This conversation amongst friends is a peek into the deep complexities of keeping Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and other marginalized folks safe while they activate and organize for liberation.
Black Movement Law Project is about the intentional and deliberate work of first protecting (physically and legally) the people in movement spaces. At the same time, the work of BMLP is supporting local communities to develop sustainable infrastructure so that the people within movement spaces are empowered and cared for. BMLP’s origins thread back to Ferguson and with nash, even further back into the Occupy Movement. Their work has been fundamental across the country as people protest police brutality and the terrorizing of Black and other marginalized people by police.
What surfaces in this conversation is the strategy and forward-thinking necessary to liberate marginalized folks when working within systems that are designed to subjugate them. Every move must be carefully turned over, anticipating the fall-out way down the road. Historically, as Abi asserts, the very institutions that cause the crises usually come out twice as strong in the end.
Thus, with loud calls for accountability for the crimes of the white supremacist insurrectionists, movement people must be mindful of the unintended consequences. During this conversation, for example, Tanay, Nicole, Abi, nash, and Marques carefully turn over how policies regulating hate speech can eventually be used to clamp down on marginalized people trying to organize around systems of oppression.
It was fascinating to listen to this “think tank” do its thinking. and see their understanding of the current state of anti-oppression work evolve. Their strategizing and BMLP operations are rooted in their lived experiences as People of Color on the ground during uprisings and their desire to support movement spaces from a place of relationship. No one gets thrown away. As nash says, “Liberation is collective or it’s non-existent.”
In this episode, we talked about:
- The origin story of the Black Movement Law Project, with its intention to create a proactive space for Black leadership in jail and legal support for the Black Lives Matter activists
- The priority and focus of BMLP: to help build up the capacities and infrastructure in local Black-led communities to make movement work sustainable
- The work now in movement work: to create opportunities for entry
- The glaring differences in policing white supremacists v. Black activists fighting for their lives and Constitutional rights
- Monitoring hate speech on social media platforms
- The level of organization amongst white supremacists during the insurrection and the likelihood of support from the inside
- How white supremacist mobs in DC highlight Washingtonian’s need for statehood, a community that is mostly Black and without representation in the federal government
- The very complex difficulties in demanding accountability for the traitors while not putting Black and other marginalized folks at greater risk long term. The systems of accountability are built to oppress marginalized people.
- The way discernment and intuition guides each of their decision making in dangerous, critical moments
- What it means to live an inclusive life
Tanay Lynn Harris
Tanay Lynn Harris is the Founder and Principal Strategist of Tenacity Consulting. As a facilitator, organizer, and abolitionist, she advises and supports organizations to achieve equitable and transformative change through learning journeys and critical social consciousness. She is committed to holistic approaches to cultivating change-makers and ushering in liberation and transformation through the building and cultivation of relationships and reimagining a world anew.
Tanay worked for the Center for African American Research and Public Policy at Temple University as a co-coordinator and was an educator in Philadelphia. Her time as a grassroots organizer in Philadelphia learning from leading activists, scholars, and building in the community, she learned more deeply Tanay has worked on some of the nation’s leading high-profiled legal cases and pressing issues of our time. She is a former national organizer at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc (LDF) in New York City. Tanay worked with leaders and community members in various cities across the country to help build capacity and momentum, based on their collective needs and wants. She worked on several Supreme Court cases and was a member of the legal team for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Her work at LDF was at the intersection of death penalty abolition, criminal justice, juvenile justice, educational equity, and voter suppression.
After her time at LDF, she worked with global ecumenical faith leaders around social justice and human rights issues through a liberation theology lens. Tanay leveraged legal support in Ferguson and Baltimore during the Uprising, to protect the rights of protestors and the community through holistic legal and technical support. She works with Black Movement Law Project where she continues to support as a community coordinator. Building the power of and with impacted people and communities is critical to creating meaningful and lasting change.
Additionally, Tanay is dedicated to maternal and birthing persons’ health and reproductive justice as a birth worker, researcher, and care worker. She is a Kindred Partner with the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and a member of the Maryland Maternal Health Taskforce. She is on the Advisory Board of CLLCTIVLY in Baltimore, which provides an ecosystem of support for Black-led businesses and organizations. Tanay is a graduate of Africana Studies/African American studies at Temple University and the Center for Social Impact Strategies from the University of Pennsylvania.
Nathan “nash” Sheard
Nathan “nash” Sheard is a cofounder and legal organizer with Black Movement Law Project (BMLP). nash’s work is informed by lived experience with aggressive and militarized policing, including racial profiling, the effects of biased broken windows policing tactics, and police brutality. nash has worked extensively to help mitigate the damage of harmful interactions with law enforcement online and in over-policed communities. In addition to organizing with BMLP, nash is a founding member of the Mutant Legal activist collective and Associate Director of Community Organizing at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). nash has spent close to a decade training communities in crisis on how to document police conduct, exercise their legal rights, counteract state repression, and actively participate in their own legal defense.
Marques Banks Works as a Justice Project Staff Attorney at the National Office of Advancement Project, a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Prior to joining, Advancement Project in 2020, Marques worked at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs as an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Covington & Burling, LLP. During his fellowship, Marques challenged the criminalization of poverty, through direct representation and policy advocacy for individuals subject to overly onerous fines, fees, and jail time for minor offenses. After his fellowship ended, Marques continued to work at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee challenging policing practices in the D.C. area.
During law school, Marques interned at NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He worked as a research assistant for Professor Justin Hansford, Saint Louis University School of Law. He also participated in Columbus Community Legal Services’ Advocacy for the Elderly Clinic, representing individuals denied social security benefits. Marques helped create the Black Movement-Law Project, an organization providing legal support to the activists and organizations of the Movement for Black Lives. He provided legal support in Ferguson, MO, Baltimore, MD, and other cities across the U.S. During the 2015 uprising in Baltimore, Marques trained hundreds of legal observers. Marques is a graduate of The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law. He is a member of Law 4 Black Lives DC and Black Lives Matter DC.
Abi Hassen is a political philosophy student, attorney, technologist, and co-founder of Black Movement Law Project, a legal support rapid response group that grew out of the uprisings in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere. Abi is currently a partner at O’Neill and Hassen LLP, a law practice focused on indigent criminal defense. Prior to this current work, Abi was the Mass Defense Coordinator at the National Lawyers Guild. He has also worked as a political campaign manager and strategist, union organizer, and community organizer. Abi is particularly interested in exploring the dynamic nature of institutions, political movements, and their interactions from the perspective of Complex Systems studies.
- Bios for Tanay, nash, Marques and Abi
- Mumia Abul Jamal is an internationally celebrated black writer and radio journalist, a former member of the Black Panther Party who has spent the last 30 years in prison, almost all of it in solitary confinement on Pennsylvania’s Death Row.
- Dr. Ashon Crawley is a teacher, writer, and artist who engages a wide range of critical paradigms to theorize the ways in which “otherwise” modes of existence can serve as disruptions against the marginalization of and violence against minoritarian lifeworlds and as possibilities for flourishing.
- Section 230: “The most important law protecting internet speech.”
- Kettling: is a controversial police tactic for controlling large crowds during demonstrations or protests where police officers form large cordons which move to corral a crowd within a smaller, contained area. This tactic has resulted in the detention of bystanders as well as protesters.
Thank you so much for joining us!
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