2020 brought with it a pandemic, an subsequent economic crisis, a major United States presidential election, and mass protests for racial justice across the nation and world.
Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC) spent much of 2020 mobilizing voters for the general election. The organization is dedicated to using coordinated political action to achieve economic opportunity and high quality of life for Black people across Wisconsin.
As executive director Angela Lang explains, the organization is now turning its sights on the future.
“The biggest goals for BLOC in 2021 is to make sure that we're keeping a certain level of engagement. We know that there was a lot of excitement and a lot of strong feelings about the November election. And we want to make sure that we're keeping that energy, we're keeping the connections to the voters, and the residents that we talked to and engaged with last fall, and find other ways to plug them in,” she says.
Lang is already working on educating people about the upcoming primary election in February and general election in April, but also is looking for change from elected officials like President Joe Biden.
“To pay attention to the executive orders, for example, that President Biden is signing to pay attention to his appointments, to pay attention to different legislation that is being introduced that can improve the quality of life for our community. So making sure that people are still continuing to pay attention, to observe different entry points to get involved with,” she says.
Lang is looking for the federal government to provide more resources when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, which she says is at the heart of so many issues right now.
“We know that this pandemic has a lot of different touch points, whether it's education or even increased domestic violence, unfortunately, we want to make sure that during the pandemic, people feel that they're supported. And also people are still struggling, you know, $600 for a stimulus check barely pays some people's rent,” she says.
In Milwaukee, Lang says she is disappointed to see the common council accept a federal COPS grant after protests over community safety and policing that have been held in the city since last May.
“We've definitely taken note of all the common council members that have voted for that. And we actually need to have real true criminal justice reform — and that starts with divesting from the police department and investing directly into our communities,” she says.
But throughout the last year, Lang says she has seen just how resilient Milwaukee’s Black community can be and how it continues to show its power.
She points to seeing people have to stand in line for hours to cast their vote in the April primary as something that pushes her and those at BLOC to continue their work and fight year-round.
“You can't just come in a couple weeks or a couple months before an election and persuade people that they should partake in a system that has at every aspect excluded us. And so being able to make sure that we are having these conversations on a year-round basis is incredibly important,” she says.
As Black History Month approaches that resiliency is something Lang is excited to celebrate.
“So I just really look forward to being able to center and celebrate our leaders, our ancestors, the work that we've done, collectively, not just at BLOC, but our collective movement, and how we've gotten to this point,” she says.