By Dayvon Love,
Special to the AFRO
For 13 years, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS) has been aspiring to be an independent, Black, revolutionary political organization that can have a meaningful impact on the lives of Black people in the Baltimore region. We were clear that in order to advocate in a way that aligns with a revolutionary Black perspective, we could not take the traditional nonprofit approach to building our organization. We would need to have an organizational structure that would allow us to be independent and have no restrictions on the nature of our political activity.
Nonprofits can be vehicles for social good among Black people, but they cannot effectively engage in the political warfare needed to fight the White supremacist institutions that wield power over the status quo. Nonprofits are public entities meant to serve charitable causes and are subject to government scrutiny and limitations on political activity that make them insufficient for revolutionary political advocacy. We were clear that we want to use our skills to wage political warfare on behalf of Black people and that a nonprofit structure would not serve us well.
Additionally, nonprofits are normally funded by grants from philanthropic institutions. The dependency nonprofits typically have on philanthropy makes them too vulnerable to the influence of elites, who are often extensions of the political establishment. There are many organizations that start off with revolutionary aspirations, only to eventually be watered down by their dependence on philanthropy and White liberals. LBS was clear that we needed an organizational structure and approach that gave us the maximum amount of freedom from philanthropic influence and a business model that makes us accountable to the masses of Black people.
We decided early on to incorporate as a business instead of a nonprofit. This is a legal structure that has no substantive limitations on political activity. This allows us to speak boldly in ways that very few organizations are capable of and has resulted in our ability to be effective in our advocacy efforts. Even though contributions to nonprofits are tax exempt, which gives donors a tax write-off, what LBS would lose in potential donors that want a tax write-off, we gain through our independence– which is worth the money we may lose out on from people who will only contribute if their donation is tax deductible. Additionally, we had to develop a business model that does not rely on philanthropy but on small contributions from many individuals who believe in our work. When we first started LBS, many of us worked other jobs in addition to doing LBS to sustain ourselves. Because of our determination to develop a community donor base of over 600 people and our partnerships with initiatives and entities that align with our values, we have been able to reach a point where we can support a small team to work full-time to amass the political power needed to effectively be a Black, independent, revolutionary force in the political arena in Baltimore.
We are grateful that we took the path that we did to become an independent revolutionary Black political organization because with the political victories that we have under our belt (Reparations for the war on drugs, Baltimore City Children and Youth Fund, Black Arts District, repeal of the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights) we are looking to expand our work even more. We exist because of the power that the community gives us through being sustainers, publicly referencing our work, contacting their legislators when we put out action alerts, and spreading the word throughout the community. Very few people have the experience of wielding power that does not emanate from legitimacy or social capital assigned to it by White mainstream institutions.
We are honored to have the opportunity to possess that kind of independent Black political power, and as we expand and ask more people to become sustainers for LBS, we are honored to manifest the kind of power that can conceive of a world where Black people are truly a free and independent people.