A lot has shifted in the past few years in the fight for social justice. A heightened awareness around the problems of food injustice, gun control, violence, environmental safety and community police relations– specifically as it affects poor, urban areas of color– reveal not only that many of the problems we face today are deeply systemic, but also, the most effective way to address them begins with organizing around legislative reform.
For five years since its founding in 2011, the Brooklyn Movement Center, a black-led social justice organizing group serving Central Brooklyn, has been coalition building towards that very end. And on Saturday, October 1, BMC held an annual membership meeting to review what the organization has accomplished so far and “orient” itself around where it needs to go in the coming year, specifically with regard to legislative policies and communities of color.
“It’s very hard to organize around being Black, because organizing around blackness is often seen as though you’re doing something wrong,” said City Councilmember Jumaane Williams, who was the keynote speaker at the annual meeting.
The meeting brought together an impressive group of organizers of diverse ages, income and racial backgrounds. However, Williams, along with BMC Executive Director Mark Winston-Griffth and BMC Lead Organizer Anthonine Pierre, were clear about BMC’s mission of addressing the most urgent needs impacting specifically communities of color.
“If we continue to pretend that what happened during slavery had no impact on where we are now…” said Williams, “I mean, we’re still confronting the same issues around food, policing, housing and education. It’s important we’re honest about where we’re at, if we’re really trying to get anything done.”
Pierre said the five areas of focus for BMC in the coming year would be around police accountability (enacting new laws that heighten scrutiny, onus and responsibility of police officers in their interaction with residents); anti-street harassment (specifically impacting women, queer and gender non-conforming residents); food justice (drive access to affordable and quality food options in communities of color with the opening of a Central Brooklyn Food Coop); journalism and reporting (continued work around investigative reporting and publication by BMC on issues of importance); and their newest field of organizing, environmental justice (advocating for sustainable energy options, including Con-Edison’s Solar Panel Program).
All of the attendees chose two areas of interest, as far as involvement, and then everyone broke out into working groups for discussion and further planning.
“It’s easy to fix something that is broken; it’s much harder to correct a foundation,” said Williams. “Organizing around policy change is the first step to addressing what can be improved in a society’s foundation.”
Winston-Griffth said the goal for the coming year would be to increase membership and then training of new members. He also pointed out that although BMC’s membership and operating costs had grown significantly in the last few years, its budget had not grown. Part of the coming year’s goal, he said, was to work with members in identifying creative ways to fundraise and take the organization to the “next level” of visibility and effectiveness.
For more information or to get involved with the Brooklyn Movement Center, visit their website here.