Black Lives Matter must run their own presidential candidate in 2016

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

When I first heard that #BlackLivesMatter activists decided to upstage 2016 presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Gov. Martin O’Malley at the Netroots Nation convention, I was intrigued. It was a ballsy and apropos move to convey the abject urgency of the movement’s central focus: ending the ongoing executions of black men, women and children at the hands of law enforcement. As 2015 speeds towards being one of the most memorable years of police shootings, the movement is screaming to the establishment that well-behaved patience is no longer possible — not now, when we are in a state of emergency.

Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Marissa Johnson’s bravery in confronting Sanders on stage must not be overlooked, especially to be as bold as to publicly call a liberal Democratic candidate to the carpet. Hell, listening to the outcry from black folks such as Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) who berated them and labelled their actions as “acts of verbal incivility,” further underscores their courage in denouncing racism, even if it upsets white progressives and oh-so respectable negroes.

With that said, I’m not too fond of interrupting any political candidate’s speech. It has nothing to do with respectability politics but more with what I consider an actual effective use of the political system. When Hillary Clinton spoke to BLM activists two weeks ago, she offered them a quick lesson in politics when she said, “I don’t believe you change hearts — you change laws.”

I’m tired of seeing black folks begging for the white establishment and mainstream America to recognize and find remedies to our problems. We can not expect them to suddenly feel our pain and champion our causes. We must be responsible for keeping our issues in public consciousness and providing legislative solutions to our social ills. And there is one straightforward way the BLM can accomplish both: having a candidate run in the 2016 presidential elections on the Black Lives Matter platform.

Look, I know reading that may have made some of you roll your eyes, face palm or lightly rub the side of your index finger across your forehead. But I promise you, the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. In fact, skeptic reaction to that idea would be very similar to how many responded just over 30 years ago — when Jesse Jackson launched his presidential campaign in 1984.

When Jackson announced he was running for president, he was almost immediately written off by pundits as nothing more than a sideshow that would immediately be crushed by the more polished and mainstream Democrats. His platform included ending the mandatory minimums in the “War on Drugs,” which he believed were racially biased, providing reparations to descendants of black slaves, strictly enforcing the Voting Rights Act, ratifying the Equal Rights amendment and fighting the Apartheid-era South Africa.

However, those were far from being his only political ideologies. He also believed in bringing universal health care to America, cutting the defense budget by as much as 15%, increasing punishments on criminal bankers and supporting the formation of a Palestinian state (topics still incredibly relevant today). Yet it was this “radical,” undersized and out-financed campaign that won five primaries and caucuses and finished third behind the former vice president and eventual nominee Walter Mondale and Sen. Gary Hart. The “little candidacy that could” put up impressive numbers in ’84 — and shocked skeptics again in 1988 with virtually the same platform.

The major takeaway from Jesse Jackson’s campaign shouldn’t just be numbers and poll results but how he forced his opponents, his party, the media, and the American people to confront our issues. No candidate was discussing Palestinian statehood, and Jackson’s campaign was not only the first to do that in history but he was also the first to address Arab-Americans as a constituency and galvanized them as a voting block. His opponents didn’t want to put issues disproportionately affecting African-Americans at the forefront of their campaigns, so Jackson did that with his and registered millions of new voters. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama would ultimately become beneficiaries of Jackson bringing so many black people into the voting pool.

The idea that the Black Lives Matter movement can advance their message and their scope by demanding the national attention, not by bum-rushing the stage, but through organized political action is not farfetched. What the movement would need is a candidate to get behind. A strong woman or man that can finesse the political scene without being beholden to the political structures that finance and then control “their” candidates. Someone with who can unapologetically articulate exactly what we and our allies are fighting for while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Clinton, Sanders, O’Malley, and possibly Joe Biden on the debate stage.

Once a candidate is selected, an all-encompassing platform must be created; one that includes ending police brutality, ending mass interaction, instituting criminal justice reform, protecting voter’s rights, and providing equal opportunities for all people — particularly minorities and the LGBT community. It would be the movement’s responsibility to support that candidate through blog posts, social media, canvassing, fundraising, and most importantly through their primary votes. Black Lives Matter has done such an excellent job at creating countrywide marches and protests that organizing behind a hand-picked candidate would be a logical next step.

We’ve become far too reliant on hoping that the establishment will look out for our best interests. We are a people with $1.3 million in buying power, and we possess the economic and political influence to enact real change. If we joined with our brown, white, Asian-American and LGBT allies and get behind an alternative candidate, imagine what we could accomplish. It wouldn’t be wholly important for the Black Lives Matter candidate to win. What would matter most is if he can develop a platform that later becomes absorbed by the American people and ultimately pushed to become tangible legislative change.

Or, we can trust that some white candidate will, and find our issues right back on the back burner while we discuss stupid shit like how to build a wall along the Mexican border.

Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site He’s an author of the book “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.

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