'We Need Everybody': An interview with Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza.

AuthorTempus, Alexandra

My first phone call with Alicia Garza is cut short because she is very busy. Since she co-founded the paradigm-shifting Black Lives Matter movement in 2013, Garza has won the Sydney Peace Prize, served as strategy and partnerships director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and launched the Black Futures Lab--which recently undertook the massive Black Census Project to assess the complexity of black communities across America in granular detail. So when, a minute or so into our conversation, she apologizes and asks if she can call me right back, I tell her of course, no problem, I completely understand.

My second phone call with Alicia Garza is cut short because, a minute or so into our conversation, I get another call I must take. She graciously assures me that I can call her right back, of course, no problem, she completely understands.

My third and final phone call with Alicia Garza begins with me explaining that my partner, who is black and incarcerated, gets to call me only one day each month. I never quite know when it will happen, and this month, it happened at just the wrong time. And because Alicia Garza has worked with and written about incarcerated people and their loved ones for much of her twenty-year career in activism, she again completely understands.

"No!" she says, with heartening optimism. "It was the right time. It was just the right time."

Over the course of our discussion, we talked more about the issue of mass incarceration and how it's become a shaky crutch for politicians attempting to take a stand on racial justice. We talked about how the Black Census Project reveals that black communities are broadly misunderstood and misrepresented in the democratic process. And we talked about how, in the year leading up to the 2020 presidential election, black people might not merely be heard but actually be, Garza says, "powerful in politics."

Q: Tell us about the Black Census Project. Why was it necessary?

Alicia Garza: It was certainly an opportunity for us to go into communities that are often left out of the conversation when we talk about black people in this country. So you'll notice, particularly among presidential candidates, that when people talk about black folks they say African American. It's a holdover from the last period of civil rights, where they moved from "colored" and "Negro" to "African American."

But the demographics of black communities have changed, particularly over the last decade, but...

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