Without Centering and Supporting Black Organizing, Our Climate Justice Movement and Solidarity Efforts to Protect Frontline Communities Will Fail
Feb. 21, 2022 – Formed almost ten years ago by grassroots groups and frontline members across the nation, Climate Justice Alliance created a new center of gravity in the climate movement by uniting frontline communities, organizations, and networks into a formidable force. Our translocal organizing strategy and mobilizing capacity is building a Just Transition, away from extractive systems of production, consumption and political oppression, and towards resilient, regenerative and equitable economies. Black leadership, organizing, and vision was and is a central component of our historical legacy and our current and future success. As a diverse, multi-racial alliance, we at CJA have benefited directly from our Black membership. We recognize that without Black organizing, our climate justice movement and any solidarity efforts to protect frontline communities will fail and anti-Blackness in the movement will continue to hurt our Black communities.
Just Transition is a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes, and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy. The transition itself must be just and equitable; redressing past harms and creating new relationships of power for the future through reparations. If the process of transition is not just, the outcome will never be. Just Transition describes both where we are going and how we get there. Climate change is the manifestation of the legacy of extraction of our language and our labor. Consequently, the struggle for Black liberation is central to climate justice. Our movements, in the US and around the world, are transformed by and benefit from the organizing, political leadership, base building, and wealth creation models rooted in Black liberation.
For us to achieve this vision, we must be frank and open about how this extractive economy was built. To dismantle white supremacy we must recognize and address how anti-Blackness provides the foundation for the extractive economy and continues to fuel it. The enslavement of Black people and the subsequent deliberate, deep-rooted efforts to ensure Black subordination and force the illusion of non-humanness, make anti-blackness unique when compared to the racism that affects others. The history and wealth of America was built on the labor and lives of Black people. However, anti-Black racism is structured throughout every US system, so instead of being celebrated or heralded for their contributions, we have been socialized to mistreat and dismiss Black people. Through perpetuated norms, distorted storytelling and divisive and dismantling policies, anti-blackness can be seen or experienced as Black people being invisibilized, diminished, and/or harmed.
In 2014, members gathered in Richmond, California for the first Our Power Convening. At the convening Black members deepened their relationships with each other while also identifying that as an alliance we were and are not immune to perpetuating anti-blackness in our movement organizing, practices, and governance. Our Black leaders doubled down on their commitment to Climate Justice Alliance, even as its mistakes caused negative impacts, forming the Black Caucus – a space to gather, reflect on the movement, call in CJA leadership to address anti-blackness, and claim space to intentionally navigate these challenges and push CJA and our movement toward true solidarity and liberation.
Over the past few years, the board has adopted two Black Caucus member seats, in order to ensure there is Black representation in leadership. More importantly, the Black Caucus is developing cultural organizing strategies to expose anti-blackness; uplift the history of Black struggle and organizing; and develop a practice of liberatory relationship building within CJA and the movement. They have articulated a vision and values for what a Black to Just Transition can look like – and we are proud to announce the launch of their official website here where you can start to learn about that vision and how we can support in making it real.
In order to fully live into our values and vision for a Just Transition to the regenerative economy, we, the current Board of Directors, accept responsibility, acknowledge, and move to correct how we fell short of centering Black leadership, vision, and values in building CJA. Part of the DNA of CJA is acknowledging our mistakes and learning, making changes, and continuing to be bold and to do the work. As we build a culture and practice of liberation that celebrates Black leadership and contributions and centers Black joy and vision, we have listened to the needs of our Black Leadership, begun to unpack and address anti-blackness, and started to deepen our support in the following ways:
- Recognize and respect the Black Caucus as an autonomous movement space within CJA and supported and resourced meetings such as Black 2 Just Transition in Detroit and Black Caucus spaces in Member Convening in Albuquerque;
- Committed two seats for Black Caucus representation on the Steering Committee (now the Board of Directors)
- Ensure representation from the Black Caucus on other leadership and decision-making bodies.
- Wrote Black representation into the bylaws of CJA to ensure that Black leadership and power is not tokenized or minimized;
- Support critical campaigns and initiatives of CJA’s Black-led member organizations;
- Uplift the narratives of Black-led organizations through our Story Snapshots project;
- Invest directly in the infrastructure, members, and initiatives of the Black Caucus, including the hire of a Black Membership Organizer.
We will make mistakes along the way as the work of liberation is an everyday practice and commitment to trying, learning, discomfort, self-reflection, growth, and transformation. We commit to succeed in our solidarity efforts and to build Black leadership, power, and meaningful representation across CJA, at Black leadership tables, and the movement.
How will you show up?