Black Minimalists: Organizing Sustainability

Editor: I’ve been following the Black Minimalists from their first days. They celebrated their first year anniversary (May 2018) and presented their organization strategy for the next two years. I’m re-posting it here because its a brilliant analysis of the challenges and solutions for growing their mission. They begin with the basic question: “Is This Sustainable?” The basic problem is that “we can’t be everywhere at once and we can’t work on every issue.” So they are pursuing a decentralized strategy, organizing local groups through ‘meetups’, educating and empowering local groups and encouraging them to devise solutions based on their local needs and issues. Black Minimalists offers their process as a model for groups that want to conduct their work in a way that is more empowering, effective and sustainable.

Their organizing strategy is presented here at their website: 

IS THIS SUSTAINABLE: BLACK MINIMALISTS™

One of our main struggles in the first year was having a lot of ideas, but not approaching them practically. For our work to grow and be impactful, we as an organization have to walk in our values, one of which is sustainability. While we enjoy meeting and working within our communities, the reality is we can’t be everywhere nor tackle every issue online. Also, with our goal of empowering you, our job is give you the foundation to form your own communities and do the liberation work specific to your locality.

We devised a framework of questions to help us strategize our content and events through a liberatory lens and help you focus on the work. This framework can be used by individuals, communities, and organizations.

The Work

What is the work?

The work is getting free- releasing, liberating, creating and strengthening community, healing ourselves and our people, cultivating black joy, creating sustainable practices within our community, finding and living our core values, and aligning with organizations and businesses that share our core values.

Is this the most important work we could be doing right now?

One key to acting sustainably is only to focus on the most important thing in any given moment and devote all of our energy to making that thing a reality in the most practical ways. For Black Minimalists™, that thing is community building.

Fostering communities within the larger BM community is the most important thing we can do right now (and for the next couple years) to make our goal of liberation a reality. We have grown our community digitally over the past 2 1/2 years via interviews and informative posts. We’ve also started to connect offline via meetups led by our team. We see the next step as you forming your own BM communities locally to help each other get free.

Collaboration

Are there other people doing the work?

We’ve created a whole directory of folx who contribute to the black minimalist movement. We have featured some of them in our interviews via our blog, Simply Black, and the podcast, and there are many more black minimalists out there as our community grows daily.

Can we add something of value to this work? Can we collaborate?

Our purpose is to hold space for and connect all black minimalists together in the pursuit of our liberation. This cannot happen without collaboration. Again, we want to take our work beyond what we’ve already done and support you as you lead your own communities.

Our new direction is an invitation to create spaces in local communities for collaboration, support, and liberation. Our work is not only to empower, but to equip and support black minimalists throughout the country and the world.

Has this work been vetted or evaluated?

Black & Minimalist was our first foray into working with a micro-community on an intimate level. The course focused on individual minimalist journeys to freedom while including an overview of why we approach black minimalism from a liberation standpoint.

This course received evaluation and feedback from course participants. It allow us to see the power of micro-community and resources for our audience and larger community. This informs our direction as we move forward and solidifies the importance of our work.

Inclusion

We welcome anyone who wishes to tell their story in the service of liberation. Our features include individuals and groups of diverse backgrounds and abilities and we expect the local communities that are formed to also embody this. We are unashamedly black, always highlighting the reality that blackness is not a monolith.

Is it ethical?

Black Minimalists understands ethicality as an alignment to values. Ethics often seem subjective, but as a community we have created values as guidelines for our work. It has been said “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism”, yet we must be mindful of the harm we incite intentionally and unintentionally. This direction of our work is rooted in healing and the expansion of sustainable community.

Is it intersectional?

Our team consists of black cis women who are mindful of the multiple identities represented in our community. Any partnership, collaboration, or local community formed in connection with BM must uphold these values also.

We as a team understand our social location and we push ourselves to examine the accessibility of our work, being mindful that black minimalists come from a variety of backgrounds, worldviews, and social locations. As we move forward in our work we are mindful to ask questions and ask for feedback to better fit the needs of our growing community.

Spaces

Are we leaving people and spaces better than before? Are we creating spaces where none existed before?

The birth of Black Minimalists™ created a space where none existed before. This is the first community dedicated to empowerment and liberation of black folx who live simply in a variety of ways. Each time someone tells us they are happy they found us or happy we exist, affirms that our community is needed and wanted.

Sustainability

The main reason for creating this framework is to make our organization more sustainable. We learned a lot about ourselves over the past 16 months and acknowledged truths about how we work. Engaging in this framework privately and publicly is a necessary exercise for us to continue the leadership and development of Black Minimalists™.

What is the path of least resistance?

The path of least resistance is to continue with the organic development of the Black Minimalists™ community leading to the creation of local communities throughout the diaspora.

Do we have the tools necessary to do the work?

The main tool is minimalism. Beyond that, our network, community, and digital platforms are key to facilitating this work.

Reflection

How do we celebrate or mourn the results of the process?

We’ve struggled with this concept and acknowledge that even in our personal lives we have not done this sufficiently or consistently. Engaging in this framework is our first structured attempt at reflecting on the joys and struggles of building Black Minimalists™.

We are inviting you to join the celebration and the work with our forthcoming community ambassadors program. In November we will host a webinar about community as praxis: an introduction to the program.

How do we integrate?

We are using the knowledge from the last year to bring more clarity to our work. We’re learning how to honor our values not just in the content or organization of Black Minimalists, but also in the being and living as black minimalists. Integration is a process we are committed to and is necessary for further development.

The process begins again.

For the BM team, this means taking the framework and applying it to the launch of the BM community ambassador groups. For you, it means taking this framework and interrogating the sustainability of your own life and community.

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