Community-Based Leadership Should Be Our Future

The future of black communities is in our own hands, now more than ever

Celeste Faison, co-founder of  the Blackout Collective and Black organizing coordinator at the National Domestic Worker Alliance, shares thoughts about future Black community to the Ebony magazine.

It’s important for us to acknowledge that this isn’t new to us. When I think of my comrades in the South, they’ve been living under racist and discriminatory conditions for a long time. They’ve been living under vigilantism; they live in states that have said no to Medicaid; they live in places that won’t open up housing lists, even though they operate with federal funds.


It’s going to be important for us to look to the Black South for leadership because they have the experience in making political interventions on local and state levels, and demonstrating the value of alternative Black-owned institutions within the context of Black economies. You can look at organizations—particularly those operating around agricul­ture and cooperatives—such as the Federation of Southern Black Farmers or Cooperation Jackson in Mississippi and run by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. We should also look to the South because those are going to be the most vulnerable communities. We need to be learning and seeding our leader­ship there—sending our resources there—to make sure those communities are safe.

Speaking of safety, neighborhood assemblies are going to be critical. We’ve seen t hem used as effective tools in places such as Algeria, Egypt and in our own back­yards, creating spaces for communities to come together, identify issues, gauge an alignment of values, then stage ef­fective interventions or adopt creative tactics that can be used on a municipal level to change or create policy.


We need to have a say in what kind of policing is happening, or not; what schools we have, and don’t; and who gets to decide who teaches at these schools and how they’re funded. And we can take direct action in response to the dangers facing our kids. In response to neighborhood bullying, for instance, if you know your neighbor, you can say, “Listen, we want to have two adults walk a group of our kids to school every morning. Can you take a shift?” Or you can suggest: “We’d like to have three adults watch the kids get off the bus in the afternoon to make sure they get home safely. How can you help?’’ We can provide our own secu­rity from those who would wish to do us harm—[that is,] our own commu­nity defense. But forming these kinds of community-based alliances means getting out of our homes and getting to know each other.

We could learn from the Undocumented movement in Ari­zona. When someone is stopped by the police, a sort of SOS goes out to The com­munity and a group organized by the neighborhood—a camera person, a lawyer and others—come out and document what’s going down. There are models of resistance I hat exist we can learn from.


One of the places I’d start is the kitchen table, talking with loved ones about what’s coming down the pipeline. Then I would expand that conversation to churches and the class­rooms. If you know your neighbors and someone is stopped and frisked, you’re more likely to intervene, right? I would focus on creating strong relationships such that you can talk about all the ways in which you can create sustainability in the Black community.

What does it look like to have autonomous Black spaces that are Black-owned and Black-run? What are the fights we want to stage around policy? How do we make sure we’re fighting locally and statewide? This is what it means to demonstrate our power and our values.

And another thing … We need to resist. We need to have direct actions. We need to shut down cities. We need to have school walkouts to demonstrate we deserve and demand bet­ter. And in the process, we are going to do better ourselves.

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