Black Youth Project 100, a national African-American activist organization, asserted that President Donald Trump has revealed “the true oligarchy” that has always ruled the country and oppressed minorities.
The “Beyond the Moment” conversation and “teach-in” at the Manhattan headquarters of influential service workers union 32BJ SEIU Tuesday night sought to move beyond “moments of anger” and to facilitate connections between different protest movements. BYP 100, a group of 18- to 35-year-olds, formed in 2013 in reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Terence Fraser, the group’s communications co-chair, kicked off the gathering by leading a chant of “Donald Trump ain’t shit.”
“Donald Trump is not an island,” Fraser said. “Donald Trump is not the progenitor of racism, militarism and all of these other issues with our country. They are rooted in the founding of our country and the continued oppression of all of our people.”
Fraser cited the disproportionately black and brown population that has lived below the United States’ poverty line and within its prison system as evidence.
“When we think about all of these issues, the poverty and the fact that we haven’t invested in our communities, all of this predates Donald Trump and if we don’t actively take steps to rectify it and show up and come in solidarity with one another—which is why we’re here—then that will only continue,” Fraser continued. “So Donald Trump, basically, is showing us the true face of our country, the true oligarchy, the oligarchic class that controls our government, that controls our lives.
And he said that it is up to the different communities that have been oppressed to unite.
“Now that we are all on the same page in terms of where we are, in terms of who controls shit, who runs this shit, apparently, we need to figure out steps to come together and really wrest power from them because we are powerful when we are together,” Fraser added.
Participants included members of the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, Retail Action Project, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the Fight for $15 and the Street Vendors Project, among others—which collectively identify as the Freedom Cities coalition.
Chris Harris, a BYP 100 leader, called on the collaborating organizations to “mobilize, define, defend, collaborate and work together to for justice and equality.” Throughout the teach-in, speakers highlighted passages of the late Dr. Martin Luther King’s anti-war “Beyond Vietnam” speech, which turned 50 yesterday.
“We need to get past…simplistic blame games like 45, Trump is the reason or simplistic notions of sanctuary that don’t actually en-capture all people,” Harris said. “The reason why you’re all in this room together with me is so we can begin to have a conversation about what that looks like, about how we can actually build meaningful lines and strands of solidarity that allow us to actually get through.”
He called the teach-in, one of dozens occurring simultaneously nationwide, the first step. Next, he said, will come mass protests on May Day.
“After that, the intention is, based on the bonds that we create in spaces like the one that you’re in right now, we can actually do meaningful, trans-local actions that produce real wins for the people that we struggle with on behalf of and for ourselves,” he continued.
Basma Eid, lead trainer for the group Enlace, said Freedom Cities was formed in January and “really centers this idea of intersectionality.”
“The idea behind Freedom Cities is really reclaiming and redefining what safety is for our communities, right,” Eid said. “We know safety isn’t increasing the military budget, it’s not more police, it’s not more deportations, but it’s about giving our communities the tools and things that we need to move forward.”