BLOG: Let Us Breathe Forum Report Back

On May 9, North Star Fund convened over 500 New Yorkers at the Let Us Breathe Forum to discuss anti-Black racism and discrimination, to support the development of Black leadership, and to brainstorm ideas for sustaining the movement for Black liberation that was ignited after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson last summer. Attendees included organizers, donors, artists, and educators from across the five boroughs.

Resource Generation (RG) was one of the event’s many sponsors, and more than a dozen people from our local chapter came out to hear from Black leaders on how to stay meaningfully engaged. Though RG members surpassed our phenomenal goal to raise $1.25 million dollars for Black-led organizing, the work is far from finished.

As people continue to be killed by police and state violence, resistance efforts will need rapid response funding to fuel direct actions, make bail to release protesters from jail, and build long-term organizing power in Black communities. Members of RG’s New York City chapter volunteered to help with set up, clean up, event registration and breakout session monitoring. Ian Fuller co-presented a report-back on community safety.

The plenaries and workshops featured exclusively Black speakers from the city’s leading grassroots and philanthropic organizations.

OPENING PLENARY: The State of Black-led Movements

  • Keynote Speaker Rashad Robinson of Color of Change urged organizers to ask the right questions that people in power will be forced the answer. Robinson noted that, cultural presence does not equate to cultural power, and to him, power looks like investing in Black people, leadership, organizations, voices, and actions, and defending Black people’s right to organize, vote, and make decisions about their own lives.
  • Arva Rice from the New York Urban League and Lumumba Bandele from Malcolm X Grassroots Movement talked about the necessity for middle and upper class people to get involved with the movement, even if they aren’t in the streets. Lumumba pleaded, “What hell are you going to raise from your comfortable place?”
  • Bandele also pointed out that this current political moment is only one in a long, extraordinary history of black resistance ever since Black folks were sold into slavery.
  • Andrea Ritchie from Streetwise and Safe noted that this moment is unprecedented because of the way in which violence against women, girls, queer, and trans Black people is being spotlighted. She and Opal Tometi from Black Alliance for Just Immigration and co-creator of the #BlackLivesMatter political project agreed that this movement must hold central that liberation is not just about ending police brutality against straight cis-gendered Black men, but about ending all forms of gender- and sexuality-based state violence, such as sexual assault and street harassment. Tometi stated that “ALL Black Lives Matter,” and urged the audience to be unapologetic about their whole selves.

Read more highlights from the breakout sessions and closing plenary here.

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