As the Democratic Party is reeling from the aftermath of the 2016 election and looking at better ways to reach out to progressives, black progressives are forming their own groups, setting aside their own space for fundraising and policy activism.
“There’s always been this longing for more support,” said Quentin James, a Democratic strategist behind one such group called Collective PAC. “[The Democratic committees’] objective is not to elect black people to office. It’s to elect Democrats. We have to build independent power outside of any party that prioritizes our values and issues as a community, and to do that I think you have to consider that the DNC is not the sole vehicle to create that pathway and progress.”
“There’s a coordinated effort to organize black money to get behind candidates and political initiatives, and if the DNC doesn’t follow through with these commitments, I can see these groups becoming stronger and black donors will start giving primarily to outside groups,” James said. “When that happens you have a much more leverage for demanding change.”
Jessica Pierce, the national co-chair of Black Youth Project 100, said that these groups see that there is a need at the infrastructure level to “essentially make us feel like we’re included” with not only policy but also resources and staffing.
“It’s like we’re in a bad relationship,” she said. “They say, ‘Hey, we hear you, we’re going to change.’ Then they do worse. I think this moment is us finally saying, ‘This is not working for us.’”
Tom Perez, the new chair of the DNC, praised the outside groups for their activism, saying in an email to BuzzFeed News, “For too long, the Democratic Party has told young people of color to take a seat at the table, sit down and shut up. That ends now. We need to weave their ideas, their energy, and their leadership into everything we do as a party.”
“We talk a lot about millennials and people of color being the future of our party, but frankly that future is now,” he added. “Across the country, young people of color are mobilizing to fight for Democratic values. Our job is to turn that energy into electoral success. And the only way we do that is by ensuring that our leadership reflects the communities we represent in every zip code.”