Black Youth Project 100 – Fighting for Liberation Here & Abroad

Except 5 from The Executed God:

My publisher, Fortress Press, has agreed to allow me to post segments of the forthcoming new edition of my book, The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America (now just out). These posts will be altered a bit for appearing here at my website, with some deletions and even additions made here. Please know that these advance postings will look a bit differently, and have the benefit of context, when read within the argument of the whole book. Click on above art for full display of book cover. Many groups are rising up to end police violence in the U.S. this October of 2015. My excerpt here is from a section of the book on “Demilitarizing U.S. Police,” in which I discuss the approach and importance of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100). For more on BYP100 see here and here, too. For their latest direct action protesting the past week’s International Police Chiefs Conference in Chicago, go directly to their #StopTheCops site . They are busy! [above right, is the logo for the Black Youth Project]

In the wake of the not-guilty verdict for the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 one hundred black young activists formed BYP100 as part of what the group described as the “resurgence of national Black liberation organizing to transform the society in which we live.” The organization works with a “Black queer feminist lens,” thus deploying in action an assemblage of complex political views and strategies, aiming “to equip young people with a clear set of public policy goals to organize toward and win in their local communities.”[1] Referring to the ways struggles for sexual liberation intersect with those for racial justice, women’s freedom, and justice for the repressed poor and immigrant communities, one activist working with BYP100 stated, “Our resistance is a living of intersectionality.”[2] The BYP100 has built chapters in Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City, and the Bay Area for achieving its aims.

I first encountered BYP100 when attending, as a supporter, the group’s  “Die-In” action outside Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall Office. It was held in 2014 on the day after the Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch, in Ferguson, Missouri, announced there would be no indictment of the police officer who had killed Michael Brown. BYP100 announced itself as “seeking not a movement, but more importantly a cultural revolution.”[3] Their “Die-In,” lying prostrate for a time outside the Mayor’s Office, was part of a 28-hour sit-in protest (“28 hours” for the interval within which at least one youth of color is shot by police in the U.S.).

The “Die-In” also included periodic Teach-Ins for the some two hundred Chicago supporters, mostly youth, who also showed up. The Teach-Ins were built off the group’s public policy and demands document, Agenda To Keep Us Safe, a concise statement of problems constituting the criminalization of black youth, calling for seven crucial transformations: (a) increased community oversight and accountability of law enforcement, (b) repeal of “crimes of youth laws” which treat youthful misbehavior as public crime, (c) controls on police use of body-cameras, (d) increased Department of Justice enforcement of existing civil rights law, (e) demilitarization of police, and (f) ending the war on drugs, particularly decriminalizing marijuana. In each of these areas BYP100 offers a crisp statement of the problem, stakes out its own policy position on that problem, and then points to models for redressive legislation. The mix of savvy and knowledge, with courage and placement of their bodies on the line in direct action civil disobedience and other creative actions, makes the group particularly striking as an example of the counter-theatric to state terror presented throughout this book.

But BYP100 is especially exemplary in the ways it organizes knowledge and action for confronting the militarization of their U.S. neighborhoods. They also offer a pathway for opening up international dimensions of resistance in U.S. neighborhood struggle.

For one example of this international consciousness, BYP100 names the Department of Defense 1033 Program of Homeland Security, which has “armed local and state law enforcement agencies with the weapons and tactics of war,” turning their local communities into “war zones with police officers as the occupying force and community residents as the enemy combatants.”[4] They buttress this claim by explicitly foregrounding the ACLU’s study, War Comes Home, and other analyses.[5] With BYP100’s pointing to this military dimension of city neighborhood police presence (“occupation”), the group makes thinkable the role of U.S. global power in their local U.S. neighborhoods. It also makes thinkable the need to address racialized police violence in the U.S. as more than a national problem. When BYP100 scrutinizes the U.S. Department of Defense and its military equipment, it frames the national problem in a larger global theater of operations within which repressive powers in the U.S. are operating, and within which also U.S. activists need to operate. The military repression of black and brown peoples has a long tradition in the U.S. and North America generally, but abroad, too, as the “black and brown” have long suffered brutal colonization in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. As a second example of the international consciousness, then, not surprisingly, the BYP100 also declares their solidarity with immigrant groups in the U.S., as they did in their 2014 Die-In action in Chicago.

This solidarity with immigrants is also reflected in the language of other groups in the #blacklivesmatter movement, which show solidarity by exposing “How 500,000 Black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows.”[6] With this declared solidarity, black descendants of forced “migrant” slaves in the Americas join with other communities of color in the U.S., particularly from Latin America, Africa, Asia, West Asia (the “Middle East”) and from other global regions that suffer from the rigors of militarized neoliberalism.

This kind of solidarity by black groups with immigrant groups in the U.S., and focused on U.S. military imperial projects abroad, seems all too rare in other groups. This is unfortunate, because the dragnet of militarized policing today catches up in its web those who are black, Latino and Latina, Asian (North- and South-east) and Arab-American – and those from nearly all communities of color.[7] With this gesture in solidarity with immigrant groups in the U.S., made so clearly by BYP100, allow me to transition to discuss the notable struggles of immigrant groups themselves who are forging their resistance. [The chapter continues with analysis of immigrant youth resistance movements today, which are also challenging the destructive alliance of U.S. global military power and its local security apparatus.]

[1] The quotations above are from Charlene A. Carruthers, “Letter from the BYP100 National Coordinator,” in Terrance Laney and Janaé Bonsu Agenda to Keep Us Safe (Chicago: BYP100, 2014), accessed June 21, 2015,

[2] Personal communication with author, March 12, 2015.

[3] J. Coyden Palmer, “Youth Protest Ferguson Decision Peacefully,” The Christian Crusader, November 29, 2014, accessed June 21, 2015, .

[4] Laney and Bonsu, Agenda to Keep Us Safe, 18.

[5] Ibid., 23.

[6] “About Us,” #blacklivesmatter, accessed July 8, 2015, The figure is actually more than 600,000, according a 2013 study that finds that 16% of the 3.8 million black immigrants in the U.S. to be “unauthorized.” See, Monica Anderson, “A Rising Share of the U.S. Black Population is Foreign Born,” Pew Research Center, April 9, 2015 (accessed August 1, 2015), .

[7] Tram Nguyen, We are All Suspects Now: Untold Stories from Immigrant Communities after 9/11 (Boston: Beacon Press, 2005).


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