers.
So it is with the Movement for Black Lives. And nothing better signals that right now is such a moment than last month's endorsement of the Black Lives Matter and Movement for Black Lives platform by the historic Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee Legacy Project.
"We, the still-active radicals who were SNCC, salute today's Movement for Black Lives for taking hold of the torch to continue to light this flame of truth for a knowingly forgetful world," SNCC Legacy Project said in its full-throated endorsement. "The reason for today's powerful and persistent insistence that Black lives matter is based on the irrefutable evidence throughout American history that Black lives have never mattered."
But SNCC's invitation to let "Y'all take it from here" has not necessarily resonated throughout the old guard of pivotal groups that emerged as leaders during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The NAACP has adopted the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag in its press releases, but has not publicly endorsed the Movement for Black Lives platform, which was released in August. Many of the Movement's core policy goals intersect with the landmark advocacy group's, and the NAACP has a long, rich history of social justice work.
But it's still unclear how some of the leading civil rights organizations that support people of color actually feel about the Movement for Black Lives platform. Although The Advocate sought comment from the NAACP, Latino advocacy group National Council of La Raza, and Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, none of the groups responded to this publication's repeated inquiries by press time.
The Movement for Black Lives policy statement, framed as "A Vision for Black Lives," was drafted and released by a coalition of social justice groups and outlines 40 demands in six key areas. Though specifically seeking to amplify support around the black experience, the agenda has an undeniable impact for all marginalized and racialized people, including LGBT people of all walks of life.
Beyond the words, the policy provides a road map by which social justice organizations can work to dismantle the oppressive structures affecting marginalized people. The ideas originated from a conference of leaders of black organizations nationwide, many of which are queer-led or operate through a queer focus, and attack systemic factors affecting all marginalized and racialized people.
Since the platform was released, dozens of organizations have endorsed the policies therein. But still missing are a few of the most prominent organizations not only in the civil rights arena but in the LGBT advocacy field, as well. In the wake of last year's marriage equality victory, numerous groups were quick to promise a new, intersectional focus that would lift up the most marginalized from our community. But more than a year later, some groups have done much better living up to this pledge than others.
The Advocate reached out to several key LGBT organizations to ask if the groups stood in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives, and specifically if each group had endorsed the platform. GLAAD, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, the Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights did not respond to our requests by press time.
Earlier this year, Lambda Legal was one of several LGBT groups that issued a press release condemning the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both black men who died at the hands of police. Lambda Legal also advocates for LGBT undocumented immigrants and against state-sponsored violence, and endorses other legal policy matters central to the Movement's platform.
"Racial justice and criminal justice reform is a core priority for Lambda Legal," Jennifer C. Pizer, Lambda's senior counsel and law and policy project national director, told The Advocate in a prepared statement. "We have called for better policing and fairer laws, and we have discussed the impact of police violence on black LGBT people at meetings held by Movement for Black Lives, including its national convening in Cleveland last year. Given our organization's mission and structure, however, it has not been our practice to endorse broad policy platforms."
In December, the National LGBTQ Task Force issued a statement representing LGBT groups showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and its strategic plan speaks to mobilizing efforts to empower marginalized and racialized LGBT communities.
"The Movement for Black Lives' platform lays out a vision and policy prescription for much-needed change in America that ends the ongoing targeting and killing of Black people by police and delivers freedom, justice and equity for all Black people," Russell Roybal, the Task Force's deputy executive director, tells The Advocate. "We look forward to working with our partners in the Black lives movement to achieving that change."
The National Black Justice Coalition, which works at the intersection of black life and LGBT or same-gender-loving people, tells The Advocate the organization "wholeheartedly supports the Movement for Black Lives Policy Platform."
"This comprehensive and in-depth document describes the tragic, yet resilient history of Black people in our nation and the implications on the current state of our communities as we continue to witness the continued attack on Black lives -- both physically and systemically -- in our nation," says NBJC communications director Isaiah Wilson. "The platform unapologetically centers the lives of the most marginalized in our communities -- inclusive of Black LGBTQ/SGL people and their families -- and plots a path forward for key public policy issue areas, including: education; health; policing; mass incarceration; and voting rights."
Meanwhile, PFLAG, the national organization supporting families with LGBT members, hedged when asked whether it supports the Movement for Black Lives policy platform. A spokesperson with PFLAG National tells The Advocate that the group "has not been sent for review the document in question," and because of its nonprofit status, "cannot and [does] not get involved in party politics." (Some nonprofits engage in political activity, but they have different a different status under federal law than those that do not.)
"That said, PFLAG's values are America's values, and that means a deep commitment to equality and justice for all people," the statement concludes. PFLAG does have policy statements listed on its website, but none of those specifically address racial justice or center people of color as the primary focus.
There is no indication that leaders within the Movement for Black Lives -- several of whomidentify as queer -- have directly reached out to any of the groups mentioned above for direct support. But if major LGBT organizations and other legacy civil rights groups are serious about shifting their focus -- and the concurrent resources -- to an intersectional model that advocates for broad equality, they might want to start by standing proudly behind, and speaking loudly in support of the Movement for Black Lives.
The decentralized leadership model of the Movement, which allows for individual chapters to set goals that are specific to their own region, lends itself to collaboration with groups fighting similar battles from distinct angles. But the Movement for Black Lives also has deep grassroots origins and could undoubtedly benefit from the support (both ideological and financial) that these legacy organizations have spent decades developing.