Our North Star: Reaffirming BOLD’s Roots and Purpose

OUR NORTH STAR: REAFFIRMING BOLD’S ROOTS AND PURPOSE

by Denise Perry, BOLD’s Director

BOLD is the vision of a small team of long-time Black organizers who collectively amassed over 50 years of organizing experience to create the blueprint for BOLD. 

The founders came together in 2011. The first step was to make an assessment of current political conditions and the state of Black organizing infrastructure. These elements were considered in the design of BOLD’s pedagogy and curriculum. The founders also reflected on their journeys, growth, success and challenges as social justice organizers. They mapped the field and noted the absence of a specific space and program for Black organizers and a vehicle to strengthen the Black organizing ecosystem. They created BOLD to fill that void and to serve as that vehicle: a home for Black organizing — and organizers.

Since its launch, BOLD has trained over 400 Black organizers from more than 115 base-building organizations and alliances. Throughout this eight-year journey, our “North Star” has always mirrored the light that guided Harriet Tubman, a tangible freedom for Black people. 

Our North Star is not simply figurative. It is rooted in a historical context that informs our teaching, from the courage of maroon societies in Jamaica, Haiti, and Brazil to the strategic brilliance and boldness of Tubman and the collective leadership model advanced by those like Ella Baker. It is from this history of struggle that we learn the critical principles of organizing and the practices needed to build the skills and sustain the momentum it takes to do the work of liberation.    

BOLD’s “North Star” is about liberation built unapologetically through Black Power. Power is more often feared and abused, and it creates isolation. However, we must we must learn to win and wield power responsibly in order to change oppressive societal conditions. In the current landscape, we are witnessing increased homelessness through gentrification, death through immigration and incarceration, brutality through state sanctioned violence, destruction through climate change, and gross amounts of wealth accumulation. These are just overarching categories of misuse and abuse of power that organizers are confronting. Because we don’t want to recreate these dynamics, it is imperative that we learn the meaning of power. We must learn that we need it and that we can use it for good, but this requires working on ourselves and each-other in community.

BOLD’s North Star is building a community of organizers who are committed to personal, organizational, and societal transformation. This requires place, lessons, teachers, and engagement collectively in the work. 

According to Mary Hooks, director of SONG) and one of our graduates, “[Our] mandate is to avenge the suffering of our ancestors, to earn the respect of future generations, and to be transformed in the service of the work.” BOLD will continue to do our work to prepare and walk with our graduates in alignment with this mandate.

We know this requires the constant development of an embodied teaching team and vibrant programming rooted in the most relevant curriculum. In developing this, we’ve also been influenced and inspired by the work of our program evaluator, who has been with us since BOLD’s launch. She has been able to provide us with the material that guides us in always remembering what we have achieved, returning to our wildest dreams, and ensuring that we are always pointed north.

We are committed to the creation and sustainability of maroon spaces where core practices are introduced and reified as needed. BOLD has converted a former plantation into our physical maroon space and we will need to continue to shape it in service to our needs. We will extend this historical lesson to transformation in everything that we do: from where we sleep, to the food we eat, to the security that allows BOLDers to feel as free as possible.

Journeying towards this North Star, we do not walk alone. We move as part of a constellation that includes our international brothers and sisters. BOLD aims to work for, and in relationship to, global Black liberation — across Africa and its Diaspora. We acknowledge that we have much to learn from nations that are more culturally connected and have generational practices that live in their bones, who have a community without having to ask for it, who have survived conditions that we can only imagine. BOLD has and will continue to collaborate with and learn from our peers in Haiti, Brazil, South Africa, and many others across the Diaspora.

We know that all of our ancestors kept moving under the light of this same North Star, overcoming unthinkable trauma and terror, tapping into brilliance, faith and courage as they moved. And so, we too will continue to press forward towards this prize. Together.