As a multiracial network focused on building political power with young people across the country, we stand in solidarity with the thousands of young leaders taking to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and David McAtee who were murdered by the police. These names are the latest in a long line of Black community members senselessly taken from us, and we are heartbroken and enraged as this list continued to grow while we drafted this statement.
Following the examples set by Black leaders and organizations—such as the Movement for Black Lives, Dream Defenders, BYP 100 and Black-led groups in our own network who have been working on this issue for years—the Alliance for Youth Action joins their calls to defund the police and defend Black lives.
We are a network of local organizations that serve as political homes for young people – working 365 days/year to build power and make a change in our communities. Our work cannot happen without a reckoning of our country’s racist and genocidal past and the impact that white supremacy has on every aspect of our work. While we are most known for our work to mobilize the youth vote, we value young Black lives in their full humanity and power. We recognize how institutions at every level have failed Black people and how our democracy was built to specifically exclude Black communities through:
- A publicly-funded policing system that was founded on slave patrols and continues to target and murder Black people.
- A progressive funding ecosystem that funnels money to Black youth organizations during federal election cycles and then retreats and remains silent when it’s time to fund local issue campaigns and hold elected officials accountable.
- A myriad of laws that have excluded Black people from fair, safe, and accessible voting and political power.
Our network is not immune from white supremacy. Whiteness has been at the center of many of our organizations since their founding – including our national organization – and we have work to do within our own systems and structures to undo these harmful norms. We have much work ahead to inspect our own role in upholding systemic, institutional, interpersonal and internalized racism as a network.
Centering Black people in our work means it is time to divest from police, and invest in Black futures. Defunding the police as part of the path towards abolition is one of the many steps that must be taken to ensure that Black people are able to thrive. In addition, we must fight for jobs that pay a living wage, for accessible healthcare that includes mental health care, for access to nutrition, for access to education, and more.
As a network, we commit to ongoing learning about abolition, dismantling of white supremacy, and decentering of whiteness in our work. For individual organizations, this work includes providing extensive training on anti-racism for staff, focusing on issues that disproportionately impact people of color, incorporating racial justice and intersectional language in messaging, and integrating anti-racism into every aspect of the work including strategic plans.
History shows that Black youth are the moral compass of our nation; they have made it clear for decades that America’s notions of ‘progress’ are not nearly enough, and have been explicit about their needs to not only survive, but thrive. We must follow their lead and demand that Black lives truly matter, fight for Black liberation, and ensure Black people in the United States are seen in their full humanity.