This week, former vice president Joe Biden formally accepted the Democratic nomination for president and Kamala Harris accepted her role as his running mate. Now that it’s clear that the 2020 elections will be Biden versus Donald Trump — who’s running for reelection on the Republican ticket — activists are solidifying their positions before November.
One group that is doing this is The Movement for Black Lives, which is a collective of organizations and activist fighting for Black equity and liberation. The Movement stemmed from the global-wide protests against police brutality and racist violence that gained full energy when Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in 2013. The hashtag that sparked the fire was #BlackLivesMatter, and two of the three co-founders of the hashtag and initial mobilization are speaking out after the Democratic National Convention this week.
Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi are credited as igniting a generation of activists with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. Although all three of them continue to do activist and organizing work, Cullors and Garza have taken the time to describe their stance on the Biden-Harris ticket.
Cullors tweeted her thoughts along with a Washington Post opinion video giving more details. “Here’s what the Biden-Harris Democratic ticket needs to do to keep progressive support,” she prefaced the video.
Then in the clip, she acknowledge that having a “first Black VP” is historic, however “Sen. Kamala Harris has a complicated history.”
“I think we can call for Biden and Harris to be challenged for their past,” she says in the video. “While also being the cheerleaders for them to win the election November 3.”
“There are so many reasons why we must beat Trump,” she adds.
Cullors then goes on to say that Trump has attacked almost “every single group in this country” and defeating Trump “also helps us defeat the white supremacists that he has galvanized.”
Cullors laid out the political history Biden and Harris must be held accountable to moving forward, including Biden’s “tough on crime” stance as a senator that influenced Black people being characterized as “predators.” She also pointed out Harris’ record as an attorney general in California where she was also “tough on crime.”
“She did make some reforms around re-entry,” Cullors says. “She has stayed committed to challenging Trump. She has stayed committed to really being more expansive in her views around the criminal justice system shows me that she’s grown since her days of being the AG of the state of California.”
Cullors ended her video by challenging Biden and Harris to support The Beathe Act, which is a Movement for Black Lives-led federal policy campaign. It champions divesting from institutions of punishment, such as the police and prison systems, and investing in “mental health care, public education, adequate access to housing,” explains Cullors.
“We want the Biden-Harris ticket to endorse The Breathe Act,” Cullors says in the Washington Post video. “We want them to show up not just in saying the words that Black lives matter, but we want them to prove that Black lives matter.”
Not too long after Cullors posted her video, Alicia Garza tweeted that she will be voting for the Biden-Harris ticket. However, she also stressed holding them accountable.
“I’m voting Biden/Harris. I’m voting down the ticket,” she tweeted. “I’m registering and moving others to vote. And I’m going to keep pushing them. It is important to see BLM after all this time. 7 YEARS. Symbols are nice. Policy and practice is essential. Let’s go—we got work to do.”
Although neither Biden nor Harris have come out in support of The Breathe Act, which was announced in July, their messaging at the DNC could lead them to be open to the legislative proposals. In his Thursday speech, Biden referenced the recent killing of George Floyd, just one of the many Black victims of police violence.
“Maybe George Floyd’s murder was a breaking point. Maybe John Lewis‘s passing an inspiration,” Biden said. “America is ready, in John’s words, to lay down the heavy burden of hate at last and begin the hard work of rooting out our systemic racism.”
Harris echoed a similar tone in her Wednesday acceptance speech. When calling out Trump’s failed leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, which has gravely affected Black communities, Harris said:
“There is no vaccine for racism. We have got to do the work. For George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor…for our children and for all of us.…to fulfill that promise of equal justice under law.”
Time will tell if the Biden-Harris campaign will take heed to the demands of The Movement For Black Lives and activists who continue to do anti-racist work.