Story at a glance
- The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement came about in protest of police brutality against black people, as well as other forms of perceived racism.
- Activist Alicia Garza, one of the BLM co-founders, is now working to get more black people to the polls this election season and beyond.
- As part of her foundation’s nonpartisan efforts, Black Futures Lab plans to register 20,000 new black voters in advance of the 2020 general election.
In 2016, civil rights activist Alicia Garza, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter Movement, took notice of a distressing statistic. She began wondering how and why few black people participated in the voting process — especially considering it had been a mere eight years after the United States elected its first black president with a record-setting turnout. In response, Garza founded Black Futures Lab with a mission to engage black voters year round, and has now set out to ensure these voters know their power lies within numbers come election season.
Her work with Black Futures Lab has already been fruitful, as she’s spearheaded groundbreaking projects like the inaugural Black Census Project: the largest survey of black people conducted in the United States, with responses from more than 30,000 people from across the country providing their views, political beliefs, concerns and aspirations.
We recently chatted with Garza to hear more about the work she’s doing at Black Futures Lab and her hopes for 2020.
What inspired you to enter the world of civil rights activism? Your ultimate goals?
I dream of a world where black communities are powerful in every aspect of our lives, with politics being no exception. That's what we work towards at the Black Futures Lab — by collecting recent and relevant data about our communities, using that data to drive policy at the local and state levels, and motivating, engaging and activating black voters to build black political power.
Why is it so important for everyone, especially minorities, to get out there and cast their ballots?
People of color are now a majority in the United States, and that trend will continue. Communities of color, when organized, have the potential to shift the balance of power in our communities. When we participate, our participation matters — especially in places where as little as a few hundred votes can mean very different outcomes for us.
What accomplishment are you most proud of from last year?
I'm most proud of the work that the Black Futures Lab did last year to take the data we collected from our Black Census Project on the road to five cities across the country (Oakland, Calif.; Miami, Florida; New Orleans, LA; Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL).
What is the most important cause to you right now that you believe more people should be informed on?
Right now, the most important cause that people should be informed about is democracy, and how to make sure that everyone has access to it.
What movie, book or song has inspired you this year, and why?
I was really inspired this year by the film Roma, which depicted the life of an indigenous domestic worker who encounters a series of changes in her life and in herself.
What do you hope to do this year?
This year I'll be focused on making sure that black communities are powerful in this election cycle. Through our program #BlackToTheBallot, we are registering 10,000 new black voters in states across the country, and organizing those voters around a black agenda for 2020 that speaks to the issues that are important in our lives.
Tell me more about what the Black Census Project is and how it's been made possible?
The Black Census Project is the largest survey of black communities in America in 155 years. Through the generous support and partnership from the Marguerite Casey Foundation, we were able to partner with impactful online civil rights organizations like Color of Change, as well as 28 black-led grassroots organizations in 26 states across the country to touch communities who are often left out and left behind. Through it, we learned more about the issues that black communities care about, what's keeping us up at night, and what we want to see done about it. The Black Census Project data has now been translated into a policy agenda that can address the needs that were identified.
If you could wave your magic wand, what is one thing you would change?
If I could wave my magic wand, I would make sure that black communities had what all communities deserve: dignity, safety, respect and political power.