Where you at, jessica??
A former organizer turned trainer and movement sustainer, Jessica Pierce is the National Chair at Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) in Washington, D.C. Her passion for organizing and creating change started at the University of California Santa Cruz where she led campaign efforts around access to higher education and economic justice on campus. Now focusing her work with BYP100, Jessica leads the training, civic engagement, capacity-building initiatives, and works to support Black youth and the fight for Black liberation in any way possible.
#WeBuiltThis: How did you get involved in Black liberation work?
Jessica Pierce: I’ve been organizing campaigns for over 10 years, but Black Youth Project 100 and its first convening and the simultaneous timing of the announcement of the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, pushed me completely into my deep love of Black liberation work.
“If we’re building a house, a political home for Black people—civic engagement is a tool we’re using to build. ”
WBT: How do you engage the electoral process in your work, and why do you find it important?
JP: I’ve worked every single election since 2006. When I think about election work and its importance I look at it as a tool for change. Its not the change itself, but a process to be utilized. If we’re building a house, a political home for Black people—civic engagement is a tool we’re using to build. Not everyone has to use the same tools in building this home, but you don’t throw tools away.
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?
JP: It looks like Black people being able to fully be themselves and be in deep love and community with each other. It looks like a world where there’s no calling out or calling in of people but actual commitment to building and sustaining community together.
In visionary terms it’s Black land, love, light and liberation from our current circumstances.
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?
JP: Honestly– I watch really horrible reality television, romantic comedies, and Disney movies. A good laugh or a good cry is truly healing for me.
WBT: What is something you want to express to people who criticize Black youth and our enthusiasm about or engagement of the election?
JP: I would ask them where they were before this election cycle and where their work receipts are, to be frank. People who are out here doing work don’t have time to critique other’s work—period. Black youth have a right to be critical about this election, elected officials, and our society’s systems because they have been built to erase and eliminate everything about us. We are critical of these things because we know that we deserve and need more and better from everything in this society.