EIGHT WOMEN BLACK LIVES MATTER 2.0 GLOBAL LEADERS IN 2020
They are grandmothers, teachers, students, and moms. From the islands of the indigenous independence movements of the "Black Pacific, to Europe's colonizing metropoles, to African villages, to the favelas of Brazil, Black women leaders are emerging in the wake of George Floyd's execution as part of an unprecedented global counter-carceral justice movement.
This is a movement that is simultaneously younger and older, profoundly multi-ethnic and multi-racial, transcending national boundaries and reaching into the most provincial of towns and villages. These women embody and symbolize millions of these diverse strands of protests and solidarity with the struggle to combat and dismantle the carceral state. Above all, their visionary leadership is testament to the trust they've earned because of their moral rectitude, honesty, humility, and genuine love of the masses they represent. New Black Nationalists honor them as the best the African diaspora has to offer.
Sasha Johnson - Leader in Black Lives Matter, Oxford, U.K. -- Sasha's call in July for a Black Militia and Black Political Party sent shock waves through the U.K's BLM. 2.0 movement.
Sasha is a young unapologetic radical leader with a quick wit, acerbic tongue, and biting critique of the workings of capitalism. She played a leading role in mobilizing support to successfully remove one of Britain's foremost imperial and colonial barons, Cecil Rhodes' statue from Oxford in the "Rhodes Must Fall" campaign.
In her own words, Johnson recently said, “Racism thrives on capitalism. They say education, we need a Black militia. I'm not saying it because I want people to fear and think we're coming violent. What we're saying is: you push we push; you fight we fight. Peace is not peace until you recognize our lives, and we're not gonna lay down anymore. I’m not going down on one knee for anybody. I’m always going to stand with ten toes in the ground.”
Koteka Wenda, Student Leader of West Papua Independence Movement
has emerged as an increasingly important spokesperson of the West Papuan Independence movement. Koteka addressed several rallies and events on behalf of West Papua Independence Movement, as she did in the "Rhodes Must Fall" campaign in the U.K.
As the daughter of the West Papua Independence leader Benny Wenda, she has accepted the challenge of playing a critical role in West Papua's struggle to end Indonesia's illegal occupation and brutal suppression of Melanesian people.
At the June rally in Oxford, UK Wenda said, “Since 1963, the Black West Papuan population have been victims of genocide, human rights abuses and ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Indonesian government, military and police. My people and I stand in solidarity with the victims of police brutality. Right now, one of my uncles, Buchtar Tabuni is being sentenced, 17 years in jail for standing against racism and is being sentenced for treason. “Free West Papua!” Needless to say, she is an inspirational figure to women and girls in the "Black Pacific" and globally.
Janaya Future Khan is a storyteller, activist, futurist, and Black Lives Matter Canada co-founder.
Khan is a talented author and frequent lecturer. Her work has appeared in The Feminist Wire, Vogue, The Huffington Post and Al Jazeera. She serves as an International Ambassador for the Black Lives Matter Network.
Janaya has been a catalyst in organizing mass demonstrations in Toronto and across Canada against violent state-sanctioned acts committed against Canada's indigenous and Black communities. Khan identifies as black, queer, and gender-nonconforming. Much of her work analyzes intersectional topics including the Black Lives Matter movement, queer theory, Black feminism, and organized protest strategies.
In particular, we find Ms. Khan's writings as a movement leader on personal relations and conflict within the movement to be compelling: they are honest , raw, and self-critical but still filled with compassion and a spirit of reconciliation.
Simone Nascimento, Movimento RUA and Movimento Negro Unificado (MNU)
At 27-years old, Simone is one of Brazil's new generation of Black women activists She is in the RUA, a student group of indigenous, Black, LGBTQ, anti-capitalist activists. In the wake of the recent deaths of 14-year old João Pedro Mattos Pinto and Guilherme da Silva dos Santos in June 2020, the struggle against police murders of Blacks in Brazil has been reignited.
Commenting on the murders, Simone said, “Black people are dying from gunshots, from hunger and now from Covid. “As long as there’s racism, there’s no democracy – and fighting for democracy is fighting against the Bolsonaro government,” Further, she observed that the police feel emboldened by Bolsonaro’s talk of getting tough on crime and backing shoot-to-kill policies.
With the death of Brazil's internationally renowned city councilwoman, feminist, and human rights activist Marielle Franco in March 2018, the counter-carceral movement has suffered an incalculable setback. But with leaders Ms. Nascimento stepping up, Brazil's Black communities will continue to elevate their struggle.
Jen Reid, of Bristol, U.K. became the first Black Lives Matter activist to be memorialized. Her black resin and steel statue sculpted by Paul Quinn, was mounted in Bristol's city square. She is a wife and mother of two children.
Jen represents the chronicling and memorialization of a new future in the African Diaspora and counter-carceral movement, in which Black women are in the lead.
Reid's statue was mounted on the plinth that bore the statue of British slave trader Edward Colston, whose likeness was torn down by protesters, dragged through the streets and dumped in the Bristol Harbor on July 7, 2020. Bristol's City Council removed her statue one day later after it was mounted.
Reid's sculpting was the result of her action the day Colston's statue was toppled. She explained it this way, "On my way home from the protests on 7 June, I felt an overwhelming impulse to climb onto the plinth, just completely driven to do it by the events which had taken place right before. Seeing the statue of Edward Colston being thrown into the river felt like a truly historical moment." Her picture on the plinth was captured by Paul Quinn, who is now renewing efforts to have the statue remounted.
Rosebell Kagamire is a native of Uganda and editor of AfricanFeminism.com. The website is featured in our Black Feminist-Black Nationalist Exchange section.
Rosebell is an extraordinary writer, campaigner, award-winning blogger, pan-African feminist and multimedia communications strategist. Her fields of expertise include human rights, gender, peace and conflict resolution. Her writings have appeared in international publications like The Guardian, Al Jazeera, and Quartz.
AfricanFeminism.com is a leading voice on the continent and across the diaspora of Black feminism. It's engagement in conferences, promotion of African feminist publications, news, and analytics is making a profound contribution on behalf of Black women across the planet. Ms. Kagamire is at the center of the action.
In the aftermath of George Floyd's assassination, Ms. Kagamire's criticism of African governments' suppressing dissent and demonstrations against police attacks on their own citizens has been, sharp, insightful, and unambiguous.
Leetona Dungay is the grandmother of David Dungay, a 26-year-old Aboriginal who was dragged from his hospital bed cell by the police for refusing to eat a pack of biscuits, held face down and injected with a sedative. He lost consciousness and died after saying, "I can't breathe" twelve times.
Leetona has demanded that New South Wales prosecutors press charges against prison officers involved for manslaughter. Dungay's saying "I can't breath," like George Floyd's execution triggered mass protests across Australian in June and July, and fueled demands to bring Dungay's killers to justice. It also focused attention on the killing of 432 Aboriginals by Australian police since 1991.
“Tens of thousands have attended our rallies. More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on the attorney general to refer this matter to the DPP for charges. Black Lives Matter. My son’s life matters," said Ms. Dungay. No one has ever been prosecuted for any actions leading to the death of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island person while in custody.
Assa Traore has been leading a national movement in France demanding justice for her brother, Adama, who was murdered by French police in 2016.
Unrelenting, fierce, and charismatic, this 35 year-old special education teacher and mother of two with a signature Afro that makes her instantly recognizable, has led some of the largest multi-racial demonstrations in Europe to bring Adama's killers to account. The demonstration on July 18, was banned by French authorities, yet still drew 20,000 people.
The international outrage at George Floyd's killing has enlarged her presence beyond seeking justice for her brother, to the champion of French Black and Arab men victimized by French police. “With my female voice, we’re going to make these men visible and give them a voice. France has not come to terms with its history, with slavery, with colonization. These are unsaid things that leave traces, and we suffer the consequences” she told the press.
Assa's exposure of French authorities bogus and changing explanations of her brother's cause of death has led to a libel suit against the Paris police chief. As a principled fighter, she declined a meeting with former justice minister, Nicole Belloubet, saying "justice should not be done in a tea room at the Élysée Palace.” All of us will be hearing more from Assa Traore.