A black lesbian activist offers insight into forging a radical black liberation movement through the lens of her experience as a community organizer in Chicago.
Frederick Douglass once wrote that “power concedes nothing without a demand.” Carruthers, who is best known as the founding national director of the Black Youth Project 100, revises her predecessor’s observation to highlight that it is “organized demand” that wins revolutionary struggles. Drawing on her experience as a reader, thinker, and grass-roots activist, the author illuminates the past, present, and future of black radicalism. She opens by first addressing recent “calls to end identity politics.” Carruthers argues that what is needed instead is to “end liberalism.” The intersectionalist approaches of black queer feminists are what will give (white) democratic progressives the tools to combat the intertwined ills of patriarchy and capitalism. A crucial part of the movement also involves reviving—or reimagining—the black radical tradition. Only by remembering the collective past can activists resist social erasure and see a clear way forward. In the fight to end liberalism, writes the author, focusing on such issues as “leadership development [and] healing justice” is also key. Moreover, activists must be self-reflective at all times and ask themselves and each other questions about who they are, where they came from, what they want and want to build, and whether they are “ready to win.” The author concludes with a discussion of the “Chicago Model” of community organizing and a mandate to continue the struggle. Though imperfect, the Chicago Model still managed to bring together “multiple institutions with varying political alignment” to fight police brutality and oust racist and corrupt political officials. Timely and important, Carruthers’ book is a strong testament to the resilience of the radical black liberation movement as well as an impassioned appeal to continue the fight for social justice in a political environment characterized by increasing hostility to equality and difference.
Powerful, potent reading.