Strategy After Ferguson


This round­table is a part of our evolv­ing “Move­ment Inquiry” fea­ture, which opened with an inves­ti­ga­tions of hous­ing strug­gles in the US and Black Lib­er­a­tion in higher edu­ca­tion. If you would like to get involved, email us at

Ferguson’s August upris­ing wasn’t the first to fol­low a police mur­der, not even in recent mem­ory. But unlike the 2009 Oscar Grant rebel­lion, or the actions in Flat­bush after the mur­der of Kimani Gray in 2013, the street mil­i­tancy exhib­ited by that small sub­urb of St. Louis endured long enough to inspire a national move­ment for black lives and lib­er­a­tion. We should pause to reflect on the tremen­dous ground that’s been cov­ered in these first sev­en­teen months. How dis­tant do the denun­ci­a­tions of Al Sharp­ton and Jesse Jack­son now seem? Or the simul­ta­ne­ous out­pour­ing of hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple into the streets and high­ways of every major Amer­i­can city? Those ear­li­est debates estab­lish­ing black lead­er­ship and the urgent defenses of riot­ing now carry an air of inevitabil­ity to them, but just over a year ago, they remained open ques­tions.

That the move­ment has devel­oped at such a break­neck speed has posed unique chal­lenges for our inquiry. Try­ing to keep pace has often a been dizzy­ing task, as new ques­tions and con­jec­tures arise with star­tling quick­ness. Celebrity activists and NGO lumi­nar­ies are des­ig­nated and in due time dis­cred­ited, as bat­tles over scarce seats at the table carry on when the mass mobi­liza­tions begin to recede. The cycles of co-opta­tion and repres­sion can move many of us to cyn­i­cism, but nei­ther has proved capa­ble of exhaust­ing the dynamism of the grass­roots. For every Teach for Amer­ica oper­a­tion, there’s a Twin Cities’ riot.

With equal dif­fi­culty, we have had to con­front the incred­i­ble polit­i­cal diver­sity of this moment, which has included every­one from the Nation of Islam, non­profit exec­u­tives, and unaf­fil­i­ated lib­er­als, to afropes­simists, oath keep­ers, and yes, rev­o­lu­tion­ary com­mu­nists. And while the polit­i­cal com­po­si­tion of many par­tic­i­pants stretches across those camps, it is hard not to sense that the move­ment is enter­ing a new junc­ture in which the lines of demar­ca­tion are being drawn a lit­tle more clearly. With each day the gap between those who fre­quent the exec­u­tive offices of Sil­i­con Val­ley, and those who main­tain fealty to the black rad­i­cal tra­di­tion, grows.

The eleven groups fea­tured below con­sti­tute part of what may be an emerg­ing rad­i­cal pole in the strug­gle for black lib­er­a­tion. Even in their ana­lyt­i­cal diver­gence and orga­ni­za­tional het­ero­gene­ity, they yield the out­li­nes of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary unity, opposed to sep­a­ratism, whose ambi­tions exceed that of the mis­lead­er­ship both new and old.

We hope that this round­table on “Strat­egy after Fer­gu­son” is an open­ing to fur­ther dia­logue and debate. We wel­come your ideas, feed­back, cri­tiques, as well as your sup­port in shar­ing this resource – with friends and com­rades, in work­places and orga­niz­ing meet­ings, at ral­lies and direct actions, and beyond. To get involved, please email us at

- Ben Mabie 


“Rather than call­ing for ‘black and white, unite and fight’ as if both sides were equal play­ers in a given whole, we say the speci­fic strug­gles of black pro­le­tar­i­ans are in all of our inter­ests, and make it pos­si­ble for us to win together, and we relate to them as such.”

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by some mem­bers of Ann Arbor Alliance for Black Lives

11084021_1641810649374540_499207291129150379_o“Our expe­ri­ences in this and other move­ments have clearly demon­strated to us that the con­cept of ally­ship is dead or at least dying. The key is to remem­ber that while we may have sim­i­lar ene­mies, we do not have the same rea­sons for our antag­o­nisms.”

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by Ralikh Hayes

“The Civil Rights Move­ment and all those orga­niz­ing for Black lib­er­a­tion never actu­ally stopped, even as the 1960s winded down. This is a long strug­gle that was sub­merged beneath the sur­face for the last few decades, only emerg­ing as a mass move­ment again recently.” 

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by Mike Siviwe Elliott

imgres“The police are just one front of the attack on poor and work­ing peo­ple. We fight there because it’s an impor­tant part of this larger fight, one that speaks imme­di­ately to the needs and inter­ests of those in oppressed com­mu­ni­ties. But even our strat­egy to build up this par­tic­u­lar fight around com­mu­nity con­trol of the police is based on par­tic­i­pat­ing in and sup­port­ing other strug­gles.”

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by Kali Akuno 

“Orga­niz­ing against state repres­sion and police ter­ror are cor­ner­stones of the self-defense work that Black peo­ple must engage in out of pure neces­sity in the United States. How­ever, we have to rec­og­nize that defense work of this nature, in and of itself, is not trans­for­ma­tive.”

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by Aurielle Lucier



“This older lead­er­ship class is clearly invested in the power they’ve obtained for them­selves with a seat at the table, and they mis­take that seat as real lib­er­a­tion for Black peo­ple. Since the 1970s, there’s been no account­abil­ity of Black lead­er­ship to the com­mu­nity they claim to rep­re­sent, and those lega­cies of protest and move­ment build­ing weren’t passed down, but were for­got­ten.”

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by Way­lon McDon­ald
“Our focus is not try­ing to win over the right wing, but focus­ing on build­ing power within our com­mu­ni­ties, alongside the major­ity of Amer­i­cans who are learn­ing that these kinds of state poli­cies are not in their inter­ests. So while we’re dis­rupt­ing our ene­mies, we must, at the same time, orga­nize and build sol­i­dar­ity among and across black, rad­i­cal, and pro­gres­sive sec­tors of the coun­try, with­out get­ting bogged down in nar­row and reduc­tive iden­tity pol­i­tics.”

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hqdefault“But we also want to be care­ful not to solely focus our energies on protest­ing, ral­ly­ing, and pol­icy change. We are work­ing towards build­ing autonomous eco­nomic power, as we do not believe in rely­ing on white peo­ple or this gov­ern­ment to do what’s nec­es­sary for Afrikan lib­er­a­tion. That comes from the peo­ple, all power is with the peo­ple and we truly live our lives and run our orga­ni­za­tion with this motto.” 

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by George Cic­cariello-Maher  


“Build­ing these inter­na­tional rela­tion­ships will take many forms: reviv­ing and trans­form­ing a stale sol­i­dar­ity model inherited from Stal­in­ism; insist­ing on build­ing direct rela­tions between move­ments, not state-medi­ated anti-impe­ri­al­ism; and refus­ing the rad­i­cal pos­tur­ing so preva­lent today in favor of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary humil­ity.”

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by Abdul, Baa­seiah, and Nayef


“I often hear and rec­og­nize some­one on the metro from these var­i­ous events, and we will exchange a look or smile. I think that in a way, I can see how these kind of rela­tion­ships are a kind of hid­den orga­ni­za­tion. So we’re not anti-orga­ni­za­tional, we’re just not in the busi­ness of recruit­ment.”

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“We pro­pose that we con­sider insti­tu­tions such as schools, hos­pi­tals and pub­lic trans­porta­tion as social choke­points, insti­tu­tional spaces where a diverse range of pro­le­tar­i­ans come together on a daily basis. Mil­i­tants should strongly con­sider the impor­tance of orga­niz­ing within these spaces.”

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Authors of the article

is a student at UC Santa Cruz.

is a poet, feminist, and anti-capitalist. She writes in the militant research collective Praxis Research. Her chapbook Rhizomes is out with Birds of Lace.