February 2, 2023

Mountain Progressive Review

A Community-Led News Organization

Black Power Collective’s Juneteenth 2021 Celebration

An interview with an organizer from the Black Power Collective and two volunteers at the 2021 Juneteenth Celebration Cookout in Riverside, CA.

On June 19, 2021, the Black Power Collective (formerly Black Lives Matter Inland Empire) held its second annual Juneteenth Celebration Cookout at the Fairmount Park in Riverside. The event ran from 12 pm to 7 pm and featured local Black-owned businesses and organizations, artists and musical performers, and amazing food. The event was advertised through the Black Power Collective Instagram account and promoted by other local organizations. Volunteering with grassroots organizations builds community and infrastructure for organization-to-organization and person-to-person support. We were excited to learn more about the Black Power Collective, get folks’ opinions on Juneteenth being recognized as a federal holiday, and discuss ways we can all help each other. We were able to chat with Broderick Dunlap, a Black Power Collective organizer who has been with the organization since 2014, and with Pueblo and Alison—two of the many volunteers who showed up to help with the event.

“We are here to recognize the work that our ancestors did to liberate themselves because—let’s not get it twisted—it was not Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves, it was the slaves that freed themselves. So we are here recognizing that step towards self-determination, which is our ultimate goal as the Black Power Collective.”

Broderick Dunlap, Black Power Collective

Black Power Collective: Past & Future

Eva: How did the Black Power Collective start and what was the thought behind it?

Broderick (Black Power Collective Organizer): The Black Power Collective started in 2014, originally as Black Lives Matter Inland Empire. We started because we were against police brutality. We were tired of seeing state-sanctioned violence go unmitigated against Black people without anyone being held accountable. We felt that especially in the Inland Empire we were overlooked because we were so close to Los Angeles. We felt that we needed to build people’s power in the Inland Empire and we started to organize events, actions. We tried to build campaigns against legislation that was harmful to the working class in the Inland Empire. We’ve been here since 2014 doing the same thing.

Eva: Can you comment on the name change from BLM IE?

Broderick: We recently changed our name to the Black Power Collective back in February because we felt that our political goals had shifted differently from the goals of the Black Lives Matter global network and we felt that it was best for us to make a distinction of where our political agenda lies. So we decided to change our name to Black Power Collective because we were here to build power for the working class Black people, whether it’s in the workplace, whether it’s in the home, whether it’s against state-sanctioned violence. We really just want to build autonomous, self-sufficient, independent Black communities that don’t have to worry about state-sanctioned violence, don’t have to worry about environmental racism from the proliferation of warehouses in the Inland Empire—where we don’t have to worry about Chad Bianco [Riverside County Sheriff] or Mike Hestrin [Riverside County District Attorney]. We want to build strong communities. And that’s why we’re here—we want to build community. 

Juneteenth: Meanings & Opinions on the New National Holiday

Eva: What does celebrating Juneteenth mean to you?

Broderick: We are here to recognize the work that our ancestors did to liberate themselves because—let’s not get it twisted—it was not Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves, it was the slaves that freed themselves. So we are here recognizing that step towards self-determination, which is our ultimate goal as the Black Power Collective. We are here with organizations that we recognize, that do good work, that we have good relationships with. We are highlighting local Black artists, local Black businesses and trying to have a good time, trying to congregate outside of times of crisis, outside of times of tragedy, and really just build community in the Inland Empire.

Eva: How do you feel about Juneteenth being recognized as a federal holiday?

Broderick: Juneteenth becoming recognized as a federal holiday is every bit a distraction, a concession by the ruling class to the working class. They saw how powerful we were last summer, they saw how we tore shit up, we shut shit down and they decided that they had to give us something to feel like we made any kind of progress. But at the end of the day, we didn’t get the end to qualified immunity, we didn’t get reduced police budgets, we didn’t get guaranteed housing, we didn’t get universal healthcare in the middle of the most deadly pandemic in the last 100 years. We got a fucking day off. So that’s what Juneteenth is, it doesn’t change the material conditions of working-class people or poor Black folks. So at the end of the day, it’s just a symbolic gesture that doesn’t help Black folks.

Pueblo (Black Power Collective Volunteer): Juneteenth to me has two parts: There is the historical context of the ending of slavery, at least of openly-practiced slavery in the US, as other forms of slavery still exist—prison slavery, wage slavery, and enslaving people across the world for profit. And there is a second part: I think what it means to me, especially as a Latino, as a minority trying to help people out, it is a way for oppressed communities, specifically the African-American community, to get together and have, not just breathing room, but the ability to start coming together and helping continue that fight. It’s solidarity in its own truest form. And even though Joe Biden making it an official holiday does nothing to actually address all of the systemic issues, as a celebration, as a community network for coming together, I think that is powerful. And if we want to actually end these systems of oppression, stop fighting for just rights and start fighting for liberation, then we need to start working on creating these communities and Juneteenth is the perfect way to do that.

Alison (Black Power Collective Volunteer): There is a lot to Juneteenth that I still don’t understand, and me showing up is a way that I can learn because I don’t know very much about it at all, other than what I can probably find on the internet myself. I think that knowledge will come from whoever is here and whoever will allow me the time to listen—that in itself means that I can learn. And if I can learn, everybody else can too. Sometimes all it takes is for you to just show up and make the effort. Sometimes people can be defensive and feel that they’re not going to be welcome in the first place. And maybe I’m speaking directly to white people that are afraid to show up in spaces where they don’t see their faces, they don’t see their color, and assume they’re not wanted anyway. And it’s more—if you were to show up and do what others do, and be supportive of what their needs are and not attack it and be defensive and claim and root yourself in it, maybe we can then, as white people, understand what Juneteenth is as opposed to signing it into law where the moderates that stopped showing up after June or July last year will treat it like another 4th of July. It’s a big problem because it glosses over the meanings behind the holiday and that’s where a lot of us remain. It doesn’t push you into a territory where you are uncomfortable and you should be. If you’re white, you should be pushing yourself to be somewhat uncomfortable so you can learn.

On Volunteering

“Really, it’s about building community in your own neighborhoods. If you don’t know your neighbors, how can you have worker power? You have more in common with your neighbor than you do your favorite celebrity or a billionaire.”

Broderick Dunlap, Black Power Collective

Eva: What brought y’all out here?

Pueblo: I saw the jail support on Instagram for helping release [a Black Power Collective member arrested for loitering at Fairmount Park before the event] and from there my other comrade told me about the Juneteenth celebration and I decided I was going to show up, show solidarity, and help any way I can.

Alison: I wanted to volunteer again after volunteering last year. This is the way that I know, as a white woman, a very direct way to be the kind of community member that I think I should be. Last summer, there was a sort of awakening in the larger community to the injustices that the Black communities face, and that brought a lot of folks out onto the streets. This year, a lot of those folks are staying home, but the Black community doesn’t get to just stop having to deal with injustice. And so I think it’s important to keep showing up in support. I came out last year because friends of mine were involved with what was at the time the Black Lives Matter Inland Empire chapter and I showed up because I wanted to be there for them, and that got me into the Lawrence Bender movement. I was showing up for him, and that led to volunteering more.

Eva: If folks from the mountains want to get involved, what is the best way to do so?

Broderick: The best way to link up with us is to email us, follow us on social media, and come to our events. We have events going on at least once or twice a month. Really, it’s about building community in your own neighborhoods. If you don’t know your neighbors, how can you have worker power? You have more in common with your neighbor than you do with your favorite celebrity or a billionaire. You’re not going to be a billionaire, but you will be oppressed by your landlord, you will be exploited by your bosses, and that’s something that you have in common with all your neighbors, something that you have in common with everyone in your town. So if you guys can congregate and meet on that point alone and educate yourselves in a strong, explicitly anti-capitalist manner, and focus on serving the needs of the working class, then you’re already going in the right direction as the Black Power Collective, because that’s what we’re here for.

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