Group members inspired by Ferguson and Black Lives Matter
The Black Liberation Project “is less about policy and more about social change. It’s about how people have to start thinking differently and how society has to start acting differently.”
Twenty-year-old Vanessa Taylor is one of the original eight founders and organizers of the Black Liberation Project, whose goals are based in the need for human compassion and the need to have a collectively respectful society. “We are a grassroots organization, which started in 2015, for youth ages 23 and under,” Taylor told the MSR.
“The organization’s youngest member is 11, whose mother brings him to the bi-weekly meetings,” Taylor said. “So although it currently has older youth, at the organization’s bi-weekly meetings, they are tossing around ideas about ways to get younger youth involved in its movement.”
Black Liberation Project started in direct response to the Black Lives Matter Movement and what was going on in Ferguson, MO with the shooting death of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson. “We started it around the death of Michael Brown, because the same thing was going on here. Being [in Ferguson] opened our eyes to experiencing some of the things first hand and it made us come back [to Minneapolis] to look at our city and see the same things playing out here, even if they were not quite as dramatic.”
The organizers of Black Liberation did not all go to Ferguson together, but rather met during the protests and also during an arrest that Taylor was a part of. Taylor and two others were arrested while making a quick trip to the convenience store Kwik Trip. This personal arrest was the incident that “inspired us more than anything,” Taylor added.
Originally from Hastings, Taylor moved to Minneapolis in 2013 to study sociology at Augsburg College. Currently working with the American Friends Service Committee, which is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice as a practical expression of faith in action, Taylor’s day job is aligned with her passion. She currently runs the organization’s youth group.
Sister to five biological siblings and two step siblings, when asked about her inspiration, Taylor responded, “My mom. I talk about her a lot. She had me when she was 17, so especially the more I learn about her, I respect and love her more.
“I used to go to college courses with her,” Taylor continued. “She used to work two jobs, so I remember there being nights where I would stay up all night just to see my mom when she came home. She would bring me home a stuffed animal with the tips she made that night. She did all that and built herself up, from having a kid at 17 and people saying she would not be anything, to her now just getting a raise at work and having a pretty well-respected position working for the community in Hastings.”
In terms of community leadership, Taylor seems to be following in her mother’s footsteps. “Youth want to work with me, and I want to continue working with youth to foster their leadership and their own type of activism, so they can go to the movement and fully contribute everything they have to offer. We do lots of awareness and self-education.
“We have developed to be less [about] direct action and more community oriented, simply focusing on Black youth and fostering leadership. When we first started, we were definitely doing more of our own thing because we are Black kids and were organizing for our needs at the time. So, one of the first things we did was the march downtown and some healing rallies that were specifically for Black women.
“For now, people can find out what we are doing on our Facebook page, because a lot of what we do is just spontaneous,” explained Taylor “We move how the world moves.”
Brandi Phillips welcomes all reader comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.