The joy of building Black political power in the face of white supremacy

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Stefanie Brown James
·4 min read
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OPINION: Our joy and resilience can be our strongest weapon to create a country that actualizes liberty and justice for Black people

This year is already one for the history books. 2021 will be remembered as the year a seditionist, outgoing United States president forcibly attempted to overturn his election loss by summoning a white supremacist mob to the U.S. Capitol.

But as we continue to grapple with the fallout, more importantly, we must also remember 2021 as the year America inaugurated Senator Kamala Harris as the country’s first Black, first South Asian and first woman vice president and Georgia elected Reverend Raphael Warnock as the state’s first Black U.S. senator; all while barrier-breaking Black leaders on the local, state and federal level began their service in elected offices across the nation.

Read More: Kamala Harris presents Black designers to global audience

(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

In a time of stifling hate and hurt, too many moments of Black joy and progress have been stolen and lost in a storm of perpetual white rage. Yet while it’s important that we combat this persistent hate and racism, it’s also critical that we recognize and celebrate these unprecedented and historic victories that not only demonstrate the strength of our resolve, but serves as fuel to expand my organization, The Collective PAC’s, work to build Black political power and expand the pipeline of Black leaders that reflect the diversity of our nation.

In addition to making history in the White House and U.S Senate, The Collective PAC has helped usher in the most diverse and representative Congress in history; electing new Black members like Cori Bush (MO-1), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) and Nikema Williams (GA-5), as well as Mondaire Jones (NY-17) and Ritchie Torres (NY-15), who are the first Black, openly gay members to serve in the House of Representatives.

Read More: Rep. Mondaire Jones prevents Trump deportation of constituent to Haiti

Left to right: Congresswomen Cori Bush and Nikema Williams. (Photo: Getty Images)
Left to right: Congresswomen Cori Bush and Nikema Williams. (Photo: Getty Images)

At the local level we saw the election of Kenyan-born refugee Nafisa Fai, the first Black and first Muslim member of the Washington County Commission; Howard Pryor, the first Black state’s attorney in Broward County, Florida; and the re-election of Kim Foxx, the Cook County State’s Attorney championing progressive criminal justice reforms in Chicago.

These leaders represent the future of government and we must take joy in the fact that despite the direct harm and pain Black people continue to experience in this country, these history makers still chose to run for office to protect our communities, help dismantle the systemic inequities that plague our institutions, and inspire the next generation of elected leaders.

The Collective PAC has already seen unprecedented success in our fight for a representative government and engagement among Black voters, but we’re committed to ramping up our efforts as state legislatures prepare to draw new district maps that will likely dilute Black voting power at the ballot box and pass anti-democratic and restrictive voting laws that will disproportionately harm Black and brown communities.

Read More: Don’t be fooled, the true patriots are Black voters in Georgia

With Donald Trump’s white supremacist base more energized than ever, along with the hateful, fear-mongering right-wing disinformation apparatus that continues to thrive, our mission has never been more urgent — because building Black political power isn’t just about electing more Black leaders, it’s about supporting candidates who will create policies that will move our communities forward.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

Moving forward means expanding access to the ballot box, closing the opportunity and wealth gaps between Black and white families, ensuring health care is both accessible and equitable, bringing justice to a judicial system that remains unjust, and centering marginalized communities in all the work we do.

Moving forward also means taking time to reflect and relish in the joy brought about by our victories. Black joy is healthy and it’s critical to our continued success. Our joy, our resilience, can be our strongest weapon in the face of white supremacy and can serve as a catalyst to collectively create a government and a country that actualizes liberty and justice for Black people; a country guided by honest leaders that finally reflects, represents and respects all Americans.

Stefanie Brown James is the Co-founder and Executive Director of The Collective, the nation’s largest consortium of organizations dedicated to building Black political power through engaging Black voters, funding Black candidates, and dismantling systemic underrepresentation of Black people on every level of government.

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