In this episode, Budget and Policy Center Communications Specialist April Dickinson talks with the co-chairs of the Black Women Best working group, Kendra Bozarth and Azza Altaraifi. Together, they collaborated with over 40 Black women to develop An Economy for All: Building a Black Women Best Legislative Agenda, a congressional report inspired by the Black Women Best economic framework.
Kendra and Azza share details about the framework and talk about the powerful transformational shifts that the framework makes possible for the future of policymaking.
Kendra Bozarth (she/her) is an editor, writer, and convener, specializing in narrative change. Focusing on frameworks that center Black women and philosophies that honor the bodymind, she supports movement efforts that are rooted in economic justice and collective liberation. Kendra founded KB Comms and BLUF Editorial Co., in 2020 and 2022, respectively. And you can follow her on Twitter at @kendrabozarth.
Azza Altiraifi (she/they) is a Black disabled strategist and organizer living in northern Virginia. In their full-time capacity, Azza works as a senior policy manager at a movement support organization working to advance economic justice. Azza, along with her colleague Kendra Bozarth, also served as co-chair of the Black Women Best working group. Jointly convened by the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls and Liberation in a Generation, the working group produced the "An Economy for All: Building a Black Women Best Legislative Agenda," report, outlining a clear policy agenda to address inequities that have disproportionately burdened Black women and girls — delivering an inclusive economy for everyone in the process. You can follow them on Twitter @Azza_Alt.
(*corrections to transcript provided by speaker after recording.)
[00:00:00] Azza Altaraifi: Whenever I am feeling despair start to creep up – in addition to remembering Mariame Kaba's constant reminder/refrain/meditation that hope is a discipline – I also am called upon to remember the fact that if we weren't as powerful as we are, if we weren't as capable of building that liberatory future, the establishments of the state, the ascendant fascist formations, all of these groups that are fighting tooth and nail to try and disorganize our movements, to co-opt our language, they would not be working this hard if winning wasn't a real possibility.
And I think it’s inevitable. And I don't think it's inevitable because the universe makes it so. I think it's inevitable because every day, for every bad news story, I see 15 stories of organizing campaigns and formations that have really built power.
[00:01:15] April Dickinson: Welcome to WA Possible, a podcast about what is possible for economic justice in Washington state. This podcast is presented by the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, a research and policy organization working to advance progressive state budget and tax policies that promote racial equity and economic dignity.
At the Budget & Policy Center, we dream of a brighter future where everyone has a home to rest in, families can afford child and elder care, and people have enough money to buy the food and resources they need. On WA Possible, we talk with partners, advocates, and our staff who are helping make this vision a reality. We know that economic justice is possible here in Washington state because we are building toward it together.
I’m April Dickinson, communications specialist at the Budget & Policy Center, and I'm the host for this episode about Black Women Best, an economic framework initiated by Janelle Jones, the first Black woman to serve as chief economist at the Department of Labor. We wanted to highlight this framework on WA Possible because of its capacity to build a future that is free of structural inequity and that clears a path for shared prosperity and well-being. I had the chance to talk with the co-chairs of the Black Women Best working group Kendra Bozarth and Azza Altaraifi. That was Azza speaking at the top of the episode.
They collaborated with over 40 Black women to develop An Economy For All: Building a Black Women Best Legislative Agenda, a congressional report inspired by their framework. The legislative agenda reinforces that ensuring access to the resources and opportunities necessary to truly thrive in society – regardless of gender, race and other identities – is essential to building back a stronger economy. Kendra and Azza shared details about the framework and talk about the powerful transformational shifts that the framework makes possible for the future of policymaking.
Let's get to the episode.
[00:03:10] April: Thank you, Kendra and Azza, for joining me on WA Possible today. Kendra, I'm wondering if you can provide a grounding on what the Black Woman Best framework is and why it was created?
[00:03:23] Kendra Bozarth: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I love to say the definition for a Black Women Best is so simple, and I love it because it just contrasts the fact that it's such an expansive framework. Right. So really, it's arguing that when we build an economy that will work for Black women, we’re building toward an economy that will work for everyone.
Black Women Best started as an economic framework coined by Janelle Jones (the most incredible human) who noticed, well before COVID, the pandemic, and ongoing recession that we're facing, Janelle studied the fact that Black women are always the last to recover in economic downturns. And so she started thinking about how can we, through policy making, rectify this very obvious disparity.
And so she and a group of incredible women, set out to get started on this. And then, as I mentioned, when COVID happened, 2020 is when we put out the first Black Women Best policy report. I saw it as the moment to really drive hard on this because, from the start, we knew that the pandemic was exacerbating structural inequities that existed long before it started.
And I'll say a big part of defining the framework, explaining the framework is that it's radically inclusive. I think a lot of people, when they hear it first, they're like, “Oh, it's just for Black women it seems like.” No. I mean, that would be fine. That would be okay if it was just for Black women. That would be nice for us to have something just for us.
But it's for everyone. You know, my friend Anne Price always reminds me that Black women are not monolithic. I think people have one version of a Black woman in their mind. And so when we're saying Black women, we mean cisgender women and transgender women, as well as the marginalized gender identities that are also put under this umbrella. So it’s for nonbinary people, gender non-conforming people, all of those self-hoods that are oppressed by cisheteronormative patriarchy. And then remembering that we mean all Black women. So Black immigrants, undocumented people, Black women formerly incarcerated, currently incarcerated, queer people, Black women with disabilities, Black women who are multiracial and multiethnic.
I had someone say, “How do I explain this to my abuela?” And it's like, well, first I'd like to remind you that there are Black, Latino or Latinx women, right? So I think that's important to lift. And then, two more points I want to hit is that it's become so much more than an economic framework. I think it's really important to policymaking. But I also see it as a call to action because it inherently names that we've been doing – what I always jokingly say – Wealthy White Men Best since forever. And so this is a call to action to, we have a lot of things to correct for, a lot of healing to do, a lot of reparative policymaking to do. And so this is that call to action to do that.
And as Azza often reminds me, it's also an organizing praxis. Black Women Best also shows us how we should organize. And that “how” is really important because this framework is as much about *process as it is about outcomes. And so how are you putting together Black Women Best policy ideas? If it's just for Black women, but Black women aren't helping to create them, then it's just representative. It's not building something that is actually centering the people who have the experience, who live in this world as Black women. Who in their hardship know the answers, they know the solutions we need.
And I personally, as a communications person, a narrative person, I always say we do too much speaking about and for people. And so Black Women Best is that reminder that it has to be for and by Black women. So again, the *process is just as important as the outcomes. And I think that also speaks to how this is something that no one owns. Janelle doesn't own it. I don't want to own it. Azza doesn't want to own it. We're not trying to keep it to ourselves. It's for everyone.
And I think right now we're in this moment of – I'm so glad you reached out to talk about it because we're in this moment to spread the message and show people how they can show up in Black Women Best and how they can see themselves in Black Women Best.
And ultimately, for me, it's become such a loving project because it's allowed me to be in community with so many Black women. Azza and I recently put out the Black Women Best congressional report, and really just thinking and dreaming and writing and envisioning and all of that – doing that together was, for me, the biggest payoff.
Ultimately, we wrote this massive report. I got a little excited as an editor. I was like, “Oh, if we're doing it, we're doing it.” But at the end of the day, it was being in community with each other that not only strengthened the framework, but just really strengthened my drive to keep putting it out there.
[00:09:24] April: Yeah. And I think the building of the report was probably very much in line with that, what you said about process, right. I was reading that you had 40 Black women contributors participating in that process. That's a lot of people. But it's all the right people at the table building it.
And there are so many important policies that are part of that legislative agenda, like you said, like don't leave anything out. Let's just get it all in there. Let's do it. And some of them are policy areas that we're working on at the Budget & Policy center, too. And so Azza I was going to invite you to talk to us about a few of those policy areas, specifically providing a guaranteed income, progressing on tax policy, and valuing care work, and how the legislative agenda is building on those principles.
[00:10:17] Azza: I'd be happy to. So I think perhaps a good place to start, given what Kendra noted about how Black Women Best is as concerned with process as it is with outcomes, and the way that we jointly built this process with the real intention of ensuring that people who are often shut out of the room, people whose wisdom and expertise and vision tend to be dismissed either as not being feasible in the current moment, as being too ambitious, as being rooted in the wisdom of community, instead of the credentialism and elitism that tends to be valued within and beyond the nonprofit industrial complex.
And so not only was it so meaningful to create the process that way personally, but it was also our attempt to model in the actual writing and publication of this report what BWB, what this framework actually equips us collectively to do. And it's what Robyn Maynard, an incredible scholar, refers to as Rehearsals for Living, right? A rehearsal today for the liberatory futures of tomorrow.
And so offering that because I think that is really well represented in the Providing a Guaranteed Income section of the report in particular. Dr. Aisha Nyandoro, who authored that section of the report, talks about a guaranteed income policy, which at its most basic is a policy where people are receiving this set allocation of money unrestricted. It's not based on all of these bureaucratic metrics that we typically associate with parts of the social safety net, and is an extremely important and, we've seen, very effective tool at addressing poverty.
And she specifically is pulling from the example of the Magnolia Mothers Trust, which has offered $1,000 monthly payments to Black mothers in Mississippi and has been an incredibly transformative policy intervention for people who are experiencing some of the most extreme forms of economic and financial violence, state violence, and harm.
And one of the things she does in the report is she includes quotes from these women who are explaining how we need to shift our understandings of wealth, shift the ways that we assess economic well-being at a national/state/aggregate level, and also at the individual level, at the community level. And that wisdom is centered and it is named and it is uplifted in the report, not only because that is the wisdom that ultimately is what drives the creation of these guaranteed income pilot projects that we've seen crop up throughout the country, but also because it is us naming that Black Women Best is not empty representation.
It is not Black faces in high places. It is not about Black women being invited into halls of power or places that have historically been designed to exclude us and indeed have been the sites where the entire set of policy arrangements which bear down on us were first imagined and implemented. This is not a framework that calls for that by any stretch of the imagination.
What it does instead, and what Dr. Nyandoro notes, too, is it recognizes and affirms that all Black women, but especially those who are most affected, who are most marginalized, who are rendered most precarious by these institutional arrangements and oppressive structures which bear down on us, that they are the ones who should be centered, but also they're the ones who should in leadership. We should be following their lead.
And there is a very big difference between inclusion, quote unquote, and following the leadership of those who are most impacted. And you cannot center Black women unless you decenter whiteness and white men, full stop. So that means you are decentering all those who the system was deliberately designed to enrich and empower at the expense of Black and Indigenous people, at the expense of disabled people, at the expense of queer and trans people, and indeed at the expense of democracy itself. Because the way that they maintain their power and their wealth-hoarding is through systematically disenfranchizing us and destroying our democratic governance structures.
I would encourage folks to read the Guaranteed Income section in full, which outlines some of the federal policy proposals for how to scale these guaranteed income pilots we have seen at various state level and city level projects, particularly following the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated state and local funding that was then used to launch many of these guaranteed income pilots.
[00:15:43] Azza: Another one of the sections that you mentioned is Progressing on Tax Policy. Another section of the report that very deliberately names and calls out – because each section is historically grounded and rooted – the ways that our entire tax system was designed at its core to protect and secure wealth in very concentrated ways for predominantly white men.
It has been a tool of distributing wealth. It has been a tool through which wealth has been concentrated. And what this section is naming is it can also then become a tool for redistribution of wealth. Tax policy can be a redistributive policy. And it lays out some of the specific sorts of interventions that can facilitate such a process.
I would also name that one of the things I find really important and compelling in that section in is the way that it is very particular in drawing the distinction between wealth and some of the narrow ways that we have understood it, and what sorts of wealth building or lack thereof is available to Black women, particularly multiply marginalized Black women.
I uplift this because in addition to the discussion that happens in the beginning of the report, with the Guaranteed Income section and the introduction, challenging us to re-imagine what we mean by wealth, it also points out a really important dynamic, which is the entire set of structures we are discussing and exploring in the framework and in the report were structures built for and by white men to preserve their interests and to specifically serve the interests of capital and capital accumulation.
And it did so by designating Black women, our bodies and our minds, as sites of labor extraction and exploitation. It does so by making the land a site of extraction, and it does so through this process of expropriation that over centuries means that wealth building in the ways that we typically talk about it is a fiction for Black women. And we are interested in liberation.
So we are not going to be focused on empty promises of buy a house and then all of a sudden you will have accumulated wealth as though centuries of chattel slavery will just disappear by shifting and tinkering around the edges of this big oppressive machine. Instead, we focus on what is it that wealth confers? What does it confer in terms of agency, in terms of time, in terms of safety? And what are the ways that we can imagine transformative policy that create enabling conditions for Black women to secure those things, too.
[00:18:53] Azza: And lastly, you mentioned the Valuing Care Work section of the report. I'm biased, but one of my favorite sections. I got to work on it with my dear friend and mentor and colleague Marokey Sawo. It has a really fantastic, accessible history of the paid care economy. And emphasis on paid because so much of care work is invisiblized and unpaid and unvalued. It goes through the history of why that is. Spoiler alert: because it is a feminized set of work and because it was work that was often done and expected to be done by Black women.
I also especially appreciate this section of the report because for a really long time in progressive spaces, the dichotomizing of the care worker and care provider from the care recipient has been an issue. It has pitted disabled folks, aging adults against the workers, and that is Oppression Olympics. And the only person who wins the Oppression Olympics is the oppressor. The exact same structures that oppress and marginalize care workers are the same set of ablest structures that marginalized and oppressed disabled people. That is a function of racial capitalism. That is how this entire system was designed.
Therefore, the only way to actually craft policies that will change those conditions and bring about social transformation is to build networks of radical solidarity that tether the liberatory conditions for the worker and the receiver while recognizing that disabled people aren't simply empty vessels that care is poured into. We are care workers too. We are care providers too.
And indeed, the networks of mutual care and of radical care networks are the product of disabled organizers, advocates, and folks who have always, in the face of abandonment, had to create our own systems for attending to ourselves and each other.
[00:21:11] April: Something that you were speaking to really stood out to me around this idea about how we think about wealth and how wealth has been constructed and also how it can be reimagined. And I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit more, you or Kendra, about what a different concept of wealth might be? Because I think there is an element of like, do we really want all people to be billionaires? Is that our goal with wealth? And how does that play into this rugged individualism that our country is also founded on? Is that the goal? Or is there this other goal around what you were saying about community care and more of a collective concept of wealth. I think it's something that I'm only starting to think about more now, and I'm wondering if you two have thoughts on that.
[00:22:04] Kendra: Yeah, I can go first. Super, super, super high-level thought, but I've been really, and Azza mentioned this in what they were saying before, but just really thinking about the ways to expand the definitions of wealth. I think the biggest opportunity I see is time. Not just in the time we have in every day, but also the time we have of our life. The length of the lives we get to live. The time we have to be with our children, our friends, and community with each other. So many people, Black women in particular, are doing all they can to get by. And that leaves them very little time. Not only to be with others, but even just to take care of themselves.
Everyone acting that someone who gets – what is very much public dollars, which is our money – who gets public dollars to support themselves, to overcome low wages, Oh, well, they might go on a vacation and they might take the time to get a manicure. Like, they don't even have the time to do that. So don't worry, the time is not there. So, I think there there's a lot to explore how we expand those definitions of wealth. And I think time, for me, is one of the most important.
One of the things we talk about in the report is the fatal stress of oppression. Stress alone not only is life stealing, but it's energy stealing. I know for myself I'm in a privileged position considering many of the Black women we are talking about and want to center in this work. But I often don't have the energy to make more of my time. I have income. I don't have generational wealth, that's for sure. I don't have wealth at all. And for me, I would most like wealth in my time and what I can do with my energy and how I can reclaim that.
So I just wanted to note that very high, high level thought. It's something we're digging into together. Azza mentioned Marokey Sawo, and they very much want to look into how do we measure that? What is the measurement for that? How do we measure lost time? How do we assess that within individuals’ lives, within communities? All of that. So, yeah, I think that's where I want to take it. Azza, what about you?
[00:24:39] Azza: Yeah, there's a lot in there. I almost wonder if maybe that's a good segue to talk a little bit about Disability Justice and Black Women Best. When I think about time in particular, I have been reflecting on the scholarship of folks like abolitionist geographer Ruth Wilson Gilmore – who is in fact quoted in the Disability Justice section – and others who have been looking at this question of time and extraction of time and what that means. Not only because it is among the many things that have been stolen from us and has led to our premature deaths and disablement, but also because this requires a really critical analysis of how our paid labor economy is structured overall.
We have, since industrialization onward, gotten to the place where we're actually – sure, we're selling our labor, but predominantly what we're doing is selling our time. I could finish all of the shit that's expected of me within two hours and I am still expected to be online for the full eight because that is what I am selling.
And in a nonprofit industrial complex in particular, which runs on these sorts of extraction and exploitation of its workers in ways that expect far more than just a 40 hour workweek. We can think about all of the things that we cannot do because of how much time is taken up by our paid labor.
[00:26:25] Azza: The reason why this is such the grounding of where I started, it was the entry point as I was considering what to put into this Disability Justice in Black Women Best section. I started here because race and class and disability aren't simply entangled. We truly cannot even begin to understand the structure of white supremacy and the structures of racial capitalism unless we understand disability too.
Because disability is as integral to that project of white supremacy as is race. They are co-constitutive. And the easiest way that I can explain or point to that is the fact that the very definition and designation of disability, the very mechanisms through which entire populations have historically and to this day been pathologized by the state and its agents, as a tool of social control and of labor discipline.
Within workplace settings, what we see in this post-industrialization moment is as our labor structures become time-regulated and routinized in ways that they weren't before, we also see the introduction of a whole new set of categories of disability that did not previously exist. Because disability, as it is constituted within this broadly Western world, is directly entangled with the assumptions of what sorts of paid labor output a particular body or mind is capable of. Which is why a lot of the new categories of disability that emerge in that moment are related to sleep dysregulation.
So, all of a sudden it's like, oh, well, that's a disability because we can't get you in the factory at six in the morning and can’t stay there until whenever at night, because, Lord knows, labor protections then were fiction and in many ways still are. And so that becomes a tool through which labor discipline is happening.
And fundamentally, because our access to things like health care and other life sustaining resources – because we don't guarantee housing, we don't guarantee access to health care, because that is directly linked to your labor output. And even in fact, things like Supplemental Security Income and these important disability programs are also contingent on what you have paid in before from your previous wages and work.
What ultimately ends up happening is we have a structure and a system that gives you two options: you labor under disabling conditions that crush your body and your spirit in order to access health care, in order to live, or you face the very real threat of being shut out of the paid labor economy and forced to navigate a social safety net that has gaps so fucking big hundreds of thousands of people are falling through, which is basically a death sentence. And I don't say that lightly. I don't say that metaphorically. It is quite literally a death sentence. So, your choices are labor, knowing that this will exacerbate your already existing disabilities, it won't accommodate them, and in fact will likely disable you further, or die. What form of labor discipline is more effective and more violent than that?
[00:30:14] Azza: That is the entry point for how I went about writing that section. Disability Justice is a framework that is articulated by Black and Brown, queer, disabled folks, primarily disabled women. The ten principles are incubated by Sins Invalid (you can find it on their website). It is worth reading in full. it is why that formation specifically names that Disability Justice requires a commitment to an anti-capitalist politic. Because the very nature of our body-minds is one that constitutionally cannot operate and find safety and let alone liberation within the confines and the violence inherent to racial capitalism. The section goes through different policy interventions that are possible when we put these frameworks of Disability Justice and Black Women Best in conversation with each other. Because indeed, the liberation of Black women is not possible unless we are incorporating and integrating and centering Disability Justice. Because ableism affects all Black women, whether they identify as disabled or not. This is fundamentally about the way the state seeks to control us, to discipline us, and Black women have always been its primary targets.
And I would end by saying what Ruth Wilson Gilmore names herself, what I put in the report, she notes that where life is precious, life is precious. And that is fundamentally the politic, the ethos, and the set of policy arrangements we are imagining through this work. We are seeking a whole new set of systems and structures, a whole new set of community networks that value all Black disabled life. Because where Black, disabled women are precious, all other life will be precious, too.
[00:32:13] April: I love that. It's really speaking to, not just what policies are or what policies say, but that deeper understanding of valuing human beings because we are valuable. And to me, that's kind of a signal around this deeper transformation that needs to happen, beyond just running a bill through the legislature. So, Kendra, I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about what those cultural and narrative shifts are that are needed to really keep driving these- like, we do want these outcomes. But to go back to both of your points, how we get there is so important. And there is so much more around those policies when it comes to how people think and how the messages that we get in our communities and from our leaders. That is also a really key piece of this.
[00:33:16] Kendra: Yeah, absolutely. I'll just lift that in the report, we have a very specific section on this. It's about cultural considerations that need to be in line with the implementation of Black Women Best policies. And, whew! I’m still getting life from Azza because they get me every time especially when they talk about Disability Justice. And I think that speaks to one of the narratives.
Azza mentioned, Black Women Best and Disability Justice being in conversation together. And you know, I mentioned earlier that Black Women Best is a call to action. And as far as storytelling, which to me is so necessary for cultural change, that's where in being in conversation with Disability Justice, it becomes a demand because it says we are not disposable and you will ensure that our systems and institutions guarantee that.
And so for me, that's just a huge demand of Black Women Best. But then there's also the discussion about redefining wealth, right? One thing I really want to lift, our friend Angela Peoples – Hi AP! Hope you're listening. – Angela Peoples and Connie Razza recently put out a report, Reframing the Prevailing American Narrative for 2052. Basically, they are looking at how – this is just so obvious, but when they said it, I was just like whew! – Basically, they're exploring how the identity in the U.S. is inherently tied to either upholding white supremacy or resisting white supremacy. And so how can we, in the next 30 years, start to redefine our identity in a way that is untethered from that? Yeah. And I'm getting goosebumps right now because it's so true. Right? Like, even as I'm fighting white supremacy, I'm still centering white supremacy.
And so that's part of the story, I think. That also speaks to the narrative of being far sighted. I think inherently in this country, especially because our politics have been deeply corrupted by private interests and money, we, even as progressive and leftists, are working around election cycles. And it's kind of what you mentioned earlier about what win can we get? What's the outcome? Right. And Black Women Best is asking people to think beyond what's available in front of us and to push past that and receive, achieve, demand more. And so I think that's a big narrative that needs to be told.
[00:36:09] Kendra: And then, most importantly for me, it's really about reclaiming our stories as Black women. You know, I don't like to lift a lot of the tropes that exist about Black women. I think we all know them very well. President Ronald Reagan was responsible for a major one. And so I think with this project, a really important aspect of narrative change is reclaiming our stories by not spending so much energy confronting those narratives and fighting those narratives. Because doing that, you're inherently lifting them up.
But just in telling the different stories, telling the true stories. Right? We are breadwinners. We lead households. We lead entire communities. We create networks of care. And so, to anybody listening to this, think about what are those stories you can be telling? Again, because Black women are not monolithic. What are the stories that can reveal the true wholeness of Black women and the endless offerings we provide? Not only in how we uphold society, but how we drive where it can and should go. That's really important to me.
[00:37:20] Kendra: And lastly, I'll say something that we've all touched on, is what I said earlier, not speaking about and for Black women. Let Black women speak for themselves. People, especially in the last two, two and a half years have been saying, “Listen to Black women. Listen to Black women. Listen Black women.” But it doesn't go beyond handing over the actual microphone. As Azza said, it doesn't deliver on following our leadership. Because, to me, that's what listening to Black women means.
It's not just listening to our warnings. To this day, it's still not registering what we're saying, what we see, what we feel. I think what we feel is really important. Those are the stories that need to be told. Not only just the heartbreak, but the hope.
I don't want to butcher it, but Octavia Butler has a very great quote on hope and it basically gets to the point of hope is an action. And so when I'm feeling down, when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I remember that pursuing things like Black Women Best, naming the problems, being in discussion with people, that in itself was an act of hope. Because I'm hoping we can stop making the same mistakes. I'm hoping we can stop retelling these destructive stories that literally cost people their lives and their livelihoods. And I'm hoping we can do better.
Lastly, just three quick things. There's also the narratives about the fact that we are not trying to fix people. We are trying to fix systems.
Black Women Best also echoes the fact that this is what equity means. I think especially since the tragic murder of George Floyd, a lot of people are like, okay, we're finally ready to do equity, but they're not doing equity. Like, this is what equity means. I don't need a Black woman Vice President. I need every system that limits my well-being to be wholly dismantled. That's what I need.
And then finally, you know, I really, really want folks to center the idea of abundance and to incorporate those in our narratives. I think, understandably so, we do so much work on the defense and having to both fight what's coming at us and name generations of harm. But I think we also need to make sure that we're holding space to talk about what we're moving toward and what we have. We are an abundant country. We are an abundant planet. And how do we reclaim that and make clear that abundance is for everyone? It's not just for the wealthy white few.
[00:40:14] April: I love what you said about hope being an action, that quote from Octavia Butler. And for the Budget & Policy Center, that's why they wanted to create this podcast, is to kind of hope in action with people, with people who are doing the work to take ideas that have seemed too far fetched and to really go for it.
And so, our podcast is called WA Possible. We're really wanting to focus on things that are actually happening that I think we don't always know are happening because a lot of the narratives that we get are so negative. They feel so defeating. I mean, they affect our energy, like you said before, Kendra. When we get bad news, our energy can be really stolen from us, just as you said.
So our goal with WA Possible, is to have the two of you come and share with us your work and your expertise, but also what is your vision for the future? And in this context, how does the Black Women Best framework make that vision possible? And Azza, do you want to start with what's bubbling up inside you on that hope in action side of things?
[00:41:34] Azza: I mean, so many things are bubbling up inside me and that is what happens every time I have the honor of sharing space with Kendra. There are a few things that I want to uplift in this moment. The first is that whenever I am feeling despair start to creep up – in addition to remembering Mariame Kaba's constant reminder/refrain/meditation that hope is a discipline – I also am called upon to remember the fact that if we weren't as powerful as we are, if we weren't as capable of building that liberatory future, the establishments of the state, the ascendant fascist formations, all of these groups that are fighting tooth and nail to try and disorganize our movements, to co-opt our language, they would not be working this hard if winning wasn't a real possibility.
And I think it’s inevitable. And I don't think it's inevitable because the universe makes it so. I think it's inevitable because every day, for every bad news story, I see 15 stories of organizing, campaigns, and formations that have really built power. I see experiments every day in democratic governance. I see it in the labor formations and the fact that we have more support for labor unions this year than we've seen in decades. I see it in every one of the 200 plus Starbucks unions. I see it in Chris Smalls bringing people into those streets to talk about what it looks like to claim their power as workers.
I see it when the organizers of Rhode Island managed to take advantage of a giant organizing infrastructure leftover from the Bernie campaign and use that to pass the most progressive marijuana legalization law this country has seen, which didn't just do automatic expungement, but for the first time set aside 50%, I think, of the licenses in that state for worker-owned cooperatives. That is a state policy mandating worker co-ops be at least half of the dispensaries we will see cropping up in Rhode Island. That was people on the ground organizing.
I see it in all of the work that has happened to shrink the ever-expanding footprint of the prison industrial complex. Each of those tell me that our mandate is to build power within communities and to resource the efforts that are already ongoing. Because Black women have always been organizing. We have always faced the brunt of the state's abandonment and violence. So Black women, and economist Nina Banks writes about this extensively, because our consciousness did not happen in the private sphere of the home the way that it did for white women.
[00:44:50] Azza: The consciousness of Black women was as much about their community and their membership in a racially oppressed group as much as it was about the gendered violence that they face. And as an outcome of that, Black women have always been engaged in their communities to build the sorts of networks of life sustaining, life affirming care, and have always struggled to dismantle these death making institutions.
So in a post-Roe [v. Wade] moment, when everyone is scrambling to get access to life sustaining reproductive care, they are turning to the networks that Black women have built over decades. Reproductive Justice is the offering of Black women who saw this and have been working towards that vision. Disability Justice has been the offering of Black and Brown, queer and trans disabled women, and that is our offering because we see what is at stake.
And we also know that this is our moment to practice today, what we are building tomorrow. So I'm always full of hope. And I'm also always full of gratitude for Black women. Today, to our ancestors, and to the Black women who seven generations from now will continue to carry on this push for making real the dreams of abolitionists of old and abolitionists of today.
[00:46:08] Kendra: Whew!
[00:46:10] April: Yeah, don't stop!
[00:46:13] Kendra: Azza’s done it again! That's it. You know, I'll just add two things for me. My vision for the future, a future that's rooted in frameworks like Black Women Best, is for us all to know – In the policy change we see and the structures that we build and in the way we measure our ambition – that limitations are manufactured.
That is something I hope and know will be true in the future. That we don't just go for things because we think we can maybe win part of it. We go for it because it's just and it's true and it's liberatory and it's right. And any limitation in our way isn't real. That's important to me.
And then the second part, we have so much to do to fix what has been done. But, I see a future in which we're holding a vision that has moved past repair and that we get to be in a world together and imagine the next iteration of the world in which the foundation that we share, that we're all above, is strong. It's all encompassing and it's inherently liberatory. So for me, it’s about a future that's not just fixing. That is all about making, cementing, lasting.
[00:47:59] April: Thank you both so much. I could definitely talk to the two of you for the rest of the day, but I just really appreciate this. You can hear the passion in both of your voices and the commitment to this. And I just really appreciate the time that the two of you took to talk with me today.
And I know that our audience and our listeners will be inspired to dig into your work and to not just listen, or not just pass the mic, but to follow the lead of all of the contributors of the Black Women Best framework and the Black women that are in their community.
[00:48:38] April: I just want to share deep gratitude to Kendra and Azza. I'm still feeling so inspired from our conversation. During the interview we referenced a few different people and resources. You can find more information about them and a transcript of this episode in the show notes and on our website budgetandpolicy.org/podcast.
Thank you for listening to WA Possible. This podcast is sponsored by the Economic Security Project, the Washington State Council of Firefighters, Byrd Bar Place, and United Way of King County. Our theme music was created by Spokane beatmaker Revanth Akella and the WA Possible logo was designed by Seattle based artist Eileen Jimenez. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing, giving us a review, and sharing our podcast with your friends and family.
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