Minimalist Principles for Black Liberation
Editor's note: This post originally appeared on yolandavacree.com and is republished with the full permission of Yolanda V Acree.
The major aim of the black liberation movement is for black people to have the right to self-determination. Self-determination is the power to control your own life. By extension, black liberation seeks the right for black people to control our communities, economically, politically, and culturally. Several principles of minimalism illustrate the effectiveness of a minimalist approach when applied to the liberation struggle.
1. We are enough.
We have to acknowledge we are enough. We don’t have to be perceived as equal to other groups of people to affirm ourselves. The self-esteem of black folks needs to be considered as well as the role of mental health care in our communities. How we feel about ourselves individually and collectively is central to our liberation.
The emotional scars of racism, prejudice, internalized oppression and violence, mass incarceration, poverty, and police brutality, cannot be minimized. Our healing has to be a priority.
Healing also facilitates a mindset change. Liberation begins in the mind and education affects this change. We can not depend on the public education system to accurately teach our culture and history. Learning begins with each individual and we have unprecedented access to information in this time.
We also have to tell our stories. Whether we tell them to someone we trust, via art or performance, blogs, or other formats, we have to share our experiences to heal and to learn from others.
2. Exist on our own terms.
This principle speaks to our need for self-sufficiency. The reality is we don’t control our communities economically, politically, and in some cases, culturally. Gentrification has also taken its toll on black communities.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, hundreds of black-owned communities were formed. Why did these communities disappear? Some were eroded by terrorism and racist zoning policies, while others were abandoned. Migration waves and integration also changed the face of many communities, but it doesn’t explain why we haven’t re-established our communities. Ironically, census data shows many young black americans are moving back to the south and residential segregation is still a reality all over America. Let's take advantage of the segregation to return to and build up our communities.
Increased political involvement at all levels is necessary with an understanding it is only one part of the process. To be counted and assert our priorities, we must show up and participate, particularly at the local and state levels where we can see the efforts of our participation more immediately, but we will not rely solely on any government body to affect social change.
Entrepreneurship is on the rise among black folks, particularly in the digital world. Still, many communities lack black-owned businesses catering to the basic needs of a community such as its food sources, health care, transportation, education, employment, and adequate housing. There is definitely a link between entrepreneurship and community-building. If we supply the needs and wants of our communities then wealth will remain in those communities longer.
3. Let go of what doesn't serve us.
There is no room for misogyny, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ethnocentrism, or any other oppression we heap on each other within our communities.
Divisiveness is not serving us. It’s ok to be critical of one another, but what are we doing to bridge the gaps of understanding? Can we accept constructive criticism as an attempt to uplift rather than attack?
Unhealthy habits need to be shed. We have to address the major health issues that disproportionately impact the black population. Additionally, we must deal with the environmental impact of our habits and surroundings.
We can also let go of our savior complex. Expecting black leaders to live up to an idealized version of past leaders keeps us stuck. We do need to hold our leaders accountable, but recognize they are humans and fallible. We each have to accept responsibility of being leaders in our homes, families, and communities.
4. Make space for what matters.
We have to make space for each other. There's no such thing as being “too black” or “not black enough”. All black people don’t do this or do that. We are culturally diverse and highlighting our diversity is necessary for advancing our liberation.
It’s also important to welcome people who have been previously incarcerated back into our communities. They should have access to needed resources to become full participants in our communities and not relegated to the periphery or shamed for their past.
Let’s continue with our festivals, conferences, and traditions while creating new spaces for black folks to inhabit. We must continue to innovate, celebrate, and own our cultural and historical legacy.
The cultivation of safe spaces while protecting our communities from internal and external threats is integral to our ability to positively express ourselves culturally, economically, and politically.
5. Value things money can't buy.
With integration and other national trends of the last 50 years, a large focus has been placed on financial and material gains. Black people proved they could be as valuable of consumers as the majority, but our quest for stuff has not led to social, economic, or political equality. Our focus on material gain has become a form of slavery itself.
Our relationships, dreams, experiences, and cultural legacies deserve prioritization over material things. We are not defined by what we have, but rather what we do to affect change at all levels.
6. Using resources responsibly.
Environmental, financial, and material resources must be managed properly in our communities.
This means embracing green living, including ways to reduce waste and preserve our natural resources. Also, improving our health and the environment by employing personal gardening, communal gardening, and supporting black farmers.
Additionally, promoting financial literacy, creating more thrift businesses and organizations to recycle and purchase affordable goods, and establishing more of our own banks, as well as benevolent and savings societies, will increase investment in our communities. Creating a financial culture of scholarship, charitable action, micro-loan networks, and venture capitalism will allow us to use our collective buying power of over one trillion dollars to redirect funds into our communities instead of into the hands of profiteering corporations.
If we are to leave a legacy for future generations we have to create diverse wealth generating systems that can be sustained and easily passed along.
We must start where we are with what we have. If you've noticed, I haven't mentioned any idea that hasn't been proposed before. We already have the answers and the resources to secure our liberation for ourselves and our communities. We just have to decide this is our mission.