Where you at, amber??
Amber J. Phillips is a social justice organizer and digital strategist who works to advance the rights of women, young people, people of color, and low-income communities. Amber uses her formidable skills as a field and digital organizer to identify, train, and empower new leaders to spark social change within their communities. In addition to being a Founder and Co-Director of the startup digital organizing firm BLACK (@_WeAreBlack), Amber is the Senior Manager of Youth Leadership and Mobilization at Advocates for Youth. She proudly serves on the Board of Directors of SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and is a writer with Echoing Ida, a project of Forward Together that amplifies Black women’s thought leadership on critical social justice issues. In short, Amber is a boss. Do yourself a favor and get to know this woman.
#WeBuiltThis: How did you get involved in Black liberation work?
Amber J. Phillips: I intentionally threw myself into Black liberation work in 2015 at the Netroots Nation Conference. In addition to being an organizer, I use digital strategy and communications to move progressive political issues, so Netroots was supposed to be a place for people like me. However, the week of the conference, we learned that another Black life was taken by law enforcement. Sandra Bland who was found dead in police custody after what should have been a minor traffic stop. A group of passionate and well-organized Black and Brown folks decided we were going to interrupt the Presidential Town Hall to demand that Democratic Presidential candidates say the name of Sandra Bland and actually take on the policies put forth by the Movement for Black Lives. Before that moment, I was dedicated to using a Reproductive Justice framework to gradually move predominantly white organizations to take up the torch of racial justice. Netroots was the first time I was able to organize with my community. We already knew the importance and value of Black liberation work and moved to achieve justice unapologetically. It was one of the most powerful moments of my life. Additionally, it led to me founding and co-directing BLACK, a start-up digital organizing firm with my friend Kevin Banatte and we haven’t turned back! We’ve launched amazing online actions and projects like #KKKorGOP, #BlackThighsMatter, The Black Joy Mixtape as well as work in partnerships with #WeBuiltThis and Black and Engaged, just to name a few. To me, there’s nothing more powerful than organizing with Black people, for Black people and that’s what we seek to do through our work.
“I find so much joy in building community and creating safe freedom spaces for all Black people to thrive. ”
WBT: How do you engage the electoral process in your work, and why do you find it important?
AJP: Electoral politics is one tool in our leaderful organizing toolbox as we work towards justice for all people but especially Black people. I love voting and the first time I registered to vote, it changed my life. The act of increasing the power of my single vote by knocking doors in Black communities that mirrored the one I was raised in was important to me. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio which is considered a battleground state and I never met a single canvasser growing up. No one ever knocked on our door to ask my mom, a single female head of household union member, to vote. If our democracy is for everyone, then my goal is to ensure that Black folks, women and young people of color are included in every part of this process in addition to using other tactics to move us closer to justice.
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?
AJP: This is my FAVORITE thing to think about! I love manifesting the reality I’ve built in my personal life. That day looks like a Black Woman (trans or cis) as President more than once. That day looks like free tampons and no gender binary. That day looks like completely free healthcare that is extended to abortion coverage and mandatory salaries for young parents. That day looks like reparations and plantations being turned over to Black folks to raise their families instead of transforming them into resorts. That day looks like my 3 year old niece being as free as she is now, well into her adulthood. That day looks like the end of prisons and alternatives to the police. That day looks like this country actually trusting Black women as well as funding Black futures more than war. That day will be marvelous.
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?
AJP: I launched a podcast with my friend Jazmine Walker called the Black Joy Mixtape to highlight the brilliance and resistance of Black people and Black women specifically. I find joy in the humor of how ridiculous oppression is as well as presenting the many alternatives that our country could be implementing instead. I find so much joy in building community and creating safe freedom spaces for all Black people to thrive even if it’s just in my home during a random Friday evening.
WBT: What is something you want to express to people who criticize Black youth and our enthusiasm about or engagement of the election?
AJP: Don’t. We’re the superheros everyone has been waiting for. We got this election just like the last two. Trust us and move over. We’re here willing, ready and with some great visionary ideas on how to move this country forward. Give us a chance and even if you don’t, we plan on taking it!