The concept of Sankofa, which is a word of the Akan people of Ghana, is central to my work as an activist and organizer, and also to me personally. The word means “to go back and get it,” and its symbol is a bird whose feet face forward, but whose head is turned backward with the egg of life in its beak.
I have this symbol tattooed on my right arm, because I believe in my soul that we must know where we have been to know where we are going, and to be able to envision what is possible. I am thinking of the concept of Sankofa and also of a tweet from a young Black Leftist that I have quietly followed on Twitter for a long while. She speaks of feeling defeated, and asks if our movement is over. It is for her and anyone who is concerned about the future of electoral politics in this country, and about the Left as we move forward, that I write this.
Howie Hawkins and I recently ran for office as the Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees for the Green Party of the US and the Socialist Party of the USA. One of the intentions behind our campaign was to raise policy issues that were being ignored by the Democrats and Republicans, issues which are important to cash-poor and working-class people. Another reason was to secure ballot lines so that the opportunities for other Green candidates to run for office would be available. This is crucial so that Green candidates like Emmanuel Estrada, who is now the presumed mayor-elect of Baldwin Park, California, can run and win.
It’s not a secret that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have specific programs to address the needs of Black, Latinx and Indigenous people. The Green Party does, from an Economic Bill of Rights to end poverty and economic inequality, to community control of police to address and end that form of state-sponsored violence against Black people and other people of color. Public-opinion polls clearly show that a majority of Americans want a third party, and that they are in support of Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, tuition-free college and ending the wars the United States military is involved in around the world.
Working-class people in racially oppressed communities which continue to endure systemic discrimination, and youth who are fighting for their economic and climate futures, will be the core of a Green Party that is building itself into a major party. Voters who want another option, one that is more aligned with their vision of this country, will have us to look to.
Working-class people in racially oppressed communities which continue to endure systemic discrimination, and youth who are fighting for their economic and climate futures, will be the core of a Green Party that is building itself into a major party.Angela Walker, Green Party VP nominee
Our strategy to build for the future is very straightforward. We must build stronger local parties by focusing on organizing working-class people, people of color, and young people. Local parties will be welcoming places for new people to participate in political education and action. We must also make our demands in social movements between elections for climate action, racial and economic justice, peace initiatives and democracy reforms. Keeping our issues at the forefront of discussion will help set policy debates and agendas at the state and national levels.
We must remember that inside the Democratic Party, Leftists lose their voices and identities as distinct alternatives. The Left must run its own candidates under its own independent banner and policy platform. We can’t be afraid to be bold about our policies, and explicit about our independence.
We must also make our demands in social movements between elections for climate action, racial and economic justice, peace initiatives and democracy reforms.Angela Walker, Green Party VP nominee
A crucially important piece that unites this strategy is the need for community-building among Leftists. We may not agree on every ideology, but the places we intersect must be the places we build from. I am thinking of the power of the Rainbow Coalition that esteemed Black Panther Fred Hampton helped create. This coalition united working-class and cash-poor Black, Puerto Rican and white people and youth to fight for their own best interests against a power structure that denied them basic dignity. Today’s Movement for Black Lives is working to build that same unity.
This community-building recognizes that the Left is strongest when it is united, and provides opportunities for skillshares, mutual aid work and political and popular education while working toward the larger end goal of making fundamental changes to create a world that protects and lifts all of us and not just a few. It is important that independents know the history of popular movements and struggles in this country, and how to build for the future by incorporating the blueprints created by the warriors who fought before us. And woven through these strategies is the imperative to make sure that we have an ethic of care informing our work; we must be able to hold space for ourselves and each other to ensure that we are able to organize and fight from a place of wholeness.
We must remember that inside the Democratic Party, Leftists lose their voices and identities as distinct alternatives…We can’t be afraid to be bold about our policies, and explicit about our independence.Angela Walker, Green Party VP nominee
Our movement is far from over. The elections are finished, but our work continues. It intensifies. I hope that people who are looking for alternatives to the two-party duopoly will research the Green Party and other parties of the Left, and join us in building the community we need and deserve.