‘Our Black Party’ political organization aims to empower Black voters

EXCLUSIVE: A new coalition aims to push the Black agenda forward in the 2020 elections and beyond

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

For decades, Black voters have had few choices in deciding on political affiliation. But a new political organization called Our Black Party (OBP) looks to give the Black Diaspora a better choice going forward and aims to make an impact on the 2020 elections.

theGrio spoke exclusively with OBP national co-chairs Hyattsville, Maryland Mayor Candace Hollingsworth and Dr. Wes Bellamy about what inspired the launch of the political organization, who it is for ideally, what impact it may have on the 2020 elections, and key points of its agenda. 

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Candace Hollingsworth, mayor of Hyattsville, Maryland. (Photo: Facebook)

Dr. Bellamy shared that he and some of the founders of OBP, including Mayor Hollingsworth and the Honorable Lea Webb, had been talking about starting the political organization for quite some time. But it was the civil unrest we saw earlier this year that inspired the collective to launch the organization.

Read More: Black gun ownership rises after pandemic and protests

“For that reason, we decided that we will move forward in terms of creating our own political party, our own political platform,” Dr. Bellamy told theGrio.

“And it’s very simple: we live by this motto ‘before you were a Republican, before you were a Democrat, before you were an Independent, you were Black. And it’s important for us to center our needs and the wants of our community.”

Charlottesville, Virginia City Councilman Dr. Wes Bellamy addresses protesters in support of Confederate monuments in 2016. (Photo: Faceoook)

Despite the name, OBP isn’t just for Black people. “Our name indicates that we’re leading with Black, and then thinking about the issues that are affecting Black people in the United States,” the mayor of Hyattsville, Maryland, told theGrio.

“By the same token, I think there’s a collective understanding that when you value Black life and you honor Black existence, you are also impacting the lives of everyone else.”

Mayor Hollingsworth, who never aspired to be an elected official, but loves the role she is in, explained how her personal political journey led her to OBP.

“Getting involved with (OBP) and being a part of the leadership team and helping to structure our strategy is also a way for me to hold myself accountable and to continue to keep the needs of my community at the top of my mind and not be comfortable in the incremental of policies and politics that have become so common in our democracy,” she explained.

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When asked what impact OBP may have on the 2020 election, particularly the presidential contest between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, both Mayor Hollingsworth and Dr. Bellamy failed to speak directly to the Republican-Democrat matchup.

Instead, they implored the importance of local elections, which include city council seats, judgeships, district attorney posts, as well as key house and senate races. With “The One Thousand,” OBP plans to add at least 1,000 Black elected officials in various positions around the country.

“The goal with The One Thousand is to get more (people) elected to office who are committed to the Black agenda and who lead with improving the quality of life of Black people,” Mayor Hollingsworth shared.

“There are over 500,000 elected positions in this country and African Americans make up between 5,000 to 6,000 of those 500,000. But a thousand new Black elected officials between now and 2024 increases our current weight significantly.”

The OBP agenda addresses many issues critical to the Black community, including racism in healthcare, disparities in education, defunding the police, decriminalizing poverty, and legalizing marijuana.

Mayor Hollingsworth says there are a multitude of issues in healthcare that need to be addressed, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed racism in healthcare.

A patient is tested for coronavirus at a testing site in the Anacostia neighborhood June 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“There are a number of issues that disproportionately impact Black folks and we see it most immediately in how COVID-19 has ravaged the community,” Mayor Hollingsworth said. “That doesn’t even get to the issues that we often see that affect Black women or talk about maternal health and mortality rates of Black women.”

OBP plans to address disparities in all levels of education from Pre-K to postgraduate education, advocating for universal pre-K, adequate counseling, and proper nutrition as well.

“It is making sure that young people receive the appropriate support they need at school, which include mental health and include access to healthcare and dental care and all of those things that allow them to be good and whole students and making sure that we’re not supporting systems that support a school-to-prison pipeline,” Mayor Hollingsworth said.

“Then when we are talking about the post-secondary level, making sure that education is affordable and accessible.” 

College classroom thegrio.com
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Dr. Bellamy shared the political organization’s position on the hot-button topic of defunding police.

“We know that there is more than enough room in our budget if we are creative enough to be able to reallocate resources,” Dr. Bellamy expressed, highlighting his work as former vice mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia.

“What is very clear is that law enforcement is not equipped to handle all of the things in which they are trying to do right now, so why not allow some of those resources to be reallocated to services that can have a much more immediate and better impact in our community?”

When discussing the legalization of marijuana, Dr. Bellamy points to research, as Whites receive the majority of business opportunities centered around marijuana, while most of those incarcerated for marijuana are Black. 

“When you have some who are currently serving time for possession of marijuana, while other individuals are now able to use it to make money in a legal fashion, that’s not right,” Dr. Bellamy said. “From an economic perspective, we’re also pushing for reallocation of resources and equitable resources, so that Black folk have an opportunity to be able to take advantage of the economic moment that’s been brought forth by the marijuana.”

Read More: LA County DA files motion to dismiss nearly 66,000 marijuana convictions

Marijuana Racial Arrests thegrio.com
(Photo/Fotolia, @Miguel Aguirre)

Dr. Bellamy also discussed the criminalization of people in poverty.

“If you are driving and you get a traffic violation, it can lead to your driver’s license being suspended,” Dr. Bellamy said. “And you also have court fees, but what if you can’t afford the fees? Then you receive another fine. And If you can’t afford your probationary fee, you receive another fine. All of those things in our opinion, is a criminalization of poverty.”

While the OBP agenda is a work in progress, there was an absence of any immigration goals as part of the agenda, which impacts many in America from African and Caribbean nations.

“Immigration is absolutely a part of (our agenda) and that is because we have to recognize that Black people in the United States definitely include the diaspora,” Mayor Hollingsworth said.

“We’re leaving space and room for this agenda to grow. These are the areas that we recognize that there are certainly common grounds and commonly understood areas of importance for Black people in this country and we are developing those additional priorities and our position on those priorities as we receive input from those who have completed the survey and submit their feedback to us.”

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