In the midst of civil unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic, people are remaining politically engaged. On Tuesday, Ferguson, Missouri, elected a black mayor, Ella Jones, for the first time in the history of the city. Her victory is monumental in a city where black residents are historically oppressed by the government and police officers. As people take to the streets to demand justice for the killings of unarmed black women and men, Black Lives Matter advocates, some of whom have been on the front lines, are encouraging people to let their voices be heard at the polls.
Yesterday during a Zoom press conference, Cori Bush, candidate for Missouri’s 1st District; Shahid Buttar, candidate for California’s 12th Congressional District; Samelys Lopez, candidate for New York’s 15th District; and Isiah James, candidate for New York’s 9th District shared advice on how to stay politically engaged. They also shared their plans to support black lives, people of color in politics, and marginalized communities impacted by over-policing and social inequities.
Here are the top takeaways from yesterday’s conversation.
Isiah James, candidate for New York’s 9th District on overcoming oppression
“What we saw with that officer’s knee on George Floyd’s neck, was the weight of the state, pressing down on the neck of a black man.”
“We have an opportunity to live up to the values that we purport that this country is for everyone. We have an opportunity right now to truly be the land of the free. Those opportunities are within our grasp, but it’s up to us to take the steps to reach them, because change is hard.
“Four hundred years is a long time to be oppressed. One hundred years is a long time to be oppressed. A day is a long time to be oppressed. Eight minutes is too long to have a knee on your neck. So let us, in this moment, stand together as a collective voice that we will not any longer put up with a government that does not serve the people, puts the needs of the corporation before the people,” James added.
Cori Bush on funding black politicians and defunding the police.
“In 2018, black women received the least amount of money in donations than anybody on the planet. And it’s not because we’re not qualified or because we’re not good we’re not worth it. It’s just because people don’t see us enough as a leader.”
“We need to defund the police and make sure that money goes back into the communities that need it.
“Solving this problem is not about more police and more training. Minnesota received $12 million dollars after the murder of Castille. Now here we are. That will not help us. We have to end the militarization of police, stop the racial profiling. Throwing money at the problem will not solve it. We need diversity in our forces, so it is representative of the people who live here and we see at our churches and groceries stores.”
Shahid Buttar, candidate for California’s 12th Congressional District on leadership
“We’re witnessing a profound moment in U.S. history. The protests spreading across our country represent not only a diverse grassroots challenge to centuries of racial oppression but also a crucial defense of our democracy at a time when fascism threatens it—and all of our rights.”
“Just in this week, we’ve had the president deploy chemical weapons against peaceful protestors so he could stage a photo op at a church, whose pastor then had to repudiate his sordid presence, and the Speaker of the House’s response is to put HER hand on a bible, and start quoting bible passages. As her constituent I can understand why some people would be unenthused to vote. I get enraged.”
Samelys Lopez, candidate for New York’s 15th District on the importance of black lives
“Black Lives Matter here in the United States of America, they matter all over the world.”
“People are reacting this way because they feel unheard, and they feel unseen, and they feel like every time they put their lives on the line that nothing changes. We need the leadership to hear the movement space on why criminal injustice reform is necessary in this country.”
The candidates also called for greater representation of black and brown people within leadership positions. While the new Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse ever, still only one-in-five are racial or ethnic minorities. Only half of those are black, and only a few of them come from movement backgrounds.