March 2024 Episode of Solidarity Is This


Reckoning with Sustainability:

Black Leaders Reflect on 2020, the Funding Cliff, and Organizing Infrastructure

In this special episode, co-host Adaku Utah and M Adams reflect on the Building Movement Project's latest report in the Movement Infrastructure series - Reckoning with Sustainability. The report explores how more than 50 Black movement leaders and their organizations understood the brief moment of “racial reckoning” in 2020, how their organizations have fared in the years since, and what they see on the horizon.

By centering the foresight of Black leaders, we hope this report will bolster advocacy efforts to sustain funding and investment in the capacity of Black-led organizing groups that are building power in communities across the country and critical to the broader struggle for Black liberation.


About the episode guest: M Adams

Born and raised in Milwaukee, in a community frequently targeted by police, gendered based violence and other forms of violence, Adams knows the impacts of such violence all too well. Being a survivor compels Adams’ work as a prison abolitionist and a radical Black queer GNC feminist organizer. These commitments also fuel her to build her own family, as she is a proud dad and hubby, and she sees her family as the primary motivator for her work.

As a queer Black person and a movement scientist, Adams thinks critically about power, oppression, and movement building and regularly applies and tests her intersectional approach in diverse arenas. Adams has been a leading figure in WI politics as the Co-Executive Emeritus of Freedom, Inc., and the Take Back the Land Movement. Additionally, she has presented before the United Nations for the Convention on Eliminating Racial Discrimination, she is a co-author of the book Forward from Ferguson and a paper on Black community control over the police in the Wisconsin Law Review, and she authored an important piece of intersectional theory called, “Why Killing Unarmed Black Folks is a Queer Issue.” Adams can regularly be seen in person, on local and national TV, and in the newspapers giving presentations, testifying at city council meetings, and energizing crowds at protests. She can also be seen at local dog parks with her pack.

Power, as most plainly stated, is the ability to get something done. We're fighting for us to have the direct ability to get something done - which is not fighting for somebody to listen to me; to do right by me. That's a different orientation.
If you are fighting to build power, then you have to be thinking seriously about governance, which is how do groups of people get things done? To me, infrastructure is key to that.
- M Adams

Adaku Utah (00:03):
Welcome to The Solidarity Is This Podcast, an initiative of the Building Movement Project. I'm Adaku Utah, one of your co-hosts. Today, we have a special episode for you. This episode, we are highlighting the Building Movement Project's latest report in the movement infrastructure series called Reckoning With Sustainability: Black Leaders Reflect on 2020, the Funding Cliff, and Organizing Infrastructure, which captures insights and wisdom from more than 50 Black movement leaders. Together, we explored how leaders and their organizations understood the brief moment of racial reckoning in 2020, how our organizations have fared in the years since, and what we see on the horizon. By centering the foresight of Black leaders, we hope this report will bolster advocacy efforts to sustain funding and investments in the capacity of Black-led organizing groups that are building power in communities across the country and critical to the broader struggle of Black liberation.

Adaku Utah (01:08):
In conversation, I am so happy to be joined by M Adams, who is current the infrastructure and operations executive at the Movement for Black Lives. As a queer Black person and a movement scientist, Adams thinks critically about power, oppression and movement building, and regularly applies and tests their intersectional approach in diverse arenas. Adams has been a leading figure in Wisconsin politics, as the co-executive director of Freedom, Inc and the Take Back the Land movement. Additionally, she's presented before the United Nations for the Convention on Eliminating Racial Discrimination. She's also the co-author of the book Forward from Ferguson, and a paper on Black community control over the police in the Wisconsin Law Review. And she co-authored an important piece of intersectional theory called Why Killing Unarmed Black Folks is a Queer Issue. Thank you for joining us in this conversation. I hope it inspires you into action.

Adaku Utah (02:14):
Welcome, M. Thank you so much for your presence on this show again. It's good to have you back. Thank you for all the ways that you're shifting our collective axis towards more freedom. I'm really grateful that you were one of the 53 Black organizers that we interviewed for this latest report called Reckoning With Sustainability: Black Leaders Reflect on 2020, the Funding Cliff, and Organizing Infrastructure, which synthesizes insights from over 50 Black movement leaders across the country who are reflecting on challenges and opportunities in building and sustaining Black organizing in 2020 and beyond. So grateful to have your voice and your wisdom in the report and your presence here.

M Adams (03:03):
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me here. I'm excited to be back and I look forward to being in dialogue with you, comrade.

Adaku Utah (03:11):
Before we get into the report, we love to bring in a little bit more of you into the space. Would love for you to share, what are your points of entry into movement work? How does being Black inform how you lead in these times?

M Adams (03:28):
I'm originally from Milwaukee, gang, gang.

Adaku Utah (03:32):
Come on.

M Adams (03:33):
If people know about Milwaukee, it is considered one of the most segregated cities in the country. If you're from Milwaukee and you're Black, we live on the North side, that's where we're concentrated. We faced many issues facing and confronting many Black communities. My neighborhood, my block where I grew up, shout out 2-6, is very much shaped by the hundreds of years of genocide, chattel enslavement, et cetera, against Black people. In particular, one of the carnations of it through the supposed war on drugs really influenced my community. We were heavily policed. All of the men in my family at some point were incarcerated. The women in my family, my mother, some of my aunties had direct experiences with police violence, and maybe even in and out of jail. That experience of being policed in that way, from very early on, gave me an awareness of an us and a them.

M Adams (04:39):
As I got older, different types of uses and different types of thems also became more pronounced. It was like sometimes the us was girls and women, and then the them were harmful and abusive men. Sometimes the us was gay people, gender non-conforming people, poor people. This idea that there were groups of people who were targeting was really clear to be from the beginning. I did not always know how to draw the kinds of structural connections to our personal experiences that I can now draw and trace now, but the experience of there are some of us who are baring the brunt of whatever is happening was always really there and present.

M Adams (05:29):
My mother, a survivor who's not with us anymore, who transitioned eight years ago, but who had been a survivor of many forms of violence also really crystallized that experience for me. She was a single mom. The welfare state had failed her in so many ways, failed us. We had faced eviction. There was abuse and violence from my father when he was around, but who ended up being incarcerated for 30 years. There was just all of these concentrations of these things you hear about, or rather the articulated issues, that impact and target Black people that really made me have an awareness of who I was.

M Adams (06:07):
As time went by and I actually started to nerd out more in school about science, which I learned was the way you understand the world, I became more scientific in thinking about my experience more scientific and thinking about how to actually help people. Those things eventually matured to me becoming a movement scientist, so somebody who thinks and practices how to create real scientific solutions to end the harm and violence against the uses. That's my journey into movement. I didn't come from a movement family in that way, but I came from a family of fighting women who didn't take shit.

Adaku Utah (06:53):

M Adams (06:53):
All of the things you deal with. Yeah.

Adaku Utah (06:56):
I do know. I do know, as someone who similarly comes from a crew of Black women and non-binary folks who are not willing to shut up about what's happening around us. Yeah, as you said so beautifully, being more scientific, being more thorough about our conditions, and what we might need to do to shift and transform things for our people.

Adaku Utah (07:22):
I want to bring your Black scientific orientation and lens into this report and the landscape of time that the report is traversing. If we go back to 2020, which was a pivotal moment in the history of racial reckoning in the US, and really around the world, with the rise of COVID-19 pandemic which highlighted longstanding racial disparities in healthcare, housing, employment and economic conditions. We had Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and many folks who became ancestors at the hands of police and state sanctioned violence. Simultaneously, there was an economic fallout and presidential elections.

Adaku Utah (08:14):
I'm curious how you and other Black organizers that you work with were assessing that moment?

M Adams (08:23):
As you were just naming some of our folks who've been taken from us, it really put me back to some of those specific moments of being in the street, or hearing the name and watching the verdicts. Something really was broken open. Something broke up for me, as a single person, or as an individual, and I think something broke open for us collectively as Black people, as queer people, as women, as all these different things as we are. Then I think something broke open and brought a society that could no longer manage our resistance. I think we overwhelmed it.

M Adams (09:12):
2020 was extremely powerful, as somebody who was involved in 2020, the uprisings in 2020, and who is still in movement and committed to movement, I'm still taking in the full impact of the organizing, and the mobilizations, and the resistance. The rebellions of 2020, I think we're still seeing the ripple effects in many ways. I think some of that organizing work, a few really important things that happened during that time. I think one, I just want to shout out to the folks who were on the ground, the organizations who really helped to push and advance the demands around defund.

M Adams (09:54):
To really say how incredible 2020 was, in 2014, when Mike Brown was assassinated by the police there in Ferguson, even though some of us who are leftist were calling for abolition and the divestment for policing, the broader response was, "Let's just give them body cameras." Even amongst people in our community, they were like, "Oh, if we could only see." Fast-forward six years later, nobody was asking for body cameras. That kind of intellectual leap, or that kind of change in consciousness, is not the kind of thing you see in six years in a society. That usually takes generations of work to get people to see something so different.

M Adams (10:40):
I think I'm just so proud of the folks, the everyday person who said they had enough that day that wasn't in an organization. I'm super proud of the folks who were in organizations, who were creating opportunities for that moment to mean so much when it came. I just think that the big narrative and ideological shifts around abolition that forced the conversation at people's tables, or on the corners, or wherever they were, in board meetings, it was undeniable. Even if people didn't agree, they had to contend with it. I think that that was such a huge thing.

M Adams (11:15):
The other thing, which I think we're going to get into, is with the push and the challenge we gave to broader society came opportunities for us to further develop our organizations and capture some necessary resources toward furthering that work. I think that also was a pivotal moment in that organizations that hardly got no support were finally starting to get some support. Not all of it, not enough. But finally, starting to get some support to continue the much needed work.

Adaku Utah (11:48):
I really appreciate how you are showcasing the roots of this work. Not only unique to 2020, but work had been happening for many, many years. Shout out to any of the organizers who are listening to this who have had a sustained commitment over time, that helped to produce some of the key wins and movement opportunities that we were able to see in 2020 and are still feeling in this particular moment.

Adaku Utah (12:19):
You're right, we invited more public attention, more public commitment into the work in ways that were unprecedented and necessary. Then simultaneously, over the last couple of years, a number of us have been seeing this pendulum swing not only within the political landscape, but also within public sentiments. Whether we're noticing a retraction in the level or the quality of support or sustained attention around some of these key efforts like defund, even work around disability justice or supporting housing justice, or some of the shifts that we need to see happen against the medical industrial complex. I'm curious if you could speak to this, in some ways it's a contradiction, and it's a both and of yes, there was an opening which drew a good amount of attention around resources, which impacted infrastructure, and over time, this is a big thematic theme that we bring up in the report, is that there was a shift. There was a shift in the level of support, the quality of support, and the time and attention that people were giving to the issues that we are raising.

M Adams (13:47):
I'm just like, "Yeah, keep talking." Nah, that's exactly right. I think, as scientists, it's really important to understand the fundamental cause of a problem.

Adaku Utah (14:04):

M Adams (14:05):
If you imagine that we are scientists, so we go and we put on our white lab coats. We getting our Miss Frizzle on, if you're familiar with that reference, from the Magic School Bus, and we are approaching a problem. We're trying to understand why an apple has fallen out of the tree. Because we're intelligent people, over time we would figure out that that apple fell because of gravity.

M Adams (14:31):
Now imagine that we're still outside and something else falls, but this time it's not an apple. Let's say, somehow randomly, it's a bowling ball. Now granted, a bowling ball falling down and hitting you would hurt a lot more than an apple, that's 100% true.

Adaku Utah (14:49):

M Adams (14:49):
But still, as scientists, our job is not only to notice that the bowling ball hurts more than the apple, but it is to fully understand what fundamentally caused this thing. What is causing these things that, when they're in the air, to fall down to the ground with impact? Same thing, gravity.

M Adams (15:09):
If we apply that to the condition of Black people, we as movement scientists have to be able to do a very similar thing, which is identify the root cause of what is causing these sets of different impacts and problems. What's causing the apple to fall on you, what's causing the bowling ball to fall on me? As a movement scientist, I think we could conclude, and I think this is a really important lift up, that what we're really up against is this big system of gendered racial capitalism. During the periods of 2014 and 2020, we as a movement were able to demonstrate the impact of bowling balls falling through highlighting police murders. To solve that, we can't just change some attitudes because that not how you deal with gravity. You can't just change the person's attitude gets the apple falling on them. You have to actually deal with the system that's causing the smashing of the apple or the smashing of the bowling ball on you.

M Adams (16:17):
All of that to say, in 2020, though we created an opening of understanding, we created an opening of a recognition, we did not force a reckoning of that fundamental system. What happened is folks realized or had a moment of, "Oh no, this thing is bad." I don't know how you can be human and see that video of George Floyd and not have a visceral reaction. To understand the last moments for Breonna Taylor's life and not have a reaction. We were able to, through our organizing work, demonstrate these stories, show these stories. Force people to sit with them. People gave some money, based on that initial visceral reaction. But people still don't not understand the fundamental thing that caused it. Because they didn't understand it, somehow they had the belief that, I don't know, it was going to fixed in a year maybe. Or solved in two years, maybe. Or that the thing that we were saying was the fundamental solution, which required all out shifting and transformation of society, they were not willing to do.

M Adams (17:29):
You can't have one without the other. We can't think that we're going to solve the issue of police murder against Black people fundamentally, and not seriously take on climate.

Adaku Utah (17:39):
That's right.

M Adams (17:40):
And not seriously take on rape, and sexual violence, and dot, dot, dot, dot.

M Adams (17:45):
I think the retrenchment happened for a couple of reasons. One, because people thought it was something you could fix fast with a couple of dollars. And two, people ... Decision makers, let's be clear, decision makers and ruling elite were not really trying to make deep fundamental change, which is what's needed. Some examples of retrenchment that we've seen connected to this point is there's genocide happening in Gaza right now.

Adaku Utah (18:13):

M Adams (18:14):
Black organizations have had their resources threatened for saying, "Stop the genocide." For saying, "Free Palestine." That's retrenchment based on the ruling elite not willing to do something fundamentally different.

M Adams (18:31):
I think it's those two things together that the movement did not yield in its radical vision, nor should it. And those who thought they could give a check thought they could do it once.

Adaku Utah (18:43):
So much in what you said, a fundamental question that's coming up for me is what does transformation require of us on an individual, community, systemic, even psychic, spiritual level? And what does that mean for our level of investment over time? If we're really looking towards creating transformative relationships that can build power, they can't be inherently transactional, and especially in an age of an economy that has such a deficit around attention, it requires us to effort in a way that really sustains our capacity to be attuned to each other and committed to one another in ways that we haven't been, in ways that haven't practiced into.

Adaku Utah (19:40):
How has this changed how you organize? As a scientist, you have a hypothesis, and then you get to practice, experiment, and build new theory and practice that informs how then you build, whether it's infrastructure, how you build base building strategy and really organizing. I'm curious how all of this knowing is impacting how you are building and sustaining organizing infrastructure right now?

M Adams (20:16):
Oh, that's a good question. Let's go back, I want to underscore something you said. Which is you mentioned the word power.

Adaku Utah (20:28):

M Adams (20:29):
That is so key. Power is most plainly stated as the ability to get something done. In a very plain sense, we are fighting for the ability of the us's. Black people, queer people, trans people, intersex people, survivors, incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, undocumented, disabled, migrant, dot, dot, dot. We're fighting for us, to have the direct ability to get something done - which is not fighting for somebody to listen to me; to do right by me. That's a different orientation.

M Adams (21:09):
If you are fighting to build power, then you have to be thinking seriously about governance.

Adaku Utah (21:15):

M Adams (21:16):
Which is how do groups of people get things done? To me, infrastructure is key to that. Infrastructure is wholly and deeply political in that way. Infrastructure, to me, answer the question of who gets what, where, and why. That's what the rules say, that's what the policies say, that's what the laws say, that's what the handbooks say. They answer who gets what, where, and why. So who gets access to the credit card in an organization, who gets to send out the communications, where and why. It's what level of leadership. Those infrastructure questions inside of an organization are governance questions, are infrastructure and governance questions. When you zoom that out or scale that up, those become governance and government questions.

Adaku Utah (22:08):

M Adams (22:11):
When I think about how to go about, one, where people are steadily going to invest in it because we just identified it's going to require radical transformation, which the ruling elite may not like. Two, we just also identified that even when people are sympathetic, they think they can just give you a little money once.

Adaku Utah (22:31):

M Adams (22:31):
So given that that's our condition, that to me then says we have to develop organizations that are resilient enough to survive those shifting conditions to power build. Our direct ability to do that is to develop strong Black queer feminist infrastructure inside of the organizations.

M Adams (22:56):
When I think about how do I go about our work, how does M4BL go about its work, or many different organizations at this time, I think it's doing a few different things. One, I think it's politically developing our capacities inside of the organization. How are we understanding the moment? Developing our skills and abilities to be strategists. To be people who can understand the landscape and develop smart plans, measurable plans to impact that current condition toward getting us to a better condition, a condition that we want.

M Adams (23:29):
I also think it's about paying special attention to the form and the functions of our organization. We have to sophisticate, we have to think about what people often repeat, form follows function. We have to be asking ourselves, "Have we arranged our resources, both dollar and people? Are skills and tools in such a way that yields the greatest impact in this condition?" Which is, another way of putting it, "Have we developed the right infrastructure to carry out our work?"

M Adams (24:02):
I'm always asking those questions. From when we create a new coalition, I'm asking, "What's the decision making here that's going to be best conducive to this team working together and maximize its impact?" I'm asking questions about how are we going to think about resource allocation across us, whether that is money moving or people moving, or our spending, or information sharing. I'm always asking those questions and thinking about the right sets of structures and strategies to facilitate it.

M Adams (24:38):
Let me just say, I think that that is so important because our folks are some of the best social movement engineers you can imagine.

Adaku Utah (24:49):

M Adams (24:49):
That's what we come from.

Adaku Utah (24:50):
That's right.

M Adams (24:51):
We talking about people organizing through chattel enslavement, colonization, war, genocide. Without a grant. Now I'm not romanticizing that, I want to be really clear. Wealth transfer needs to happen.

Adaku Utah (25:05):
That's right.

M Adams (25:06):
Reparations must be given. I'm really clear about that.

Adaku Utah (25:09):

M Adams (25:09):
And in the course of fighting for it, I'm deeply inspired by the way Black folks under hyper-exploitation and violence figured out movement infrastructure. I'm always thinking about those questions now, in seeking to build our movement's ability to build institutions so they'll be both long-lasting but also agile. To be scientific about the moment and adjust to what is needed at the time.

Adaku Utah (25:37):
You're highlighting to beautifully some core themes that regenerated as we talked to these 53 Black folks across the country, including yourself. One that I want to illuminate is what is the horizon of our sight and strategy? Not just thinking about our work within the confines of okay, these next three years, but really having a generational intention and forecasting of what might we need to build as an organization around our information to last seven generations from now. What's the level of staff, what's the quality of staff that needs to be rooted in order for folks to feel like they can be sustained in the work? If each of us are saying that we want to be here and committed to this work beyond three years, but for another generation or so, what does that mean for the quality of our relationships? And not just what we do, but how we do the work that allows for us to sustain over time.

Adaku Utah (26:48):
I'm moved, as you are, with just the level of ingenuity, and creativity, and consistency, even in the midst of trying to organize and build under huge unrelenting conditions of war, and exploitation, and punishment, and criminalization. It also makes me think about we also need and have also been reliant on this bigger we. Black folks and Black movements have been collaborating, co-creating alongside other movements and it makes me think about what's the solidarity needed in this moment to build the bigger infrastructure, the bigger container that meets some of what we're up against. In this moment, are there folks movements' that you're leaning on to build solidarity right now? And who is that, who are those folks?

M Adams (27:51):
I'll start with one of the first points that you were making, which is what do our organizations need in staff and all of this right now, in order to meet the moment. Part of the point I'm trying to make around being really scientific and political in our understanding of infrastructure, which to me again, is about the arrangement of your resources in a structure toward a common goal. Part of what we're seeing in our organizations across the board is many of them are struggling because a single organization is trying to take on the role and a function of what a state should do. Some organizations are trying to develop electoral strategy, do healing sessions, feed people. All of those things are important, and again back to form following function, each organization may not be best positioned to carry out each one of those functions.

Adaku Utah (28:57):
That's right.

M Adams (28:58):
I think how we have to approach this as a movement is to think not just about what our single organization can and should do, but how we think as a movement what is needed. Which does require deep relationship with one another, which does require pushing that ego down.

Adaku Utah (29:15):

M Adams (29:16):
You know what I mean, really being vulnerable-

Adaku Utah (29:18):

M Adams (29:19):
And humble, and being in right relationship with one another to meet these multitude of needs. Because one organization can't and shouldn't do everything, it's not positioned to do everything well. How do we recognize what other organizations are positioned to do, the different types of expertise, and really be clear about what we have in place? I think if we do that, we can collectively have a greater impact as a movement. And two, we can better support the development of these organizations.

M Adams (29:56):
The second thing I want to point to specifically is around administrative infrastructure. A lot of organizations are really struggling with being able to meet the administrative needs of managing a registered entity, whether that's a C3, a C4, or some other structure. What we're seeing in M4BL is that we have some organizations that have been created in these moments of rebellion, so these are not folks who are necessarily trained in how to be an accountant, or an executive-

Adaku Utah (30:35):

M Adams (30:35):
Or just some of these other administrative roles and responsibilities, so they're really struggling. I think about how do we create operational hubs where we can choose between organizations, where folks can actually support or take on that work, or help develop those organizations. I think there's direct needs that can be met when we're in better relationship with one another and do these kind of assessments that I think could increase all of our individual impacts.

M Adams (31:05):
I will say, I'm really excited that M4BL is taking that question on. How does it begin to create an operational hub to support member organizations who need that administrative infrastructure support so that they can continue to do their organizing work without being mired down by trying to build administrative infrastructure. Things like that, I think about as well.

M Adams (31:30):
So when the question of who are we in relationship with, I think M4BL is in relationship to several different other movements. That's what's really beautiful about M4BL is that it's an ecosystem filled with organizations who may focus or have expertise in different areas of work. There are organizations that make up M4BL like A Black Feminist Future, or New Voices For Reproductive Justice, who are leaders within the reproductive justice movement. Through them, or through their execution of work, M4BL has relationship, and support, and connection to reproductive justice movements. There are tons of organizations who are working in the carceral state, whether that's campaigns like Stopping Cop City in Atlanta, or Freedom, Inc back in Madison, the Community Movement Builders in Atlanta, or Black Alliance For Peace. I think there are just so many organizations, MXGM. I get to naming people, I'm going to be naming people [inaudible 00:32:34], can't leave out anybody. But to show that, in real time, we have organizations, and members, and leaders who are deeply embedded in these different freedom movement work.

M Adams (32:46):
That includes we have an entire working group called the Black Hive, which are climate experts, environmental experts, who are organizers, research, et cetera, and they're deeply embedded within the climate justice movement, and other aligned or related movements. We have folks with relations in labor, et cetera. The way to understand M4BL then, and what we're aiming to do, is to not look at us as issue based but people based. We are wherever Black people are. We are working on whatever Black people are working on. For that reason, we take seriously our relationships and partnerships with any organization that's seriously committed to Black liberation.

M Adams (33:31):
I want to give a special shout out right now to the Rising Majority.

Adaku Utah (33:35):
Right, yes.

M Adams (33:35):
Which is a multi-racial united front that M4BL has leadership in but is deeply connected to, and through Rising Majority, to dozens of other organizations such as GGJ, and so many others I could name.

Adaku Utah (33:50):
Ah, my heart is just so warm hearing you reflect that back in some very substantial, and real, and palpable ways, just the quality of relationships that Movement for Black Lives, M4BL, has been cultivating over time so that there's a larger ecosystem that's moving together to shift the conditions that we are in. In the report, it's one of the biggest needs and antidotes that leaders expressed really shifted both their sense, their individual sense of isolation, and the isolation that's also really possible as an organization when you're doing this work. Especially if you're an organization that's based in the Midwest, or an organization that's a little bit smaller. Having the lifeline, the bridge towards each other, whether it's to be in thought partnership or co-developing campaigns together, or just figure out strategies to deal with internal tensions as well as external threats together is really, really transformative.

Adaku Utah (35:04):
I just appreciate you naming all of that, and I know that there's a significant amount of work that goes into, as somebody who is an organizer and has come a really large network, shout out to the National Network of Abortion Funds, it takes a lot to both sustain that ... It takes its own kind of infrastructure to sustain that quality of relationship with other movement organizations over time.

Adaku Utah (35:31):
One of the things that we wrapped up with for the report is a call-to-action. Black leaders have extremely clear analysis about what our organizations need for the future as well as what is it going to take to support Black organizing and strengthen Black-led power building infrastructure, both in this moment of backlash and retrenchment. You said it here so well, that we need robust, strategic infrastructure because without it, it's really, really difficult for the visions and the longings that we have to be possible in the ways that we want them. I'm really grateful for how you've talked about the ways in which investment in infrastructure are inherently political, at both the organization and movement levels, and decisions about governance and resources allocation are inevitably decisions about power.

Adaku Utah (36:37):
What is your call-to-action right now to community, whether that is fellow organizers, fellow movement leaders, funders, about sustaining Black organizing infrastructure?

M Adams (36:50):
Three things.

Adaku Utah (36:52):

M Adams (36:53):
You know what I'm saying? [inaudible 00:36:55] shout out to Ashley Woodard-Henderson.

Adaku Utah (36:58):

M Adams (36:58):
Who is the executive director of the Highlander Center, who I am personally a big fan of.

Adaku Utah (37:04):
Me, too.

M Adams (37:06):
Ash would say, "Fund us like you want us to win." That's the first call-to-action. If you are someone who has access to capital or to resource, then you invest in movement. Period. If you want us to win, you invest like you want us to win. I think that that's so, so important. Transfer those dollars, transfer that wealth, transfer that land, transfer that capital, and transfer the control of the means of production. Actually invest in people being able to directly affect their outcome I think is a big, key thing. Whatever that investment is.

M Adams (37:44):
Let me tell you why I lead with that. Poor folks are already contributing. We not asking nobody to do something that we ain't doing.

Adaku Utah (37:54):

M Adams (37:55):
We got folks bringing bags of rice in. I'm serious.

Adaku Utah (38:02):
Yes, I know.

M Adams (38:02):
We got folks making sandwiches out they house, people using their gas money to drive people back and forth. We got people in neighborhoods without have access to all this fancy stuff practicing mutual aid. We got people trying to do reproductive labor work together, watching each other kids. What I'm trying to say is those of us on the ground are already doing that. We're not coming to nobody with the posture of, "Oh, please save me," but we are taking people lip service serious. You say you believe, now put your money where your mouth is, that's what my mama taught me.

Adaku Utah (38:35):

M Adams (38:37):
That's the first, fund us like you want us to win. That is a direct call-to-action. Invest, invest, invest in these organizations.

M Adams (38:46):
The second is join an organization.

Adaku Utah (38:50):

M Adams (38:50):
Get involved. Get involved in something. There are all different types of organizations for different types of people. Of course, there's room for folks to get with us on the ground, to hit these doors, to be engaged in community, to take direct action, to resist. There are tons of organizations that folks can join and get involved in that way. I'll just shout out M4BL and also the Rising Majority as organizations for people to look at as opportunities to join national organizations.

M Adams (39:20):
But also, if you for whatever in your life condition, can not hit the ground in that way, there are other ways for you to join and be involved. I think about the Working Families Party, that's always doing education, that's always putting out calls of action where people can call in, or write in, or show support, or demonstrate what side of the right history they want to be on. Join an organization. There's no more room for neutrality.

Adaku Utah (39:45):
That's right.

M Adams (39:45):
That's no such thing as neutrality and there's no room for sideline. You are either for freedom or you're for fascism.

Adaku Utah (39:51):

M Adams (39:51):
That's the place where we at right now. You are either for freedom or you're for fascism, so join an organization that's committed to freedom.

M Adams (39:58):
The third, I'll just say this, is we can only move at the speed of infrastructure. We can only do what we're set up to do. When folks invest, invest in that infrastructure. For folks who have access to give resources, don't just think to give program restricted dollars, give dollars that can also go to support the infrastructure of these organizations so that they can be vibrant and agile, but yet sophisticated and meet the complex needs that we have in our work and our organizing work. Invest, invest, invest into infrastructure.

M Adams (40:35):
Those would be my three calls of action.

Adaku Utah (40:37):
Well, you heard it, y'all. Thank you so much, M, for your clarity. Your clarity in the ways in which we can be in this moment, not just from where we've been but also really holding where we're headed. I really appreciate you offering the approach with which you looked through all of this, through a scientific lens that is unrelenting, unflinching, and so thorough in approach. I feel very called in in this conversation, and I hope folks feel the same and also feel very inspired to engage in the ways you've invited us into in this particular moment. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your presence here, and again, for the level of rigor and care that you bring to Black movements and so many movements in this time.

M Adams (41:37):
Thank you.

Adaku Utah (41:39):
Wow. I feel so inspired by our collective weaving. Thank you, M Adams, for joining us. You can get more connected to M's work by visiting You can also download the Reckoning With Sustainability report at, sustain, - B-L-K, - organizing, O-R-G-A-N-I-Z-I-N-G.

Adaku Utah (42:10):
In addition to this report, the Building Movement Project's also released another report this year called The 100 Days of Building Power and Solidarity in Collaboration With Muslims For Just Futures. This report highlights the emerging needs of organizations working closely with Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, South Asian, and Black communities in the United States, as the genocide in Gaza passes the 100-day mark in January 2024. The observations and recommendations in this report synthesize conversations around needs and recommendations for infrastructure in solidarity to address the current crisis and plan for the longterm. You can access the report at, days, /report, R-E-P-O-R-T.

Adaku Utah (43:03):
And y'all, we would love to hear from you about the ways that you're engaging in solidarity right now. Connect with us and share your stories, ideas, and reflections via, where you will find past episodes of this podcast as well as information about how to cultivate transformative solidarity principles and stories. Please make sure to subscribe so that you know when the next episode comes out. And remember, we keep us safe. Be gentle and courageous with you and each other. Until next time.

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