Black organizers are leveraging the powerful showing of Black voters in the last election to call on President Biden and Democrat lawmakers to move forward on “bold, innovative” solutions to address the many crises facing a community of people who helped secure pivotal wins for the party in 2020.
Black to the Future Action Fund, the political arm of the Black Futures Lab organization, which is headed by Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, on Thursday released what it bills as “A Black Mandate for the Biden-Harris Administration.” It’s a suite of policy recommendations for the first 100 days of the Biden presidency and beyond, spanning issues like COVID-19 relief, housing, wages and the threats posed by climate change and white nationalism.
The guiding theme tying the mandate together is the urgency of the issues it outlines, which necessitates that Democrats are bold with their legislative responses, Garza told The Root.
“I think there’s a push in this country right now to kind of get us back to a status quo that wasn’t working for Black communities in the first place, and in this moment where we’ve got power in all three branches of government, we really need to take advantage,” she said. “We need to say back to Black communities that we hear you and that we want to lead with you in starting to address some of the most enduring challenges that are facing, not just Black communities, but our nation as a whole.”
Top of the list is shoring up support for those who have been disproportionately hard hit by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Black people are dying at higher rates from the virus than white Americans are, are being vaccinated in much lower numbers than other demographics, and are bearing the economic brunt of the crisis.
Along with calling for the government to prioritize equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, the Black to the Future Action Fund plan speaks plainly to the need for Americans to get robust and consistent financial support in the form of monthly relief cash payments as long as the pandemic continues.
“Right now what we know is there is a consideration for a one-time payment of $1,400—we’re already down $600 from the $2,000 that was touted during this campaign season,” said Garza, adding that isolated payments aren’t enough for struggling people to survive on nearly a year into the pandemic.
The plan also calls for a $15 minimum wage and student loan debt forgiveness of up to $50,000; the latter proposal Biden outright rejected just this week, while the former is a possibility under the COVID-19 relief bill Democrats are currently moving through Congress. That bill proposes to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025. While Garza acknowledges it as a move in the right direction, she says that the proposal isn’t responsive enough to the challenges Black communities are facing right now.
“Real people across the country are suffering and we can’t wait until 2025 to get relief,” she told The Root. “It’s not enough to just do better. Our communities are in such a deep crisis that we deserve nothing less than bold, innovative solutions.”
On the student loan issue, Garza said Biden’s recent comments were, “certainly a disappointment.” But other urgent priorities remain to be fought for, like a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures amid a continuing housing crisis that was disproportionately impacting Black communities before the pandemic and is doing so even more keenly now.
Black to the Future Action Fund developed the policy recommendations based on surveys of Black people across the country, including through the Black Census Project and conversations with Black voters it organized and mobilized to go out to the polls in the recent elections.
“What we found consistently is that these were the issues that were resoundingly important for Black communities across the nation,” Garza said. “Every single day we’re in touch with people who cannot wait for relief.”
The next step is to take the list of demands to lawmakers and continue organizing Black voters to hold their elected officials accountable.
Black to the Future Fund will be joined by Georgia organizers Nse Ufot, Deborah Scott and LaTosha Brown for a panel discussion on Friday about the “A Black Mandate for the Biden-Harris Administration.” Aria Sa’id of Compton’s Transgender Cultural District and Bishop William Barber II of the Poor People’s Campaign will also be featured speakers for the event, which Jemele Hill is hosting.
You can RSVP to watch for free on Friday at 6 p.m. ET.