The Movement for Black Lives Convening was a historic moment: 1,500 Black people from across the country came to Cleveland to be a part of this intentional space, a space where Black people could heal and create strategies to fight back against the systemic racism that is killing us. So many different people were in attendance: protesters, organizers, our elders, our children, the families of victims of police murders. The Convening was the first time a space been created to uplift all Black lives and the many variations of our existence. The Convening demonstrated how leaderful the movement to celebrate and protect the lives of Black people truly is. It was a space for community, for healing, and for visioning — a space that centered the power of all Black people.
This space could only have come together with an approach to organizing that is "leaderful," with many different people taking on responsibility and using their power to build a welcoming space. Leaderful organizing requires de-centering yourself, and being mindful of what leadership and experience all people bring. A huge event like this Convening, and an movement that's tackling such ingrained systems of oppression of Black people, can't be led by a single person, or orchestrated by a single team. A leaderful movement is the only possible option for meaningful, lasting social change.
Those involved with #Blacklivesmatter has always called for organizing around the country to center the most marginalized, not just in words, but in action. Leaderful organizing is the only way to create a movement like this, where those at the margins are truly centered.
The success of this enormous Convening could only have happened with the work of countless people acting as leaders: Black trans people, the Cleveland community, and the tireless support of people from all around the country dedicated to this movement. Every facet of the convening, from the inclusion of Black trans people to logistics of housing some 1,500 organizers for an entire weekend required dedication, creativity and many sleepless nights from many, many leaders to make this event such a seamless success.
But leaderful movement building goes beyond the labor of organizing logistics. When a Black trans man was made to leave a club in Cleveland during the Convening for using the men's bathroom, and a Black trans woman was denied entry to that same club because her gender marker did not "match" her presentation, leaderful organizing shut the whole club down. Someone made an announcement to the DJ about the club's transphobic practices, and the effect was almost instantaneous: every single person in the club affiliated with the Movement for Black Lives left in solidarity, and an impromptu demonstration against the club's transphobia began outside.
The power of leaderful organizing was also displayed when a transit officer attempted to arrest a 14-year-old boy as conference attendees were heading home. Organizers of the convening responded rapidly in order to ensure the safety of the boy and his family, as well as the conference attendees: we as a movement flew into action. When officers started to mace people, standing in solidarity with the boy and his family, this massive crowd of Black organizers provided milk for those who had maced, held a sit in, and blocked the path of officers attempting to arrest and take this 14 year old into custody. In Cleveland, where our national over-policing of Black youth led to the murder of 12 year old Tamir Rice, Black organizers took action to disrupt the usual trauma of police violence and scrutiny: leaderful organizing in action.
The Movement for Black Lives Convening was a powerful time for reflection that made history — and set a standard for leaderful organizing that reflects the diversity of Black people. Black people get no breaks: the constant cycle of police violence and brutality interrupts us from healing and taking space. Yet this Convening assured me that the community power assembled in Cleveland is a part of building a new world for Black people — creating a leaderful movement that will truly change the lives of Black people everywhere.