Many Black Americans were enthralled when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were inaugurated Wednesday, Jan. 20, but some Black Chicago activists aren’t depending on the country’s new leadership to make gains for them.
“I’m afraid that Biden and Harris won’t be held accountable,” Brave Space Alliance coordinator and organizer Tatyana Chante told Block Club Chicago. “I don’t think they’ll cause as much damage as Trump would’ve done if he had been elected for another four years, but I am worried about what they won’t get done.”
Chante’s viewpoint is shared by other Chicago activists, including Caullen Hudson and David Moran. Hudson, who is Black, and Moran, who is Latino, are the founder/executive director and multimedia director of Soapbox Productions, respectively. They have been chronicling Chicago’s activism scene for years, according to Block Club Chicago.
“It seems it will be an attempt to re-calibrate to Obama-era policies and ‘re-establish America’s standing in the world’ without any acknowledgment of the imperialist tendencies and modern-day colonialism that created that standing in the first place,” Hudson said of the Biden-Harris’ time in office.
Instead of depending on the Biden-Harris administration to do the heavy lifting for them, activists believe the best course of action to effect real change is to keep doing the grassroots work.
“Seeing what 2020 has presented, it’s opened up a lot of people’s eyes. It’s politicized people to the point where they’re realizing the power of organizing within communities,” Moran said. “We saw that with mutual aid and, on a larger scale, what Stacey Abrams did in Georgia. The real wins are in these places we’re seeing.”
Aislinn Pulley is the executive director of the Chicago Torture Justice Project and co-founder of the city’s Black Lives Matter chapter. She is actively working to help victims of police violence overcome their trauma and push for police reform, including defunding the police (which neither Biden nor Harris have supported). She said she doesn’t see large-scale change for Black Americans happening anytime soon under Biden and Harris.
“Trump’s Department of Justice declined to pursue any of the consent decrees made under the Obama administration. What will the relationship be between the feds and the consent decree now?” Pulley said.
Like Moran, she encouraged people to be advocates within their own communities.
“That’s a concrete thing people can do: … visit the site, learn how to talk to your alderperson, participate in trainings if they can,” Pulley said. “Participate in mutual aid efforts, and support on-the-ground work during this time, because it’s very important.”
The activists admit the new president and vice president are a step up from former President Donald Trump, but they still plan to hold them accountable.
“Fortunately, facts matter a little more to Biden and Harris than they did to Trump, so we can hold their feet to the fire,” Hudson said.
Chicago’s Black activists aren’t the only ones monitoring the Biden-Harris administration to hold them accountable for keeping their promises.
Shaun King tweeted Biden had failed to deliver on his day-one promise of addressing policing and mass incarceration.
“I just saw Biden’s official list of executive orders for today. He promised that he would act on the issues of policing & mass incarceration on Day 1, but appears to have already broken that promise. The list of orders is long and varied, but not a thing on mass incarceration,” King tweeted Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Tariq Nasheed echoed King’s words in a tweet of his own. “While ‘Loving vs Virginia’ twitter is celebrating how ‘laid’ Michelle Obama’s hair is at the inauguration, here is a list of the executive orders Biden is signing this afternoon, with policies for specific groups but NOTHING specific for Foundational Black Americans,” Nasheed wrote.
GoodKids MadCity activist 21-year-old activist Alycia Kamil agreed with her peers about putting faith in their own efforts as opposed to looking to the Biden-Harris administration to save them.
“I believe in the power of people coming together as a collective, but then I also try not to invest hope in a system where I know there’s always a loophole,” Kamil said.
Melanie Campbell is the executive director of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation. She said she’s been an activist for “a long time” and people have to realize they can’t expect politicians to make sweeping changes without advocating for their own interests.
“If you don’t push your priorities with the people you elect … [you can’t] just think it’s going to happen overnight without that.,” Campbell said in an interview with CBS News.