There have always been people who claw and conspire against Black freedom. In the 1950s, it was white crowds gathered to spit and scream vitriol at the first Black children integrating schools. Today, it is Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron proclaiming the value of Black women in the same breath in which he denies Breonna Taylor justice

The beating hearts behind the BREATHE Act know that objectors to liberation have always come with the territory. Still, we refuse to be diminished. Dubbed the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century, this legislation proposes a clear and strategic roadmap for divesting from the violent police state and investing in real community safety in the way of housing, healthcare, education, basic income, and environmental justice.

Despite consistently highlighting the failures of systemic reform and emphasizing the need for abolition, the BREATHE Act team, comprised of mostly Black women, still has to contend with mainstream naysayers like Don Lemon, Charles Barkley, and even Al Sharpton who have characterized the demand to “Defund the Police” as unstrategic, unrealistic, and, in the words of Barkley, “crap.” 

The idea of defunding the police is not new or naive, nor did it start with disconnected liberal elites. The conclusion that the police cannot be reformed originated in the hearts, minds, and lived experiences of Black people. The Black women who have organized their communities and amplified this call have meticulously outlined the evidence for why police reform isn’t a viable option. To know the truth of failed reform, we need only turn to the decades of experience among us, the personal stories of systemic harm, and the witnessing we have done with the families who have lost their loved ones. To date, BREATHE is the only evidence-based roadmap to transformative change.   

Rooted in the history of freedom fighters, the BREATHE Act honors those known and unknown, who changed the possibilities of their conditions rather than capitulating to their limitations. We know the lineage of those hated and hunted, disparaged and maligned, and whose prophetic strategies and visions we live out today—Black people free from chattel slavery, Black queer people out and alive, and the continued opportunity to get free. 

We are not cosplaying melanin for Twitter clout. We are real Black people who have spent our lives building community, organizations, and strategy for social change, and our strategy and our demands will not be illegitimized. Our demand for safety must not be limited to cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men. It must unequivocally include all Black women, Indigenous people, queer people, gender non-conforming people, and all people living on the expanses of the disability spectrum. We take our direction of possibility from Harriet, Sojourner, and Fannie Lou who said: “If I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I’m not backing off.”

In this photo gallery we invite you to see us, and to join us in championing the BREATHE Act

“If Black women are free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” — The Combahee River Collective