By September 15, 2020, at least 39,718 Black Americans had died from COVID-19—the highest mortality rate of all racial categories—and we have lost so many of our neighbors, family and loved ones since then. And 3.3 million Black Americans were unemployed in May; a month later, the unemployment rate gap between Black and white Americans was the widest it had been in five years. Cops in the United States killed 164 Black people in the first eight months of 2020; and white supremacists and paramilitary violence were on the rise, nationally and globally, overtly supported by the right-wing in mainstream politics.
But that’s not how the story ends.
The Movement for Black Lives became what may be the largest social movement in U.S. history. We are defunding the police. We announced federal legislation with The BREATHE Act, a bill that divests our taxpayer dollars from the brutal and discriminatory practices of the criminal-legal system and invests in our liberty and public safety. We launched the Frontline, to make a new America possible: one in which we can all be free from the fear of white supremacist violence being waged on our communities from seats of elected power.
We held the first Black National Convention since 1972, reaching 250,000 of our people the night of the Convention and 500,000 since. We trained more than 200 fellows, in 15 different states and 20 cities, through our Freedom Summer Fellowship and Electoral Justice Project’s Electoral Justice League. We went on strike for Black lives, fighting for the clear intersectional demands of Black workers and leading to the creation of Labor for Black Lives. We’ve seen the growth of a nationwide, Black-led, multiracial movement, with people showing up and showing out for justice via The Rising Majority.
The story of 2020 is that when multiple intersecting crises converged to break us, Black people rose—and demanded that this country live up to its ideals of liberty and justice for all. We showed the world that Black Lives Matter. We committed ourselves to seeing that vision of beloved community come to fruition. And we will win.
ASH-LEE WOODARD HENDERSON is the first Black woman Executive Director of the Highlander Research and Education Center, a social justice leadership training school and cultural center founded in 1932.