In the second installment of the After the Fire series for The Root, I take a look at two different styles of movement leadership — one with a strong central figure and one that is decentralized and community-based. Black Lives Matter is built out of the community base model. In this story, I speak with organizers and activists out of Ferguson, WyzeChef and Netta, as well as Rev. Al Shaprton and we go over some of the historical tension between BLM adherents and Sharpton that culminated last year during a rally in D.C.
Here’s the intro to the piece:
Who wants to be in charge?
Don’t raise your hand too quickly because it’s a job you might get. It’s a job that comes with few perks, long hours and no pay (unless you’re crooked, and if you’re crooked, please stop now, you aren’t helping). But if you don’t want to be in charge, we can still offer you the same few perks, long hours and no-pay deal as part of the long struggle toward freedom.
It’s the only thing being offered.
But, hey, if you do a good job and we’re all set free, you get freedom! It’s the costliest prize if you’re black in America because the price of freedom, for you, is paid in blood. And white supremacy isn’t picky about which black person’s blood it is. Yours. Your friends. Your family’s. In the past, an entire neighborhood. In the present, an entire neighborhood. (But not as quickly or violently. Instead, a sort of slow death you almost don’t notice until they build a Qdoba Mexican Grill on top of your corpse.)
It’s not fun to be a freedom fighter. It sounds beautiful and romantic—they will write songs about you (after you die horribly young)—but who can do this work for very long without withering and having self-doubt? Who can carry the burden of being the documenter of sorrows and the collector of lamentations? Who can last as the accountant who tabulates the blood price and keeps the list of demands?
Who can live with no perks, long hours, no money and yet stay nourished?
It takes a special kind of person. If it’s you, we need you. And if you’re not perfect, that’s OK. We can’t get too choosy about how we get free.