by L. Malik Anderson
On Friday, July 24, leaders of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition (YGB) joined hundreds of Black activists from various states for the inaugural Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland.
“This was an all Black space, a black only space,” YGB Coalition Leader Brandi Grayson said. “We needed a space to really discuss our issues our communities.”
Grayson explained the importance of having an all Black space for Black people to feel comfortable to discuss disparities in their communities. While the Movement for Black Lives Convening is not the first conference bringing together Black people, the event made history for creating a space for growth in the Black Lives Matter Movement.
“We are powerless to hold people accountable,” Grayson said in reference to recent police violence against Black people.
The event, housed at Case Western University, coincided with the rapidly growing Black Lives Matter Movement and occurred in response to police violence and increased criminalization of Black communities.
“A lot of times we focus on racism, but fail to focus on power and shifting power,” Grayson said.
Like YGB, various organizations traveled to Ohio to hear from each other, planning and creating ideas to bring home to their own communities.
“One of the workshops that stood out the most was the self defense workshop,” Grayson said.
Workshop topics ranged from how to incorporate various socio-economic groups, queer people, and women in the Black Lives Matter Movement. Vocal activists from Ferguson, former members of the Black Panther Party, and many others from across the nation spoke at the Convening
From Madison, YGB leaders Eric Upchurch, M. Adams, Alix Shabazz, Alexia Ware, and Brandi Grayson attended. The group even submitted a workshop of their own.
“Young, Gifted, and Black facilitated a workshop about community control over policing,” Grayson said.
In the workshop, YGB focused on demanding and advocating for police to patrol only neighborhoods that they are familiar with or come from. Grayson said police models and police brutality were among one of the many common thoughts during the Convening.
“This is a long process. It’s going to take some movement,” she said.
At the Convening, YGB engaged in live demonstrations, onsite activism, and events which drew attention from the Cleveland community. Beyond just workshops and demonstrations, there were also movie screenings and concerts engaging attendees of the Convening with the concept of saving Black lives.
“It was a safe place to discuss police violence in our communities,” said Grayson.
In the future, “We are organizing a Midwest caucus,” Grayson said, where the group will discuss the purchasing of farmland and employment of Black people.
She indicated YGB will hold additional meetings in Madison with some of the same organizations from the Convening. In conjunction with other social justice initiatives such as food security and food sovereignty, the development of foods locally grown by Black people for Black people will be one of the many topics included in discussion.