Digging Up the Root: About the “We”

In the time since NELP’s We’re All In national conference last November, I continue to sit in humble reflection and study of panelists’ Anne Price, Jaribu Hill, and Rebecca Dixon’s words and presence. They, along with so many Black radical feminists and organizers, shaped the plenary conversation for “About the We”: Drawing from the Legacies and Lineage of Black Feminist Praxis for Workers’ Rights Transformation.

Anti-Black racism is the scaffolding and fulcrum of economic inequality and injustice in the U.S., and of continued attempts to strip workers and communities of power and dignity. About the We was an invitation to expand our notions of imagination, leadership, innovation, and possibility, through the legacy and lineage of Black organizing and freedom traditions.

Imagination. Innovation. Defiance. History. All present on that stage, at a workers’ rights conference no less, ushering an expansive vision for all of our work.

Centering Blackness is a site for critical questions grounded in truth, for engagement in principled struggle, for an embodied practice. And truly this is what the Black liberation lineage offers us and teaches us, how to struggle and study with our full selves in direct conversations, holding space for complexity, humor, joy, pain, and so much.

Jaribu Hill offering, “Black is we. Black is me. BLACK.” as an invocation. I wonder where we will individually and collectively move in response?

some people

when they hear

your story.



upon hearing

your story.



this is how



-nayyirah waheed

Who gets to imagine? Who gets to innovate? Tender and defiant questions offered to us by Anne Price, that bring all of our work into laser focus.

These questions offer us sites to interrogate where and how white supremacy and virulent anti-Blackness hamper our collective visions of possibility and strip us of space to imagine and operate differently, particularly within the context of our non-profit “social justice” institutions.

I’m left wondering how we offer ourselves more spaces to imagine (that are not commodified)? Who is defining innovation for us? How do we reclaim innovation and imagination for ourselves in the big and the small? Individually and as organizations? I take a deep breath.

I will love who loves me

I will love as much as I am loved

I will hate who hates me

I will feel nothing for everyone oblivious to me

I will stay indifferent to indifference

I will live hostile to hostility

I will make myself a passionate and eager lover in response to passionate and eager love

I will be nobody’s fool

June Jordan: Resolution #1,003

History always comes through. Powerful in its simplicity, radical in what it demands of us. In those four words, Rebecca Dixon entreats us to operate from truth. To wrestle with and acknowledge the ways in which institutions and policies that have been the cornerstone of labor and worker rights movements have perpetuated exclusion and marginalization, whether deliberate or indirect.

Grounding our work in history, particularly the histories of Black and non-Black people of color, can help us “acknowledge the ways in which we sometimes tend to rely on the ideologies we think we are opposing” as Angela Davis reminds us.

Grounding our work in history also creates more opportunity to be shaped by the imagination and innovation of our elders, Johnnie Tilmon, Hattie Canty, Dorothy Bolden, Fannie Lou Hamer, Combahee River Collective, Southern Tenant Farmers’ Unions and so many more. To be shaped in ways that allow for deeper levels of rigor and humility in our pursuit of “justice” on behalf of workers.

I’m waiting for the revolution that will let me take all my parts with me

-Pat Parker

Centering Blackness as a framework and movement practice creates the possibilities for systems transformation and deeper partnerships and alliances that can fundamentally shift conditions for all workers.

In my role at NELP and throughout my life, centering Blackness gives me room to access the fullness of my resources in the big and small ways in which I strive for dignity, equity, and justice.

Happy Birthday to the late Pat Parker, a Black radical feminist, activist, and poet.

History always comes through. Powerful in its simplicity, radical in what it demands of us.


Related to

About the Author

Kemi Role

Areas of expertise:
  • Community Engagement,
  • Criminal Records & Employment,
  • Occupational Segregation,
  • Workplace Equity

The Latest News

All news