On urgency, frustration and love: A love letter to black students
*Originally published on Blavity
In the aftermath of so much beautiful black insurgency going on in the last couple of weeks, we want you to know that we, the steering committee, are nervous. Sure, we might have some organizing experience, sure, we might know some people, but we are still students with mid-terms, financial-aid issues, horrible professors and daily microaggressions. We are still students, even after we leave our local Black Lives Matter actions and return to our campuses, where our activism is frowned upon by advisors and demonized by the media. We are still students, and we should fight for black lives in every institutional context: including education.
So, like a number of social justice oriented circles, some of us who met in Cleveland at the “Movement for Black Lives Convening” stayed connected, we continued to envision a future filled with the radical love of our people. We know that a lot of us who are engaged in Black Lives Matter work are also students, and that college organizing is a realm that has been left uncoordinated at the national level since SNCC and the Black Student Leadership Network in the ’90s. We saw this as an opportunity to build something new, to forge a new future for Black higher education in this country, and we are moving forward.
As in any student organizing space, we lost momentum. Our weekly phone calls turned into bi-weekly and then once a month. We would text each other every now and then to check in, but the labor was lost. It got lost in the daily grind of classes, racial micro-aggressions, BSU meetings, and the onslaught of assaults on black people, particularly black youth (and especially black young women and girls). Two of our original members were organizing at Mizzou, and through their determination, their sacrifice, and the relentless love and power of black women’s leadership, we were reactivated — reactivated through the example of #ConcernedStudent1950. We finalized our vision and our purpose, and with a renewed sense of urgency and a solid victory with a coalition of black students from Mizzou, we recognized our potential and saw that this was our moment help build a sustainable movement to help transform education.
So we brought in other student organizers from across the country who have dedicated their very being to the liberation of ALL black people. They come from HBCUs, small and large state schools, Ivy league schools, community colleges and even universities in South Africa. We began to work again and we are still working out the kinks. We are new at the national level of organizing, but we are battle-tested at our individual universities and local environments. We will continue to study the stories of black resistance, we will be reaching out to our elders and to other national leaders for guidance, and we will collaborate with other black organizations that are interested in getting free.
Now why is all this backstory necessary? Why is this important?
We want to be an example.
We are a microcosm of all black movements, even in our short life span. We started strong, began to fade, were revived, and were reinvigorated through crisis. This model of organization building is familiar, but not sustainable. It does not breed leaders. It does not help the people. It might make one or two positional gains for black folks, but it cannot be entirely transformative: only reactionary and reformist.
That’s why we keep going.
We want black students to be able to sustain themselves and their work in this movement. We want to see black folks graduate and become community builders in whatever fields they choose. We want to see our people transform education because black people in this country have always linked education, in some form or fashion, to our freedom.
It is with these sentiments that our organization, the Black Liberation Collective, was born. Black students, we are here for you. We want to you succeed, and we will help you build capacity whenever and wherever necessary.
WE LOVE YOU, WE NEED YOU. WE WANT YOU TO GROW, WE WANT YOU TO DEVELOP AS LEADERS, AND WE WANT YOU TO TRANSFORM YOUR INSTITUTIONS TO FIT YOUR NEEDS AND THE NEEDS OF THE COMMUNITY.
No longer will we sit back and be ignored. No longer will we allow ourselves to be consumed in the daily grinds of being student-activists. No longer will we allow these institutions of higher education to exploit us, and in return we get debt, trauma, and good memories that fade when our energy is sucked into the machine that is oppression. Love — a radical, intersectional love for all black lives — is necessary to do this work.
There will be times when the workloads will get tough. There will be times when you will have to skip class or an important info session to get to a demands meeting. There might even be times when conflicts over leadership, ideology, and representation supersede the nature of the oppression you’re fighting against. But what you can’t forget is that you must do all things in love.
We will not stop. We will help build us. We will work on us. We are strong. We are worthy of the things we ask for. We are enough. We are who we have been waiting for. As Ella Baker, our intellectual grandmother and the original visionary behind our model once said, “strong people don’t need strong leaders.” So we will build capacity with the strong students across our campuses, and we will do so by any means necessary.
We love us. We got us, and most importantly, we gon’ be alright.
In Love and Solidarity,
The Black Liberation Collective