DK: What is it about what she told you that made you feel you needed to speak publicly via social media about it?
PC: I was trained to believe in an international fight against U.S. imperialism. Labor rights are a key fight in the fight against global capitalism. I took my friend's critique seriously because my politics was being questioned and my ethics were being questioned. Why would I allow Cosmopolitan to dictate my politics and my ethics? I wouldn't, so when I received the critique it felt necessary to name it publicly so folks could see how we should be accountable to our ethics.
DK: You mentioned pressure to mainstream BLM—can you speak candidly on that?
PC: I think the biggest thing around mainstreaming BLM … there’s a seduction of mainstreaming BLM which could ultimately lead to diluting the message of BLM, and the message is about all black lives mattering in this kind of moment in history, in the past present and the future, and it’s not just about the extra-judicial killings of black people but a larger conversation and interrogation of anti-black racism.
What can often happen is when anything becomes popular it can lose its weight, it can lose its politics, so I think it’s important given this Cosmopolitan shoot, and as someone who I really care about this person’s politics, to call us out in particular and say you know, “that ‘s pretty contradictory in what you all are calling for.” I thought it was an important intervention.
DK: How do you plan on guarding against (Banana-republic-type mistakes) in the future?
PC: (Laughs). I think in the future, if I were to do that Cosmopolitan shoot again I would have a serious conversation with Cosmopolitan about who’s dressing us, what does this mean, how is this out of—or in alignment with—BLM. I think we said yes to it because we were excited and we were like “That’s great! Visibility in this particular way is important.” But I think it would be like having longer conversations and interrogating the mainstream spaces that we take up, who asks us to come in.
DK: How do you plan to protect BLM from going mainstream?
PC: I don’t know if I can protect it. I think what I can do is stay true to what I believe is true for black lives. Keep up that narrative, keep up that practice, and don’t fall short around it.
DK: You obviously felt that the public needed to know this about you and BLM. What else do you feel the public needs to know that is pressing and does not seem to be getting out there?
PC: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I think I really value public accountability and so that’s why I decided to be upfront about it.
DK: You touched on this a little, so I’d like to go back: What did you hope to accomplish with the Cosmopolitan shoot?
PC: The shoot was about entering spaces and places that wouldn’t necessarily know the three co-founders of Black Lives Matter. I think there’s a way folks on the left can preach to the choir and not actually get people to join the team, and I think that the goal of the shoot was to expand our audience.
DK: Do you want to address any of the financial rumors surrounding BLM, i.e. Politico?
PC: We weren’t invited to that Democracy Alliance meeting so I can’t really speak on behalf of that. We’re not going to the meeting and we weren’t invited to it.
DK: A lot of people are utilizing social media and right-wing websites to say that you all are “getting paid, bout to get paid, got paid,” etc.
PC: The network has received funding from different foundations; as we are developing our infrastructure, we are working on hiring staff and we are working on figuring out the best ways to fund our local chapters. And part of that looks like not having just myself and Alicia and Opal figure that out but really work with our network to figure that out.
DK: How had the network been funded before you formally organized as a network?
PC: We didn’t have money.
DK: There’s what people are calling Black Lives Matter, the overall broad movement with everybody from DeRay [McKesson] to whomsoever, and then there’s Black Lives Matter the network which has 26 chapters. Is the network formally incorporated as a non-profit?
PC: The network has a fiscal sponsor.
DK: And everybody else out there is just everybody else?
PC: Exactly. Everybody else has their own … DeRay is working with Campaign Zero. We have different people working inside the movement eco-system.
DK: This recent Google grant, was that money awarded to the Ella Baker Center or to you?
PC: Ella Baker Center.
DK: What is the Ella Baker Center’s relationship with Black Lives Matter?
PC: They have an employee that is one of the co-founders. They are part of the larger movement for black lives.
DK: Had you been using your personal paycheck to fund Black Lives Matter?
PC: To be honest with you, this is my first year ever getting a salary as an organizer and having health insurance.
DK: Through the Ella Baker Center?
DK: Not even through Dignity and Power Now [which you founded]?
DK: Anything else that needs to be known?
PC: I got love for the people, and the non-profit industrial complex is not the way we’re going to win.
DK: But you’re going to utilize it for this time period anyway?
PC: Yes. The non-profit industrial complex is not going to get us free, and the biggest thing is how do we ensure that in our non-profits, we’re actually fighting for black lives. That looks like hiring black people, building out black projects, and not being afraid to use the word “black.”
DK: Does Black Lives Matter have any plans on building anything in Ferguson, Missouri? The network?
PC: We are in connection with lots of groups in Ferguson. The group that we helped support the most was the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS), who we helped get a budget. They didn’t have a budget before the uprising. We see OBS as part of our network.
DK: We hear about how Black Lives Matter grew and flourished after the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. We also hear about how Black Lives Matter basically was started after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Does BLM have any projects planned for [Florida].
PC: Not the network. We don’t have any chapters there, but we do have groups that we feel are our strong strategic partners—like Dream Defenders who are doing amazing work.
I think the other thing that’s important is that the network is trying to be this thing that brings an alternative platform for a black left. An alternative platform for black people of all generations to show up to this current moment, and that can look like building a chapter, or having your own organization and being affiliated to the network, but it’s really about trying to get us stronger as a black left.
DK: A lot of people are critical of BLM—the movement, the network, all of it—because they say that you don’t really come out and protest when black people kill other black people. I understand the concept of state violence—how not just police violence but the conditions of life that black people are forced to live under are violent—and I understand that ultimately that is the source of intra-racial or black on black violence. Is that BLM’s position?
PC: Yes, and also it’s two-fold. One is that black people have been fighting against the harm in our communities forever. They’re dismissed. There’s been lots of folks historically who have showed up for black people. Most of our movement projects are about trying to mitigate the harm we cause to one another, and I think that’s really important [to know]. If you think about the Black Panther Party—they were gang members before they became the Panther Party. If you think about so many different truces that happened in the [Los Angeles] black community after the 1992 uprising and the cops broke that truce up. So there’s a way in which this conversation needs to start with “we have been fighting against the harm in our community.”
DK: Yes black people have always done that, but part of this criticism, if not the majority of it, is directed at you and BLM the network/movement
PC: What I’m saying is that BLM in and of itself—the network, the project, the process, the movement—is about mitigating harm in our communities
DK: Understanding everything that I’ve said and you’ve said, when BLM raises up as a crucial plank the visibility of black trans and black queer people, black trans people in particular because of the violence they have suffered, a lot of that violence is intra-racial. In other words, there’s a plank there for black trans people, but not a plank for black people in general around intra-racial violence.
PC: Yeah I hear that. I think in this context though, when we’re talking about trans folks, specifically, there’s never been a conversation about black trans people and that the reality is when people are talking about black on black violence they’re not actually talking about black trans people, they’re talking about black men, ”cis” black men. black-on-black violence is [usually] “cis” against “cis” and the reason why we’re uplifting black trans women in this conversation is because up until now, the only time black-on-black violence was acceptable was to kill black trans women, and so we have to uplift [them].
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