- Who we are -
First organized in the fall of 2017, the Black Midwest Initiative is a collective of scholars, students, artists, organizers, and community-involved people who are committed to advocating for the lives of people of African descent as they are situated throughout the Midwest and Rust Belt regions of the United States.
While the U.S. presidential election of 2016 brought renewed attention to the conditions of “Middle America,” the national discourse that accompanied the election and its aftermath largely marginalized the circumstances of black people living within the region. Yet, research and lived experience tell us that black Americans have been among the groups hardest hit by the rapid deindustrialization and accompanying economic decline and population loss that have become so synonymous with the Midwest. At the same time, with the exception of a couple of major cities, there continues to be a dearth of academic scholarship and popular writing about both the historic and contemporaneous experiences of black Midwesterners. Far too often it is not until a crisis forces an intervention (think Flint or Ferguson) that significant attention is paid to black Midwestern communities under duress.
The Black Midwest Initiative was started to help speak to this void. As a platform, we are interested in highlighting the ongoing work people are doing, whether academic, creative, or organizational, that speaks to the experiences of black people living within the Midwest and the larger industrial sector of the U.S. As a progressive collective of people both within and beyond the academy who are dedicated to the cause of social justice, we are deeply invested in attending to issues that affect a whole range of African-descendant people, including those who are poor and working class, women or non-binary, Muslim, LGBTQIA, immigrant, and disabled. And, as individuals who hail from and/or currently live in the Midwest or Rust Belt (a term we use with affection), we understand that the various forms of oppression and marginalization that we struggle against are not the sum total of our existence. Just as we have known pain and suffering and struggle, we have known joy and love and care. So we fight--because we know that we are worth fighting for.
We stand in solidary with numerous other organizations, collectives, and movements that are committed to the cause of freedom and social justice for black people and other minoritized populations, both in the U.S. and abroad. We see our work as but a small part of a much larger push toward liberation that neither begins nor ends with us, but which we are uniquely situated to contribute to. We welcome anyone who is similarly committed to join with us.