When conservative Candace Owens called on Black Democrats to ditch the party and join the GOP under the name “Blexit,” a backlash ensued when it became confused with a Blexit organization that had already existed — and in many ways was the antithesis of Owens’ movement.
The Minnesota-based nonprofit was founded in 2016 by Me’Lea Connelly, who sent Owens a cease-and-desist letter promising legal action if she didn’t respond when the commentator launched her campaign in October. Connelly established the national group — which does not adhere to any one political party — to encourage Black people to move away from institutions that have disenfranchised them.
“Blexit is all about finding the economic root of oppressive systems and finding ways to exit them by creating replacement systems that actually work for us,” Connelly told the Daily Dot in November, saying that when Owens’ movement emerged she was inundated with messages from confused supporters wanting answers. “I think that the concept of it being around leaving a political party is shallow, it’s misguided, and it misses the mark of what the Black community truly needs.”
Connelly’s Blexit emerged in the time following the police shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in July 2016. Around that time, many in the Black community began calling for others to give up ties to white-owned institutions. Killer Mike called followers to #BankBlack and join Black-owned Citizens Trust Bank over financial institutions like Wells Fargo and Bank of America.
Amid the hubbub Connelly encountered after she touched back down in the U.S. following a study trip in Italy, she was forced to issue a clarification explaining the difference between her Blexit and the one Owens had commissioned merchandise for and falsely chalked up to Kanye West.
After sorting through donations that came from new members believing the movement was anti-Democrat, Blexit has since continued its work giving the Black community alternatives to companies that exploit the community. Having already launched a yearly shopping festival for Black-owned businesses, an alternative solution to payday loans, the organization is working to open Minnesota’s sole Black-led credit union. Plus, Blexit also plans to launch alternatives to public schools and big retail, to name a few initiatives the group is undertaking.