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Black Lives Matter's Alicia Garza is Empowering Young Black Voters | MTV Impact


– I think that the choice that young people are making right now is not between Trump or Biden I think that the choice that young people are making right now is to vote or not to vote

– Alicia Garza co-founded Black Lives Matter in 2013 And she helped it grow into the massive international movement it is today But with the presidential election a few months away, she is now focused on the Black Futures Lab, which finds out what young Black voters really want and calls on politicians to engage with them How did you make the jump from co-founding Black Lives Matter to working in Black voter engagement? – 2016 was our last major election cycle and it was a big whirlwind What I came to understand very clearly was that Black voter engagement needed more attention, but not from the perspective that we so often see it

– What does that mean? I can't tell you how many plates of fried chicken I have seen in election cycles ever since I started to vote And I say that, like, in a really serious way that, I think, candidates feel like they have to connect to our communities culturally, and they do so in ways that are often really driven by stereotypes – Right And besides the fact that that's racist the other problem is, you know, ultimately, that symbolism gets in the way of the substantive conversations that candidates need to be having with our communities

They come bearing soul food, but they don't come bearing agendas for what kinds of policies they are willing to advance in order to change the conditions of our lives – What are some of the substantive issues that young, Black voters care about? – I mean, we did the largest survey of Black people in America in 155 years It's called the Black Census Project – That's awesome – And you would think, right, that because of all the conversations that are happening right now in this country, that the number-one issue that we care about is criminal justice reform

And we found that it's actually not The thing that keeps us awake at night is low wages Next to that it's the lack of access to affordable and quality health care It's the lack of access to affordable and quality housing Those issues don't just impact Black communities, they impact everyone

But there are specific and unique barriers that keep Black communities from being able to access these things And one of those specific barriers is racism – Tell us about Black the Ballot Is it a project with the Black Futures Lab? Black to the Ballot is our way of helping to support and build the capacity of Black-led grassroots organizations across the country What we've done is we've designed a Black agenda that clearly outlines the issues that we heard most often in our Black census survey, and it provides tangible, actionable solutions to address those challenges

– I'd imagine that organizing a movement that had its heart in the streets like Black Lives Matter, is a little different from organizing politically What was the most interesting thing you took away from that experience? – What I think is really fascinating is that, you know, people who are protesting, are also designing policy The people who are out on the streets are there because they have ideas about what this country should look like and how it should be run And I think we're also seeing that people who are demonstrating and are protesting are also running for office They know that their passion, their vision, and their connection to communities that have been left behind, makes them a valuable asset in the political process

– What's the number-one thing you'd love to see candidates do to reach out to young, Black voters before November? – I would like them to reach out to young, Black voters I want them to invest way more resources and build infrastructure in Black communities, so that our communities are engaged and empowered to take this country back

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