What We Need Now: Black Liberation
June 17, 2021
This Juneteenth we share hope and consider the freedoms we have, and we also invite activists to reflect on what that freedom means.
Buckle your seatbelts, or your bike helmet straps, and get ready for an exciting new episode by the What We Need Now crew at Greenpeace USA!
Freedom in America has been a fickle thing, if existent at all, for the majority of Americans. Whether we look at the Japanese internment camps, and the subsequent anti-Asian laws of the WWII era, the anti-immigrant sentiments that result in brutalization and family separation, or the long-lasting stain of slavery on American’s ledger we can all acknowledge that freedom has not come easily for most.
That is why we are taking a closer look at both the history and contemporary implications of the Juneteenth holiday and exploring what liberation looks, feels, and sounds like through the music of Angele Anise, poetry of M’reld Green and in conversation with our guest this month, Sophia Benrud, environmental justice organizer and co-founder of Black Visions Collective.
Juneteenth – established on June 19, 1865 – pays tribute to the day the last enslaved person got their emancipation in the United States.
A lot of times folks associate “freedom” and independence with the 4th of July or the Emancipation Proclamation and therefore question the purpose of the Juneteenth holiday. Though emancipation marked a key moment in American history, the grim reality is that even in those moments, not everyone was free.
The emancipation proclamation – established on January 1, 1863 – didn’t fully end slavery but rather created a recruitment pipeline for the Union Army. Which can be viewed as more of a military strategy from President Lincoln rather than a liberation ideology (but that’s a whole different podcast series). All that to say: some years later Juneteenth came along and finally ended slavery (“on the books”).
Though emancipation marked a key moment in American history, the grim reality is that even in those moments, not everyone was free.
You may be thinking “well that was in the past, not now! Let’s not dwell on that.” And while there is some truth to that statement, in a very abstract sense, talking about slavery doesn’t detract from the devastating impacts it had and how the fight for freedom in the past has a lasting impression on our present. This leads us to a common question, or sometimes rebuttal to why recognize Juneteenth now, that often gets raised in these conversations. The very clear answer we got from Sophia during the podcast is because “We are still here.”
The fact that even through the unimaginable horrors that Black people have faced in this country there is still room, nay we say necessity, to create joy and uplift the Black lives that are still here, still fighting back.
This episode covers a lot of different aspects of the Juneteenth holiday and the fight for Black lives in the United States but one note we made sure to hit home was the ongoing fights, from Black-led spaces, that everyone can plug into. From anti-incinerator campaigns to postpartum doula work to the Red, Black, and Green New Deal and even an exciting mapping project that Sophia is working on with a youth organizer. Each of these projects not only highlights grassroots leadership and brilliance but also the multitude of ways that each of us can be working together towards Black liberation which will inevitably lead us to environmental justice.
If you didn’t already get buckled in for this conversation we suggest you do so now because as we explore what the fight for justice and liberation means in 2021 we will be challenged to grow, do, and be better. Not for ourselves but for the communities and planet we fight for.
Don’t forget to listen to all of our episodes from Season 2!
- Red, Black, and Green New Deal
- Black Visions Collective
Call to Action
- Support the work of Black Visions Collective!
- Support the Red Black and Green New Deal Network by taking the pledge for the Black Climate Agenda and by donating to help support Black leadership and grassroots organizing in our communities.
Episode Resources/Further Reading
- Juneteenth Explained (VICE News)
- What is Juneteenth – and should it be a federal holiday in the US? (Guardian)
- Fossil Fuel Racism Report
- What is Juneteenth? (PBS)
- What The Emancipation Proclamation Didn’t Do (NPR)
Sophia Benrud (she/they):
Sophia Benrud is a Black multiracial queer community organizer, postpartum doula, and chef. Sophia is the environmental justice organizer and co-founder of Black Visions Collective, a Black-led, Queer- and Trans-centering non-profit organization committed to Black liberation. Sophia is a co-founder of Divine Natural Ancestry, a project that supports community through tools, supplies, and knowledge for growing food in BIPOC communities. Sophia is committed to transforming the current movement by centering communities directly impacted by climate and environmental, food, and healing justice while building stronger movements to break down systemic violence.
Yankee-Fried Southern Belle, Angèle Anise, born a singing, piano-&-ink pen addicted, guitar flirt, is here now to rock you, free you, move, & heal you, all wrapped in her own metallic bow. Fueled by blending genres, #ElectroSoulArenaRock, Angèle Anise’s soul goal is to evoke empathy around the world with words that stir heart strings straight and sonics that awaken minds. ….Indulge if you will -say (Ahn-JHELLE)…. (Ah-nise)
(pronounced like a block off Halsted) Poet M’Reld serves as an advocate for change and an artist responsible for her generation. M’Reld speaks the naked truth as she performs her poetry, speaking on a range of topics, which include social injustice, HIV/AIDS epidemic and everyday life issues. Her dedication to the generations to follow is shown through her daily teaching and working within several art programs linked to the Chicago Public Schools, and weekly events to support the knowledge and growth of youth. M’Reld is a staple within the Chicago community at events that promote peace and encouraging the students & leaders of the future to control their destiny
[music fades in]
oh oh mary don’t you weep
tell martha not to moan
been hearing freedom right around the corner for 400 hundred blocks
ancestors freed from slave catchers and they turned to cops
we remained as melanated even when the sun was blocked
it don’t matter how its decorated, we don’t want your box
for today decided not to give the pain another thought
my form of conservation count my blessings then I store em up
we don’t need another martyr we aint singing mourning songs
we gone throw it up or throw it back until the morning come
but wow fam.
dont 1865 look like now fam?
ain’t Galveston just like Chitown fam?
we ain’t playin around tho
never could crush our hope
rest in power Jordan Davis
turn my music loud for him
cuz we been here
trials and tribulations
jubilees and riots still
hope for peace like we all do
but still need more
hopefully this yr civilly
for what it’s worth
lead with love
yet born bold
here we are SO
we can celebrate
even thru the pain
we can celebrate
every days a gain
we can celebrate now
Ish: Hey yo, my name is Ish. I use he/him pronouns and welcome back to another episode of What We Need Now. Pretty sure you clicked on the title so you know we’re talking about today, but we’re going to get into a little bit about freedom and what that means for Black folks in the context of the Juneteenth holiday.
Jonathan: Hey fam, my name is Jonathan. I use they/them pronouns. You may remember me from earlier, the non-binary baddie from a previous episode this season. And that is exactly right, Ish. Juneteenth is an extremely important holiday for the world. But in particular, Black folks as we continue to wrestle with the idea of justice, freedom, liberation, all those complex things in the United States. I know a lot of times when we’re in conversations folks really associate freedom and independence with, like the 4th of July and the American flag. And all these things, and even the Emancipation Proclamation. But the grim reality is, even in those moments, not everyone was free.
Ish: Not free indeed. In the era of the movement for Black Lives, the continued attacks we see on Black and Brown communities and not to mention a year plus of a global pandemic. It’s not hard to find reasons to question what freedom and ultimately justice really means with everything going on.
Jonathan: Exactly and we’re going to take some time to get into all those pieces. Today we have a great guest speaker with us. I’m really excited about that will dive into. And in today’s episode we will be exploring this key question of what is freedom as the world celebrates the Juneteenth holiday and all that, it means.
Ish: Happy Juneteenth y’all. Let’s get it!
For Malcolm, Mumia,
and those that fought for Freedom
I say, “Ase unto you.”
For Malcolm, Mumia,
and those that fought for Freedom
I say, “Ase unto you.”
Ase, Ase, Ase, my lord
Ase, Ase, Ase
I say, Ase unto you
I am my ancestors wildest dreams
I am the last slave that got the news that we were free
Everyday is Juneteenth
Our blackness must be celebrated
For those that waited
And waded in waters
That refused the same fate for their sons and daughters
This is for the martyrs
The Philando Castilles.
The Emmet Tills
It still gives me chills
How the world stood still
and watched a cop kneel on George Floyd’s neck
Being Black, it sometimes get hard
But trouble don’t last always
You can’t deny the truth
No matter how they try to Central Park 5 our youth,
The proof is in the pudding
We do what they said we couldn’t
Change gone come
You can’t block the sun
Back of the bus
Back of the line
The sun still gone shine
“The 1st shall be last and the last shall be first”
They even say it in the book they used for enslavement
that “the meek shall inherit the earth”
I am my ancestors wildest dreams
I am the last slave that got the news that we were free
Everyday is Juneteenth for me
Jonathan: Welcome back y’all, we hope you enjoy that beautiful, beautiful selection as you all may have noticed, we cultured up in here and we actually have an opportunity to culture-fy you. That’s a word. I made it a word. But no, we really appreciate the words and amazing talent that we just heard from. And now as you all have been look forward to it’s on to the episode. It’s on to the interview. Again, me personally, I don’t want to be as the young folks say a “hype beast”, but we have an absolutely stellar guest joining us today. I’m excited. You should be excited, get excited. Ish take us in. Who we got with us today?
Ish: Oh, that’s right. I’m definitely excited. Today we have none other than to be amazing. The phenomenal that interstellar Sophia Benrud from Black Visions Collective. Sophia Benrud s a Black multiracial queer community organizer, postpartum doula, and Chef– Top Chef in the House–. Sophia is the environmental justice Organizer and Co founder of Black Visions Collective, a Black led queer and trans centering nonprofit organization committed to Black liberation. Sophie is also a co-founder of Divine Natural Ancestry, a project that supports community through tools, supplies and knowledge for growing food and BIPoC communities, and is committed to transforming the current movement by centering communities directly impacted by climate and environmental, food and healing injustice while also building stronger movements to breakdown systemic violence.
Ish: I almost added multiple periods but that’s an elipsis so we don’t need that no, there’s nothing else up for debate. That’s an exclamation point too. But with all that being said, Sophia, welcome, we’re excited to have you on. How are you doing?
Sophia: Hi. Uh wow, that was a really serious entrance. The hypest moment of my day thus far, and probably for the rest of my day. Maybe the week. Yeah, I’m good. Thank you for having me. I love y’all.
Ish: Of course we’re happy to have you.
Sophia: And I love Greenpeace.
Ish: And we love you too.
Jonathan: And for the listeners that was not a paid endorsement. We just want to say that off the bat that was that was not a paid endorsement. That was a genuine what, the kids say ‘organic.’ That was organic, reach there.
Sophia: So I just actually love Black climbers and I love Greenpeace because they taught me how to climb. So that’s really where the love comes from.
Jonathan: Yes sidenote, before we get into the questions. But yes I definitely also love Greenpeace climbing. That’s where I first met Sophia. Amazing and yeah, it’s exciting, exciting. I’m just excited y’all. I’m excited.
Ish: That’s dope, that’s dope. Look at those bonds being created. Cool, cool, well, we’re really happy to get you into the episode today. Let’s hear about you Sophia can you let us know? Give us an overview of your work with Black Visions Collective that you’ve done and also just what brought you to the work. What brought you to the space?
Sophia: Well, I’ve been cofounding Black Visions for now. What like three years? And I was the environmental justice organizer for two years. And what brought me to the work? One of my like most noticed entrance into like environmental justice organizing, specifically, was actually working on Line 3, and iit’s a fight that we’re still fighting today. And I don’t know, my parents were organizers. I have been around organizers my whole life and went through a period where I wasn’t around any, and then I was like, oh, oh **** I like organizing. I like holding conversations. I love education. I love political education. How am I understanding leveling up? And the entrance was honestly rough, to be honest. To learn all of the language and the lingo that is organizing was a rough entrance, but it has been a truly beautiful, transformative experience and cofounding Black Visions has been that as well. And transforming is not always cute. But I will say that it’s a powerful thing. And for that I’m just super deeply grateful to myself and my comrades in my community.
Jonathan: Yeah, I think I need to get a ”transforming isn’t always cute” tattoo. I’m like I’m getting like the shoulder region like that’s like the “live, laugh, love” yeah I’m bout to come out to get.
Ish: That’s about to be in my Amazon shopping cart. I need that on the wall, like I’m with it. That’s a very real, real statement. So with Black Visions Collective, with you co-founding that so obviously you talked quite a bit about Black liberation. So what is your articulation of Black liberation? And how do you see this as a part of the larger movement?
Sophia: I come from the framework of an understanding of Black queer feminism and the fact that like when Black queer trans women are free, like we will all be free. And I think I like to just reside in the space in place of like, what does liberation feel like and taste like and smell like to me instead of like exactly what it will be? You know, because I think
that it is going to be a compilation of many different people and many different fights and an ecosystem of building. And I don’t even think I can conceptualize like, what that is in full. But I have dreams, you know? Pisces moon out here…and I’m just like it tastes like curries and barbecues. And like all of the goodness of juicy mangoes and passionfruit and it smells like the cocoa butter and like fresh flowers and lilacs in the spring. You know? I just..like it feels like sun on the skin and like calm and peace in your heart. And like presence in your body and so for me that. That’s really kind of what, I always work towards, you know, in my own practices for my own self and also like what I want for you know everyone else. You know olive branches, leveling up, moving forward. And it also looks like sharing and you know like navigating space and having space and time to like actually be in deep connection with not only the people around me but also all the living pieces- all the way down to the soil and like really understanding that. So that’s what liberation is to me. It’s all the things.
Jonathan: I’m wondering. I’m wondering if we could get you on audiobook with Levar Burton. I’m just wondering that was such a beautiful answer and like when you’re talking about the cocoa butter when you talk about the passion fruit, all those things… and also transparency listeners (also, someone who is a Black queer feminist and that’s also my politic as well) thinking about like all the ways that like we’re trying to work to make that a reality in
the now. But also as you were saying, is this, like you know, it’s not always something we can tangibly feel. So I wonder if you could say a little bit more about like what that? Processes of just like wrestling with or like. I don’t know if wrestling is the right word, but you know, just like that. That kind of like tension of just like they’re the things that we want to like do and feel in the now, but then also working for the future.
Sophia: So I think it’s really hard as a Black person to vision sometimes, but one of like the people that Black Visions has worked with historically, Qui, a transformative justice practitioner, used to just be like, “Have y’all done it? Have you done the work,” you know? Did you sit down? Did you visualize this? What it tastes like? Feels like smells like? Um, and so you know every once in a while I’m like you know what I’m just gonna say I’m gonna sit in this room. I’m going to sit in the bathroom. Sit somewhere, and I’m going to, you know, and feel this out. And to sit next to this tree right now and actually slow myself down enough to feel it out. And I think it is hard. It is hard being in the middle of capitalism and white supremacy and patriarchy and all the other you know things, overarching things that we’re experiencing. But carving out that little moment to actually put the cocoa butter on my own skin or like even just sit there and like. So I went to herbalism school and to like sit there and like being a practice of like soaking my herbs in oil for weeks and then taking it out and like straining it and actually making body butter and like being in a practice of like deep care for my own self and my own body in my own being has really held space. For that vision, you know, and I admit, like I’ll, I’ll be. I won’t be the first one to cry. You know, but I will be the middle ground person that will cry and be like. This is really hard right now. You’re asking me to consider
something that, like I feel exhausted about right now. You know? As an abolitionist sitting with, you know, oh, this might not happen in my lifetime. But I’m just going to hand the baton over and over and over again. You know, keep handing these seeds down every time I hand these seeds down there a little bit more ready for the weather that’s coming for the next season. For the next growing season, so I think that’s where I sit with liberation is like that hope, that praxis and also community care. This whole self care thing is really pushing, has been really pushed and I think that there is more community care that could be pushed because it’s not just on us. This is about relationships. This is about building and this is about our future and our community resilience practices. So I think that like, I lean on my friends too in that those moments you know of, like talking about liberation with them. Experiencing it in our own dreams, and like art and our own personal like manifestations. Together.
Jonathan: I love that so much. If I could just follow up. And I promise, I’ll hand it back to you Ish. I’m just here, I’m just here as your copilot. I really, I really appreciate that and I think for me, as you were speaking and really on the piece of like slowing down just taking it to a quick serious note. Also, just want to take the moment in the platform to also uplift that, like I think like yeah, there’s a lot of community care that is needed, especially like for folks and for my loved ones and my comrades in DC, which is on unceded Piscataway land, we actually did just lose a member of our community. Nona Conner, a Black, trans woman. And just knowing how the pandemic has impacted all of us in knowing how like all these different components of like you know, we’re really are trying to like, especially as you mentioned as like Black people, we are trying to fight for these things in the now and that’s hard but also
just making that space for community care and so want to uplift Nona’s name as a member we just lost this week, but continue to strive to those things of community care and the larger pieces. So I just want to hop in before I get a little teary eyed. But I just want to hop in and really uplift that piece, but I really appreciate you naming them.
Sophia: We lost one and we gained one. Over and over, you know gotta I’m gonna hold that name on these ancestral prayers and have some conversations. Thank you for naming that.
Ish: Love that, “we lost one, but we gained one.”
Sophia: Yes, sending love to DC.
Ish: Well, we appreciate it, so it’s really good stuff. Already like we got liberation going, heard a little bit about Sophia and what’s popping in their works but we gone transition a little bit. We gone get into the title of the episode we’re going to talk a little bit about Juneteenth. And just a quick quick history for some of the listeners out there of Juneteenth. It’s been around since June 19, 1865. This was after the Emancipation Proclamation when Union soldiers actually had troops go to Texas to let people know that slaves were now free and the Civil War had just ended. So that happened over 150 years ago. Seems like so long ago, and also not that long ago, especially considering the state that we’re in so um bridging to the next question that I have Sophia. What does Juneteenth represent? What does it mean to you?
Sophia: Juneteenth to me represents some light. Some shedding of light up of transition of steps, forward of the actual river moving. You know? The work. And Juneteenth is like a deep breath and like a piece of joy, and I feel like it’s ours. It’s our day to hold space for the truth of what, what it really is. I honestly think it’s like kind of dark. At the same time, ’cause the lies! The lies packed behind the truth, you know, and what does it take? What does it really take to shed light upon like freedom? You know it’s like Black Death. Wars. So it’s a day that I hold a lot of joy, but I hold a lot of duality in the fact that we have been through so much, we’re going to continue to go through so much, and that day is like that space to actually move through like those conversations and hold space for all of the emotions that come with that history.
Ish: Yeah, I love that. I really, really love that and especially for me, like as a person. I’ve known about Juneteenth since I was a kid, and then to go to an HBCU, and then to hear, like a lot of people did not really know
about the holiday was kind of heartbreaking and also what you just said like how we’re still like the lies behind it like that was over 150 years ago. And to see the state of Black America today. Like we’re still like, “wow, is this freedom?” Like is this what was promised to us in the beginning? And yeah, what you said is really resonating and I want to, just like throw that in there really quick ’cause ’cause damn.
Sophia: It is a box and people keep decorating it. I’m like I don’t want your redecorated box like I want to rip your box apart at the seams and actually build something that that I want that we want that we have co-created together and I feel like we’re just still sitting in this box. It just has cute things on it. You know, maybe some plush toys inside.
Jonathan: And I also love how you mentioned like you use the framing specific like this is our day our which I’m inferring mean Blacks with two “Esses” Black people. But like yeah I. I think what that brings to mind to me is especially on that point is like I think a lot of times we see Black Friday, Thanksgiving, Easter, Mother’s Days for goodness sakes, right? Everything is so commodified and so much you know, is put into that for that marketing and we’re seeing like the same thing happened with the Juneteenth. It’s like, now, you know, where it’s just like? It’s like again, like you said, it’s like I don’t. I don’t want your box. And now people are just like, “now you can get the box for $9.99” and it’s just like I think the irony of like what the holiday actually represents and then like as we’re seeing this like wave of like people like just taking it in a different direction.
Sophia: I think about that a lot with Black Lives Matter signs. Like I never wanted your sign. OK I have never wanted your sign. And the “matter” is the minimum right? And I’m like, but did you show up to this thing? Are you actually showing up for Black people in your life? Are you in relationship
with Black people. Like what is this you know, look like? What does your sign look like? OK, you know? Like what does this mean to you in like real action. And you know, cheers to Pedagogy of Oppressed because I am very passionate about praxis and it didn’t start there and it won’t end there. But I just think it’s like what are you really doing? I want to see. I want to see what you’re really doing with that.
Ish: Yeah, we’re going to dig further into the idea of celebrating Black freedom in the context of the reality of Black America in just a second. But first, we’ll do a quick ad break,
Ad Break: “…..who brought this Freedom?”
- Darwin: Hey Regal!! How you doing on today? how the kids?
- Regal: Good good! You know they hard-headed as usual. But I’m maintaining per usual. Speaking of maintaining, let me maintain the appetite. Can I get some food?
- Darwin: Yeah, yeah! Go ahead and treat yoself you grown.
- Angie: Hey family, how ya’ll doing? Mmm…It’s ya Auntie Angie lemme get some of this food it looks *spits in disgust* Eww! What is this? Who made this dish? Whose freedom is this? Pointing and looking at all of yall
- Darwin: Yeah thats nasty….I’m a be honest I almost threw that plate away
- Regal: Ewww is right. I can smell it from here. Who brought this?? I know you got better home training than this!
- [Additional Ad Libs in the background]
- Darwin: Oh, Look look! I see the grill master Curtis is here. Finally, someone who can help sort this out. We know you’re the grill master. Can you PLEASE help us on this?
- Curtis: [laughs] Oh snap! I just got here and y’all are already fussing. Why y’all over here making all this noise? You better not be messing up that freedom. You know I’ve been waiting ALL week to get on this grill.
- Darwin: I gotta say I wish you wouldn’t have waited so long because as you can see Someone messed up the freedom before WE [emphasizing] all got here.
- Regal: I know that’s right! It definitely messed up because it is so dry pff” Aint got no flavor or anything. My taste buds and my ancestors have been disrespected.
- Angie: And unseasoned…(ugh!) What kind of makeshift cutting corners recipe did this person use? They definitely get it from my Mama, my auntie or my grandmother. It is so bland! Freedom? they call it freedom, sounds more like confinement.
- Regal: Whew chile! And what is that hitting the back of my throat? It tastes like prisons? Like private prisons” Oh no we can’t have that
- Darwin: I was choking on something. Tastes Like the 13th amendment
- Angie: They put in a few dashes of college debt in there
- Curtis Oh nah. that’s like generational oppression right there. It tastes like every child was left behind. Well y’all don’t have to get all riled up about it. Regardless of whose it is…and we won’t point fingers…CLEARLY this freedom was here before we got here and it ain’t right.
- ALL: I know that’s right!
- Curtis: And since we need this freedom done right…let just make some from scratch. I’ll get it started, how yall take yall freedom?
- Darwin: See now that’s what I’m talking about. OK so so for mine you gotta have a really big helping of reparations
- Angie: right, that’s right, and mine has to have some ability for all my sons to be able to freely walk down the street.
- Regal: Yeah, and I can’t have mine if you don’t put some healthcare up in it, you know I gotta keep my Megan Thee Stallion knees strong and it’s best served without terms and conditions …
- Angie: hello? And my freedom isn’t complete without universal access to pre-K as well as higher education.
- Darwin: See and a lot of a lot of people don’t know about this, but Ilike to throw some Co-ops in there
- Regal: Oh yeah, yeah, that’s why I love me som Co-Ops and just like my mom’s good cobbler, you gotta have no family separation up in there too
- Curtis: And you know I gotta keep some of that BLM barbecue. So I got a little dash of that Black Lives Matter juice all over it.
- Angie: Oh man, I gotta saturate my dish with a little bit of homegrown good old food justice, just like Grandma’s garden
- Regal: Oh yeah, yeah. And you know with a little bit of accent like the parsley on the side I gotta have the housing justice too real spicy.
- Darwin: Yeah and some Lawry’s, some Lawry’s in there and some smashing the patriarchy.
- Curtis: OK alright now! I see y’all like yall freedom done right!
- Jasmine/Narrator: So while the freedom we are offered now comes with terms and conditions, that just means we can collaborate in the kitchen to create freedom that is suitable for all. There can never be too many cooks in this kitchen.
Ish: Alright, welcome back everybody. So we’re going to keep this thing going. Hope you enjoyed that wonderful ad. Juneteenth is in the building. Juneteenth is here strong and we gonna keep this conversation poppin. But this next question I have is kind of it’s a bit heavy. I do want to know like in a world filled with so much chaos and Black death. What does it mean for us to pause and actually celebrate Juneteenth the holiday?
Sophia: Yeah, I think I mean why not? We are still here. It’s still happening. We still have to like participate in resilience practices. It’s like one of the things we do have power of is our joy, so why not conjure it? Why not hold space for it? Why not hold space for all of our emotions and like…Take a break? I mean, that’s exactly what white supremacy capitalism wants to do right? Is keep working, smooth it on, feel bad, feel sad, feel down. Feeling like we’re drowning, all the things, so why wouldn’t we barbecue for a day? Why wouldn’t we hang out with our family for a day? You know? I think I’m just like hey if you have the day off or you get off of the day sometime like why not practice a little moment of celebratory joy. You know? so I don’t know. I think I think Juneteenth is also like an opportunity. Just connect, you know, make your ecosystem a little bit stronger. I was actually down at George Floyd Square last year on Juneteenth and It was very beautiful, though there was a pandemic and I was very well masked and had many different sprays to wipe down my hands with and all the other things, I just felt so whole being in a space with a bunch of other Black folks that were like truly deeply celebrating something that was theirs. Like I don’t. I don’t want to sit there and listen to fireworks on July 4th. I don’t care. Don’t care, never will care but I will definitely listen to them with a bunch of Black folks. And I know that we’re like held. And there’s like an actual security team that is like Black people actually leaning into community safety and like eating together, hanging out and sharing space and telling stories. So I’m just like, why wouldn’t we celebrate? You know in this is– this is…part of liike honoring the deaths of Black folks is like saying, hey, we’re going to continue to fight. We’re going to continue to be here and like we’re going to continue to like, actually participate in joyous moments together and community build, ’cause, that’s exactly what we need. So who’s going to barbecue with me this year?
Jonathan: Yes I love that! You know, First off, First off it is. It is still a panDemi Lovato (slang for pandemic). It is still a panorama. There’s still Panasonic. It is still a Panini outside, so I may not be there with you in person. Uh-huh but blessings. I’m gonna send blessings and I can be there virtually, but…More power!
Sophia: We need to start the whole thing. Virtual BBQ it up. We can all play the same songs. Hang out, put our little phone out and like sit on the little zoom calls that we could just wave at each other in each other’s backyards. Be like what’s up, you know.
Ish: I’m sure we got the same cookout playlist too.
Sophia: Yes! Following this podcast
Jonathan: The image of Beyoncé “Before I let you go”. Beyoncé, “Before I let you go”, and everyone doing the little little 4 count in their own living rooms, I love it. I love it, yeah.
Ish: Well, in that case, what work lies ahead for the movement? Like what do you think justice can look like for Black communities?
Sophia: Justice can…look like many things for Black communities, but one thing I would like to see is the abolition of the police. I just, I truly, deeply believe that the police are upholding so many different violent systems and are fear mongering and so for me justice looks like them just not existing. For me, justice looks like money being moved into actual real community led safety, you know? And that looks like real healthcare, you know, not the bum… we’re gonna pay a bunch of money into this thing. I’m just like universal health care for all. Why are we spending all the money on the militarized police when like we could have healthy people out here? Holistically healthy people, right? Even just from like my postpartum standpoint, it’s just like doula standpoint. It’s like, why do we have such high Black Death from birthing? That’s ridiculous. That’s absolutely ridiculous. So that looks like justice to me. Wellness, real care by Black people for Black people in ecosystems, with many others and it’s culturally competent in all the different ways that we are actually calling for and it’s led by every single community ’cause what Texas needs is not exactly the same as what Minnesota needs. You know, and we all know what we need in our communities. Know what we need? And so I just I feel like that’s that’s what justice is, and I think that every community an like Black people are not a monolith like Black people are going to figure out what they need and what justice looks like to them in many different ways. But I just think this starting with the abolition of the police is a good point to start with and in conjunction to that the cages in which they use to capture people in and the prison industrial complex as a whole.
Jonathan: Bars. One word listeners, “bars”. Yeah no I appreciate that so much. ’cause I think a lot of times like the popular movement people or like people in different platforms. I’ll say it like that so I don’t get the hate mail. But like I think there’s people like in movement who often talk about. Like you know there is no justice when a life was taken right? Which is which is accurate statement right? But like what what justice can look like like we were saying is like this the measures that we’re doing to invest in our communities. Which actually, the only reason I’m talking is for a quick plug for our previous episode on Food Justice where we’re talking about what it could look like to get healthy food for our communities. Holistic so, so I love that ’cause they have. Like really, what? What could, what could the future look like when our communities have what they need to like, not just like scratch by but like actually thrive.
Sophia: Right? Real food, sovereignty.
Jonathan: So on that piece of like justice for our community. Yes, on abolition, yes, all these pieces. Another kind of thing that like we really want to like. Dig in with folks is like what are like some of like the major campaigns that we’re seeing or like kind of calls to action that we’re seeing like we really want to rally people around. I know that at the top if folks go back to the top you listed off like the 57 1/2 different things that you’re doing because you’re amazing and a baller and of those things I know you’re working on a lot of different areas. Whether it’s farming, the postpartum doula work, so on and so forth and so yeah, like I think it’s like. What are the things we’re trying to push for? So I know for me one of those things is the Red, Black, and Green New Deal, which I know that you know, we’re one of the working group for, you and I, Sophia. And then there’s a little bit of work there, but I know that that that’s like a concrete where we’re like Black folks are leading and building out structure and infrastructure. A climate agenda to actually like figure out like as Black folks who are often counted out in the environmental conversation. Here’s actually what a plan to like actually help our communities looks like. And then here’s all the people who should be in leadership and who you should be empowering. So I’m wondering like what are like kind of top things that come to mind when you’re thinking about like justice in our Community, Juneteenth, this is an opportunity for us to celebrate. Or like where are the places where we could could be celebrating uplifting?
Sophia: I mean yes to the Red, Black, Green, New deal. Yes to the Black Farmers Act. Yes to….I mean, there’s just so much organizing happening. I mean, I only work a little bit nationally. Predominantly, I work locally and we’re working on incinerator campaign so we have the second highest amount of incinerators in the United States in our state. And so we’ve been working on shutting down the HERC incinerator. It’s in the middle of downtown. The air blows directly into one of the largest populated like Black areas in Minneapolis. It’s like it’s COVID (times). Why wouldn’t you shut it off? Why wouldn’t you shut it down? You know, we’ve been pushing for that for a long time, so I’m just like cheers and sparkles or whatever you like biodegradable sparkles because we don’t do all that down the drain. But definitely yeah, plugging all the incinerator work ’cause I know Detroit has done some really. Powerful amazing things on incineration and we just had a like amazing phone call with them a couple of weeks ago. And we at Black Visions have peoples Fast forward campaign, actively defunding the police in Minneapolis and also working on a ballot initiative to get our charter changed locally so that we can actually not have police, because right now it says that we have to have police a certain amount of police based on the population. And I know there’s a lot of work around like the whole United States and beyond that of people fighting with very many different tactics in regards to like whatever their version of a charter maybe. And I’m like I have a little cheers, Kudos, plug to the 17 year old I’m working with. Her name is Alexis and we’re working on a mapping project together of mapping BIPOC farmers in the Midwest. Because ya, I feel like the Midwest has been a little forgotten. OK, the organizers in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis. You know folks are out here and the Dakotas and people are fighting for climate change in their own way. We’ve never had possums in Minnesota before. OK, why are there possums in Minnesota? It’s climate change, so we have a beautiful, amazing people fighting. And you know, pesticides and big farming. You know industry. Big Ag in the Midwest and I’m always plug in the Midwest. I tell everyone they should just move to Minnesota.
Jonathan: Love the Midwest. What I’ll say is is is a quick shout out to Saint Louis. I will say there’s a quick shout out to Saint Louis. To this day, one of the most powerful NVDA which is nonviolent direct action trainings I’ve ever gotten to this day was hosted by the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS). While everything was going on in Ferguson. So like, yeah, shout Saint Louis shout to the Midwest, shoutout to Black people. ’cause Black people are everywhere everywhere.
Sophia: There are Black people everywhere, like happy Juneteenth. You know, I’m saying like Black people everywhere, not a monolith. We are spread out and also no like recognize that freedom here is also freedom everywhere else and Black people are all around the world. This is global right? Our our freedom, our resilience is deeply connected and intertwined to the freedom of our siblings all over everywhere. ’cause Black people are everywhere. Beyoncé said we were, you know who runs the world, and I’m like, you know, Black people.
Jonathan: Yes, absolutely, and I will. I will absolutely affirm anytime we have a Beyoncé reference, absolutely, but I would love to talk if you could share a little bit more about the incineration campaign. I know that years ago I want to say that in the 90s, maybe the 80s or 90s, a Greenpeace did some anti incinerator work and I know that’s like really like powerful in like has a direct impact on Community, so I wonder if you could say a little bit more about that process and also specifically just because I know like we’ve had a slight conversation about this previously about like you know, trash just doesn’t disappear, you know, and and and it lives with us.
Sophia: Yeah, I don’t know why people think that it is not compost. Plastic does not compost y’all. OK and compost is not something disappearing either. It’s transforming and changing something into something that’s useful. I, incinerators, they’re terrible. The incinerator locally here gives renewable resource credits so they actually don’t have to pay as much taxes. Incinerators, burn trash our incinerator, burns, trash from all over and predominantly from the suburbs where most of the white people live. So we’re breathing in the air that a lot of other people that are using and consuming mass amounts of things and it’s just getting burned and put into the air. It’s not disappearing, it’s going into our lungs. That’s why Black people have the highest rates of asthma in the United States and it is per, they are predominantly placed by Like indigenous Black like people of color’s homes in like places where they reside and GAIA. An organization was the one that gave us the grant to start working on this. People have been fighting our incinerator for about 30 years now. They’re supposed to age out at about 20 or 30 years, so it’s old. It needs to be gone and taken down and really honestly, the biggest solution for incineration and trash in general is zero waste and how do we actually shift our relationship to consumption overall? And also it’s not our job as singular people. This is a corporate issue. You know. They need to actually reformulate how they make zip locks like, why don’t you reformulate and rework? You know how you’re actually creating the product that consumers are buying? Because we know that we need certain things to live, but I don’t need plastic on the outside of every single toilet paper you know, wrapper on top of another piece of plastic to bundle it together. It’s actually ridiculous. I know they have better ways of doing this. Why didn’t you just wrap it in paper? It’s for convenience and it’s not for the convenience of us so. Its for the convenience of them, so I really encourage like analyzing, thinking through how we can actually push Target, Walmart, fossil fuel industry as a whole, all these different groups you know to actually make and create products that are better for us. You know and for our, all living things.
Jonathan: Yes and real quick. I really appreciate you taking a moment to dive into that because it’s it’s. It’s really important. And yeah, specifically uplifting the fact that like more often than not. We are in these situations where high wealth communities, primarily white communities, are having their trash burn in these incinerators that are directly impacting Black and brown communities, and these folks are directly breathing in plastics, microplastics and that potato salad with raisins in it. And that’s not OK. That’s not OK.
Sophia: With the raisins. I just want to add one more thing about incinerators. I know I’ve gone this long thing. I people are just like OK, then what do we do? What do we do with the trash? You know we’re just going to bury it in the ground. We’re just going to have more. We’re just going to where we going to throw it. We’re just going to put in the ocean and it’s like actually know like none of those are solutions. You know, Greenpeace is been fighting against all the trash in the oceans for years and also burying stuff in our soil is definitely not going to help. So yeah, zero AC on the way, compost and supporting and pushing for like real political education for people to understand in depth. You know what solutions are actually available and how we can support and push for accountability in those ways.
Jonathan: Yes, yes, come on accountability. Come on, come on, Wig snatched. And one last thing. Well, let’s say for accessibility. I want to come back and explain myself a little bit more and I really appreciate you taking that time. ’cause it’s yeah I think it was well worth it taking time and kind of hear a little bit more about the campaigns that you’ve been working. As well as a little bit more specifically about this incinerator issue, because it impacts so many different communities across the so-called US. But the Red, Black and Green New Deal is a network of Black individuals, organizations as well as there’s an allied network that supports. That is really grounded in the reality and the urgency of the moment of like what has to be done to like protect the health of Black and brown communities. Because as Sophia said earlier, coming from a Black queer feminist lens and politic understand that if we actually work for and make life better for the folks at the margins, that actually helps to make life better for everyone. Right, and so those are the people that were fighting for and with and following the leadership of and this network is grounded in a 9-point plan. We love a good bullet. 1 is honor the water, two is democratize energy. Three is free the land. Four re imagine and redefined Labor. 5 end extractive economies and restore stolen Black capital. Come on reparations. The next is advanced democracy for the people in planning. The next is root in the eye. I lost ast account of tracking. So I don’t want to look silly, but the next is root in the right to breathe again. What Sophie’s talking about that right to clean air at the last two are declaration of climate and racial. See understand that this is a moment to act and then also Global South solidarity understanding that like when you buy an iPhone, when you when you go get a laptop whenever you do that, you know it’s just not something that like impacts your community. It reaches, far reaching so we will have links to all these things available for folks in our follow-up blog. But I did want to go back and do that and just encourage people to like. Check out these campaigns in other campaigns because there there’s endless opportunity for folks to get engaged in this work, and I think that’s really important to uplift. But definitely be following the leadership ’cause we’re talking about Juneteenth of Black folk.
Ish: Absolutely, absolutely. I think you’re both Jonathan, Sophia for dropping those gems and sharing out of that as well. Feel free to check that out. We’re gonna have more links and we’re going to have more things to tell you about. But before we closeout, this episode covered quite a bit on. There is one question that we do ask all of our guests, so Sophia, what do you think we need now?
Sophia: I feel really hard. I feel like this is a hard question because I feel like everyone needs something different right now. And I also feel like I can’t speak for all Black people and what we need right now. I can speak for what I see. You know what I’ve experienced, and I think something that we’re fighting for in and folks all up and down the Mississippi you know are fighting for is like against pipelines were fighting for water, clean water, clean air. Were fighting for our lives in so many different ways. But I think that you know after this pandemic something we might all need except for the people that don’t like to be touched is a good hug. And some good food that’s not ordered in, to your house. And maybe a CSA share because CSA shares were started by Black people in the 1st place. But yeah, I think I think what we need is just to have more time and maybe our time to reformulate it because I think what I deeply desire is to actually build and commune and share space with more Black people. All Black people, yeah? And some sleep and some naps. That’s what I’m thinking about right now. And I hear it from my friends too, and community members and people surrounding me so I don’t have an answer for the whole. But I can answer for some.
Ish: Yes, all of that. I am here for it. I’m a hugger too so when I’m allowed to hug people and people are allowed to say yes to those things I’m coming in, I’m ready. I’m so ready. Well, Sophia thank you. Oh, this is so great. We really, really appreciate having you on the podcast, episode for Juneteenth. It was amazing. Just want to share things really quickly.
Sophia: Yeah, thank you for having me all. It’s been absolutely lovely and also. The best podcast experience I’ve had thus far in my lifetime, so I have a deep appreciation and gratitude for each and everyone of you and all that you do. So thank you for holding space.
Jonathan: Appreciate there. Absolutely absolutely. I’m working on accepting compliments, so I’m gonna. I’m going to resonate with that and just say thank you in the moment. And yeah, just checking back in one more time. Is there anything else that you want to say? Anything else like? No pressure, pressure, 0 pressure.
Sophia: I just want to say that no organization, no no one, Black person, no Black people are alone. You know we are an ecosystem and ecosystems, thrive and strive on deep connections. And it’s like a ripple. You know, when something is off in one piece of the ecosystem, other pieces of the ecosystem work to find balance. So we aren’t alone and just recognize when like you are short on time or like your organization has needs or you have needs or your political home like there is so much more to our ecosystem than just that present moment and just you. And we’ve got each other. We keep going and we keep moving and we keep throwing it back. You know, when, when we get a chance to.
Ish: We want to thank Sophia again for joining us on this episode of what we need now. It was truly a pleasure to have her join for this very important conversation.
Jonathan: Absolutely yes, big ups to Sophia for joining us and we appreciate all the knowledge you dropped on us. And again, if you haven’t already, please please please follow and support Sophia and Black Vision collectors work. Its important work. It’s Black led work. Yeah, we always talk about supporting Black folks. Supporting us in this movement, thats a key way to do it, and they’re doing some really great work. And again, you can find those links in our blog and social media posts when this episode goes live.
Ish: Absolutely everyone hit up them socials please. It’ll be great, and we also want to remind everyone that although there are many paths to a more just future, it’s gonna take all of us fighting together to get there. No matter your age, gender, ethnicity or anything. We are all needed in the fight for Black Lives
Jonathan: Point blank Period.. Whether it’s environmental justice, racial justice, data, justice. There’s a place for everyone in the movement be following the leadership of Black folks, Indigenous folks folks who are directly impacted by all these things that we’re facing and make sure you’re joining a local organization support the work and the leadership of Black and brown folks, right? Like I’m gonna say that again. Support the work and leadership of Black and brown folks again as we continue to work for what we talked about today. Freedom, for Justice, and liberation and ultimately being on the right side of history.
Ish: And that’s all for now,
Jonathan: but we will see you next time on…
Jasmine and Lauren: What we need now.
here we stand
of the truth
of our path
by the prayers
and the hopes
of days past
still on guard
peace a luxury
rarely afforded to us
we can celebrate
even thru the pain
we can celebrate
every days a gain
we can celebrate now