Where you at, Dante??
Dante Barry is a Black writer, grassroots organizer, digital campaigner, and Executive Director of Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, a human rights membership organization working to end anti-Black racism and systemic violence. Dante has also led organizing, policy, and leadership development programs at the Center for Media Justice, the Roosevelt Institute, and School Based Health Alliance. Everywhere he goes, Dante is always holding it down for Black millennials, making sure the youth voice is represented at every table.
#WeBuiltThis: How did you get involved in Black liberation work?
Dante Barry: I started community organizing when I was 17. A group of friends and I pulled together a massive rally and conference at our high school to elevate the issues concerning our community like gun violence and poverty. I was a district organizer and school organizer, bringing hundreds of young folks into leadership around the conference. We organized seminars to empower community members, held a basketball tournament and concert. We brought together over 2,000 community members on a shoestring budget. In this experience, I realized that organizing is the vehicle for how communities can come together for a key purpose.
“Being in community with our members and other Black people brings me joy. ”
WBT: How do you engage the electoral process in your work, and why do you find it important?
DB: At Million Hoodies we believe in using a diversity of tactics to build power in Black communities and our members view electoral organizing as one tool in our tactical toolbox. All politics is local; the decisions made by local elected officials impact our lives in more ways than we know. We’ve seen the impact of the decisions made by school board officials, zoning boards, and prosecutors. Many of these positions go uncontested. This year we focused our efforts locally to build power within our communities around the issues we care about.
WBT: #WeBuiltThis believes in the idea of “payday” espoused by Malcolm X—a day in which Black folk can truly live free in a nation literally built on our backs. What does this day look like to you?
DB: I’d imagine a full turn up with freedom songs, movement chants, Beyonce, Rihanna, and lots of Black Love.
WBT: Every day, we’re inundated with grisly footage and callous rhetoric reflecting that our lives and our bodies are detested by our country. How do you find joy amidst this?
DB: Being in community with our members and other Black people brings me joy. Reading and watching sci-fi movies are cool — puts me into another realm of thinking.
WBT: What is something you want to express to people who criticize Black youth and our enthusiasm about or engagement of the election?
DB: The way that we’ve traditionally engaged young Black people isn’t working. We need to rethink the ways to engage us on our own terms, through relationships. Young Black people are a force and if our energy is tapped right, we can be unstoppable in building the world we’ve always dreamed of.