Celebrating Million Hoodies!
My name is Dante Barry, I am the Executive Director of Million Hoodies Movement for Justice. Thank you so very much for being here tonight. Your support helps us train a new generation of young leaders and organizers all over the country, building a movement for dignity and democracy. Our members, small staff, and community are the force behind our work. Thank you for being in movement with us.
On February 26, 2012, unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Florida simply because he “looked suspicious.” While George Zimmerman remained free, mainstream media had failed at covering the story.
In 2012, our founders helped to generate global support for the arrest of George Zimmerman, organized countless rallies and collected over two million petition signatures. In that effort, our founders realized the need to foster the leadership of young people of color to push back against the ongoing criminalization of our communities and build power.
Today Million Hoodies is a human rights membership-based organization that builds next generation human rights leaders to end anti-black racism and systemic violence. We are home to a national network of students and young people organizing locally in 10 local communities and campuses, working to improve the lives and conditions of Black and Brown people and alter the dynamics of power.
We do this work through a chapter-based model by empowering our members to win real progressive social change in their communities. We develop the leadership of young people to build local power and transform our communities from violence and criminalization. We educate our members and the public on the critical issues facing our communities, and we run campaigns to push back against anti-black racism.
When half of young Black people don’t expect to live through their 30s, and when undocumented immigrant families have to live in fear of losing their loved ones due to detention and deportation, and when Sikhs and Muslims regularly face threats of violence, it becomes clear that there is a monopoly on who has the right to feel and be safe in this country.
Increased policing in Black and Brown communities contributes to mass criminalization and leads to public policies like stop and frisk and broken windows, despite constant studies indicating that educational attainment, access to jobs, stable housing, and mental health services are more effective solutions to crime.
Safety and security look different when you’re constantly identified by the state as the enemy. But making us safe, and making our communities safe, is actually the only way for all of us to achieve security.
After a string of high profile police killings, communities across the country have erupted in massive protests and sustained acts of civil disobedience and direct action. People continue to flood the streets demanding an end to police brutality and a recognition that Black lives matter.
Our model taps into the leadership of a community-minded, progressive generation to drive action. Traditionally marginalized, our members are learning to recognize the necessity of participating in and taking action on the most important conversations of our time, as the choices we make today will dramatically impact the future we inherit.
We recognize that much of this country’s future potential as a more just, prosperous, and democratic society lies with young Black and Brown people, building power in local communities. The success of our approach is evidenced by our robust and growing network, including nearly 70 percent of our chapter leadership identify as women, queer, and gender non-conforming. Our community is vast – our members are artists, organizers, strategists, communicators, agitators, educators, healers, and more. Our members have stopped the criminalization of Black youth from wearing hoodies in public spaces in Oklahoma, organized direct action campaigns against rampant police violence, used art to politicize our communities, pushed back strategic efforts to defund HBCUs in North Carolina, built mental health therapy sessions in Washington, D.C., and we are not done yet.
By creating a community connected by values, vision, and a theory of change grounded in rethinking how Black and Brown people participate in political process, we are building political infrastructure that promotes democracy beyond the voting booth and transformative change over the long-term.
I got my first start in community organizing when I was 17, growing up in a low-income, single-parent household in New Jersey. The type of political infrastructure we are building at Million Hoodies is the type of political home I’ve always dreamed about but lacked in my own development as a young queer Black organizer. Million Hoodies is creating the community we need in order to build the world that we’ve always dreamed of – a world that lifts us all up instead of one that tries to tear us all down.
Thank you for being here to learn a little bit more about the work we are doing at Million Hoodies. There are several Million Hoodies members in the room tonight – find them, meet them, talk to them about what they’re building. If you’re interested in donating – please visit our website at millionhoodies.net/donate. Thank you and enjoy the rest of the evening!