Black Lives Matter's Alicia Garza Wants Supermajority To Be Your New Home For Activism
On Monday, Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network and principal of Black Futures Lab, and others announced the formation of two new organizations. They’ll lead Supermajority, an effort to “educate, train and mobilize” 2 million women towards political action, as well as Supermajority Education Fund, which will focus on research and education related to women’s civic participation.
The effort includes plans to form a women’s “new deal” for gender equity; trainings and events intended to equip women with the skills and tools to organize towards those goals; and a national membership that will build on the success of Pantsuit Nation, an online community that began as a “secret” Facebook group for Hillary Clinton supporters.
Garza came to national prominence through her work with BLM. As a queer black woman and an organizer, she has pushed the conversation on “intersectionality” past theory and into practice. Bustle’s Alicia Menendez spoke with Garza about Supermajority’s goals, how lessons from Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March have informed her approach to this new organization, and what success for the group will look like in 2020 and beyond.
Alicia Menendez: How did you get involved in the formation of Supermajority?
Alicia Garza: After the 2016 election and the carnage that ensued, a few of us at the National Domestic Workers Alliance got together with some of the leaders from Planned Parenthood. We started talking about what happened and what it might mean for the country. We also started dreaming together about what was possible. As you know, after the election, there were historic mobilizations across the world. More than four million women marched in the first ever kind of Women's March, not just on Washington, but on the globe. And we started seeing an unprecedented level of women's activism.
So, we kept talking and trying to figure out what was possible. How could we be bigger than the sum of our parts? And we went across the country, and started talking to women who were newly activated. Women who were mad as hell, and wanting to take action. They're marching, they're protesting, but also wanting to find out: What else can I do? How do I make change in my community?
The biggest thing that we heard from women from Alabama, to Ohio, to Arizona, is that what women want is to be connected. Women want to march, but they also want to be effective and make the changes that they seek in their communities. That's really how the Supermajority came to be. As we kept talking about what was possible, we kept reaching out to other women leaders, like Jess Morales Rocketto, who is at our shop at NDWA. People like Katherine Grainger from [the public affairs group] Civitas. We started to build a team of women who were thinking big about how to add oxygen to the fire that women were already spreading all across the nation, and that's how Supermajority came to exist.
AM: What is the goal of Supermajority?
AG: The goal of the Supermajority is to be a new home for women's activism. We understand that women are kicking ass and taking names, quite frankly. Women are the superheroes of this moment, and what we're finding, again, is that women want to make change, and they don't want to do it in isolation. They want to be connected to each other. So, the goal here is to provide tools, training, and community to the millions of women across the country who want to activate change.
To that end, we'll be supporting women in building their skills to effectively make change. We'll be activating 2 million women to activate millions more toward the upcoming election and beyond. We'll be providing community for women who don't want to feel isolated anymore, and who want to see real changes happen in their homes, in their workplaces, in their places of worship, and all throughout their community.
AM: Where have other efforts to do this failed?
AG: One of the big things that happens, of course, in all movements, is that sometimes as we're trying to build the world that we want to create, some people can get left behind. And with the Supermajority, that's not the case. This is a home for all women who share a set of values that we believe are the values of the majority of the country, and we are committed through the Supermajority to not leave anybody behind.
I know that there's all these words that get thrown around, like intersectionality, and I think that the Supermajority really embodies that. We want to make sure that all women and our friends and our allies are empowered to make change together, because we know that together we're stronger than we are alone.
AG: We know that black communities are an incredibly important constituency, and not only are we an important constituency, but we've been shaping the present and shaping the future. With Black Lives Matter, what we've been able to do is to activate millions of people to be able to make change around anti-black racism and white supremacy, and some of the problems that exist with policing and criminalization of our communities. And with the Black Futures Lab, we work to make black people powerful in politics.We know that to do that, we need to engage black communities in a different way. We need to make sure that nobody gets left behind in black communities, that we don't just see black communities as monoliths that are primarily populated with men who are straight. We want to make sure that black people who are migrants, black people who live in rural areas, black people who identify as lesbian, or gay, or bisexual, or transgender, are central figures in our movement. We get better policies when we understand what the contours of our communities are and what their experiences are. We get better outcomes from policies when we are making sure that the people who tend to be marginalized from these conversations are front and center.
With that being said, I think the Supermajority is a nice extension of movements like Black Lives Matter, movements like MeToo, movements like Time's Up, movements to improve working conditions for working people. This is a place where everybody can come together, and link arms, and say nothing is going to happen in this country about us without us.
AM: There's a debate among some progressives about whether persuading white women voters who have oscillated between the parties is where the movement should place its resources and its efforts. Are those voters among your targets?
AG: I think that everybody needs to be mobilized in this moment, and everybody needs to have an opportunity to join a movement that is going to put this country on the right track again. What I learned from 2016 is, again, women are mad as hell and we don't want to go backward. We're ready to go forward. I think we also are clear that there were really big distinctions between how women of color were activated in the election and how white women were activated. What that means to me, and I think what it means to us, is that we've got to pay more attention to building bridges between communities that are being divided by the powerful. We have to really do some investment in making sure that people who are being seduced with the promise of power, but not getting any, can find a home and can find common cause with people who may not look like them, but are certainly experiencing similar conditions.
Our biggest chance and our best chance at success in this moment is to build a multiracial movement in order to build a multiracial democracy. That means we have to spend a lot of resources activating the people who are already ready to move, but we also should pay attention to the people who are on the fence. However, I will say that for the Supermajority, we are really clear that we are focused on the issues that connect the majority of the country. I don't think that we should spend a ton of time on folk who may not be persuadable. I think what we're looking for are the people who are looking for us.
AM: The Women's March, which was born out of a similar frustration, developed the ambition of organizing women and aimed to create intersectional leadership. It’s had challenges unifying its leadership. How do you avoid those pitfalls?
AG: What is true is that the Women's March was able to mobilize millions and millions of women. What is also true is that any time you try and bring people together to make change, we have to learn how to navigate rocky roads together. I'm a supporter of the Women's March. I'm somebody who helped to craft the unity principles, and I want to make sure that the Women's March is successful. What I know about where we are in this country is that we don't have enough infrastructure to successfully activate and motivate women to make change. I also know that sometimes what gets in the way are some of the traditional barriers that keep us divided.
With the Supermajority, we're really committed to making sure that we add oxygen to the fire that women are spreading across the country, and I think that also means that we have to stand side by side with our sisters who are also trying to do the same thing.
AM: Part of this organization includes the acquisition of Pantsuit Nation. What will it take to move those 3.5 million members from primarily online action to increased offline action?
AG: I know a little bit about this from Black Lives Matter.
AM: You do.
AG: What it takes is bringing people together in real time in real ways. When we created Black Lives Matter, we initially started, like Pantsuit Nation, online. We were seeing all this energy online, people wanting to understand how they could fight back against police brutality and police violence. They were sharing articles, but there wasn't really an outlet for people to take action together. It wasn't until we helped to create that outlet — by leading a freedom ride to Ferguson, Missouri, after Mike Brown was killed — that our members, because they were coming together in person, said, “We want to keep doing this. We want to keep coming together, we want to keep organizing in the places where we live.” I think that's really the trick.
The trick is that online activism is important, and it's effective, but it also has to be coupled with people being able to come together in real life. Technology sometimes can be really isolating. Even though it allows us to connect across geographies, there's something really special about being in a room with other people, connecting and sharing your story and experience, and knowing that you're not alone.
I'm excited that Pantsuit Nation is a core partner of Supermajority because they've been able to maintain and mobilize so many women who not only have not given up, but actually doubled down on their commitment to make change. Even though their candidate didn't win, what they know is that they built something so special that it deserves to be invested in, preserved, and linked up with other efforts that want to make the same changes.
AM: I understand that short term electoral success is not the only metric. But given that that's where a lot of the media's attention is right now, what does success look like in the 2020 election?
AG: To me, success looks like a new deal for women in this country. Success looks like a wall of women that have linked arms and said that nothing in this country is going to happen about us without us anymore. We're no longer going to turn on the television and see male television pundits talking about our issues. We're going to be the ones talking about our issues, and our issues are going to be seen as the issues that impact the entire country, not just as special interest issues.
Winning for us means transforming the balance of power in this country. What we'll know in 2020, if we're successful, is that we've changed politics in every city and every state across the country alongside changing politics in the federal government. We know that this is a long-range fight. We know that 2020 is a benchmark, but it's not a goal post. What we have to do is make change in 2020, but maintain that change over the long haul, so that our families, and our kids, and our loved ones can enjoy the life that we all deserve.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.