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Black Left Intro

Rachel Herzing
Date Published: 
September 01, 2006

Hurricane season is here again. Last year’s season exposed not only the fragility of human-made structures, but also the peril in which years of abuse and intentional neglect put Black people in the Gulf Coast region. While the storms affected a much wider berth than just Black communities, the response to the storms’ devastation replicated the systemic disregard so familiar to Black communities throughout this country and reinvigorated Jim Crow logic. Two systems were created—one Black (into which all people of color get swept) and one white—separate and unequal.

Storms continue to abound within the confines of the US. Labor’s power is swirling into decline, the state continually prioritizes sweeping our youth away into cages and wars instead of educating or training them, the chasms of class divisions are ever widening, and our social safety net is being torn away piece by piece. Throughout, Black people find ourselves struggling at the center of each of these tempests. With each storm, Black left forces have historically presented challenges to practices and ideologies designed to obstruct our ability to live healthy, stable lives. What do these forces look like in our current era, however? Which issues and collective strategies are at the center of our current struggles against white supremacy, imperialism, and genocide?

In the coming issues of Left Turn, activists and organizers involved in struggles for Black people’s self-determination and liberation will examine these questions based on their experiences within the movements in which they work. While the complexity and diversity of US Black left communities and perspectives could never be captured by individual voices, this series will aim to open a dialogue among our broader movements for social justice and liberation about the current status of Black left contributions to our collective work.

The series begins on a small scale with four people sitting in a room in Oakland, California. Far from representing collective Black voices, as activists, organizers, and community members, we speak from each of our own experiences and political perspectives. This conversation simply opens up an exploration of where we’re situated and what the possibilities might be for those of us working for our own liberation. Touching on common themes from the decline in Black labor, to our lack of access to adequate education, and the siege we face under the “war on drugs,” among other issues, the conversation that follows is only a preface to what will hopefully be a vibrant and lively series.

As we look ahead to the approaching storms, it seems crucial that we take a moment to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re heading for the Black left to remain a vital force. Perhaps this series of examinations will add one small piece to a mounting deluge of resistance.