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BLM Announces Virtual Convention 'Outside of the White Gaze'

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The Black Lives Matter movement will hold a virtual convention in August to produce a new political agenda that seeks to build on the protests that followed George Floyd’s death.

The 2020 Black National Convention will take place on Aug. 28 via a live broadcast. It will feature conversations, performances and other events designed to develop a set of demands ahead of the November general election, according to a Wednesday announcement.

The convention is being organized by the Electoral Justice Project of the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 organizations.

“What this convention will do is create a Black liberation agenda that is not a duplication of the Vision for Black Lives, but really is rooted as a set of demands for progress,” Jessica Byrd, who leads the Electoral Justice Project, said.

At the end of the convention, participants will ratify a revised platform that will serve as a set of demands for the first 100 days of a new presidential administration, Byrd said.

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“What we have the opportunity to do now, as this 50-state rebellion has provided the conditions for change, is to say, ‘You need to take action right this minute,’” Byrd said.

Initial work to shape the new platform will take place on Aug. 6 and 7, during a smaller so-called People’s Convention that will virtually convene hundreds of delegates from advocacy groups.

The process will be similar to one that produced the first platform, which included early iterations of the demand to defund police that now drives many demonstrations.

Other platform demands included ending cash bail, reducing pretrial detention and scrapping risk-assessment tools used in criminal courts.

Will BLM's demands be met by the next presidential administration?

Convention organizers said this year’s event will pay tribute to the 1972 National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, which concluded with the introduction of a national black agenda.

The Gary gathering included prominent black leaders such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Shirley Chisolm, who ran for president, as well as Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale.

Consensus at the convention is not guaranteed. The National Black Political Convention caused divisions between participating organizations over its position on busing to integrate public schools and anti-Israel statements on global affairs.

Ultimately, the agenda prompted a leader of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, to sever ties with the convention.

Similarly, the Vision for Black Lives platform and its characterization of Israel as an “apartheid state” committing mass murder against Palestinian people drew allegations of anti-Semitism from a handful of Jewish groups.

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The Black Lives Matter movement’s coalition has more than doubled in size in the years since the first platform, Byrd said.

“That actually is the black self-determination that our politics require,” Byrd said, “that we don’t just respond to the Democratic Party. That we don’t just respond to the Republican Party. We don’t just say ‘black lives matter’ and beg people to care. We build an alternative container for all of us to connect, outside of the white gaze, to say this is what we want for our communities.”

The August convention will happen on the same day as a march on Washington that is being organized by Sharpton, who announced the march during a memorial service for Floyd.


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