A new political party is making history, and they know they are doing it. “We have to be very clear,” said Wes Bellamy, Ed.D. “Before you were a Democrat, before you were a Republican, before you were an independent, you were Black.” Our Black Party co-chairs – Bellamy and Hyattsville, Maryland, Mayor Candace Hollingsworth – are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Their plan to hold elected officials accountable is simply put but intricately done: “We’ll vote you out. Because you Black doesn’t mean you get our stamp.” Bellamy — Charlottesville’s former vice mayor and current Political Science Department chair at Virginia State University — spoke recently about Our Black Party, a political committee that launched July 14 and went mainstream with P. Diddy’s recent support. It all began when Bellamy and others determined, “Both parties have betrayed us.” They wanted another option.
Before co-chairing Our Black Party, Bellamy was the city councilor who helped lead the effort to remove the Charlottesville statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. His public role has always been a fraught one. “My role is … making things uncomfortable. It’s not as polished as other folks. And I’m OK with that.”
Bellamy is a truth-teller, whether that truth is weighty or liberating or seemingly inopportune. Bellamy is here to work, and he is here to stay. “I’m not your little brother,” he says to other national figures who see his youth without noting his experience as a high school teacher, community organizer and elected official. Despite these shifting and increasingly national roles, Bellamy remains rooted in Charlottesville. “I don’t live away,” he said. “I still live in it.” “I was really on the fence,” he said of the decision of whether to run for a second term on the City Council. Ultimately, he did not file the paperwork, though he had no specific plan for his next steps. Then came Ahmaud Arbery. “After Ahmaud Arbery there was a new sense of energy,” he recalled. Our Black Party began with a simple premise of radical fundamental change that undergirds all of their work still: “Our votes must be earned.”
Part of Our Black Party’s work is a reality check. “Democrats can’t win without us, and Republicans can’t win if we do,” he said. “So there’s a lot of leverage there if we just utilize it in the proper way.” Our Black Party says to Black people, “You do have options,” that Black folk can be more than just “a voting block that’s seen as dependable” for getting Democrats into office. Our Black Party is a 527 organization, an FEC-registered political committee that can donate to and endorse local, state, and federal candidates. For now, the focus is on “mobilizing our state and local power,” which has led to caucuses in more than 18 states. The Party calls for commissions on African American advancement in every municipality, a Chief Equity Officer in governors’ cabinets in all 50 states, and state legislators to submit legislation to an Equity Toolkit.
Our Black Party is not only for Black people. Bellamy said, “What we’ve noticed is that when you do right by Black folk, normally everybody benefits from it.” And there are specific goals they have from which everyone can benefit. One goal, 1,000 new Black elected officials by 2024, would do more than change the color of politics; it would change the culture. Of the more than 500,000 elected positions in the United States, only 5,000 of those individuals are Black. This means less than 1% of the politicians in this country are Black. This fact alone explains why there has not been much policy for Black people since the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The Black Agenda 2020 hopes to change that. The document comes from the concerns and dreams gathered out of the Black Census in 2018. The Black Agenda synthesizes those voices into stories and policies, which, Bellamy insists, is Our Black Party’s official party platform. Bellamy knows that the Black Agenda makes things uncomfortable, yet the agenda is representative, aggressive and necessary for the movement to continue. The agenda will be a guide amidst changing culture and shifting identities. Bellamy said.
Understanding how hard it is to win a race and still remain true to your identity is a challenge. … This is a marathon. You don’t build this overnight. But the beauty of it is us having disagreements and having fallouts but coming back and loving each other and learning from what we did wrong.Wes Bellamy