AMP: Grassroots²

Fight for the Soul of the Cities

Channing L. Martinez, Fight for the Soul of the Cities/Strategy Center

What do you do? I’m a Black Queer, Garifuna civil rights and climate justice organizer. I have spent my entire life in South Central LA. Like many Black people in LA, I grew up in the eastern parts of South Central around Central Avenue and as the 90’s and early 2000’s progressed we slowly moved more and more west until we reached Crenshaw Blvd. I come from a single parent household where my mom was the breadwinner of the house with three children. This year, I also ran for City Council.

Tell us about your work.The Strategy Center is training a new generation of revolutionary organizers. We operate the Strategy and Soul Movement Center, of which I’m the manager. Strategy And Soul is home to a state of the art film theater for and by the movement, an organizer’s bookstore and the Fight for the Soul of the Cities organizing office. Strategy and Soul is a center of repair, refocus, and revolutionary resistance, and for me provides one of the greatest hopes and examples of movement building at its best.

What is your Post Covid-19 Dream? My post COVID 19 dream is for us all to significantly increase our fight for and with the Black community against racism, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia,  militarism and climate catastrophe.  One of the sad lessons we’re learning during this pandemic is that the Black community is worse off today than we’ve ever been. While there is a lot of hope that can be seen through the work of Black led organizations and Black community members stepping up to the plate to fill in where the government refuses, as we always have, the COVID 19 pandemic shows more blatantly the system’s out right disregard for Black people, Black hopes, and Black movement.

Today’s COVID 19 statistics on the Black community are beyond heart breaking. In Chicago Black people are only 30% of the population but 70% of Covid 19 deaths. In Los Angeles Black people are 9% of the population but 17% of Covid 19 deaths, and Illinois 15% of the population and 42% of Covid 19 deaths.

These numbers speak to the long American tradition of abuse of the Black community stemming from creating food deserts, and racist medical practices in the Black community. This is also reflected in racist policing and Black push-out tactics—militarizing public schools, privatizing public social services and the depletion of the enforcement mechanisms in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Part 2: What is your Post Covid-19 Dream? At the Strategy Center, we are working to create the post COVID 19 reality we want to see today. It hasn’t been an easy process to move to physical distancing for everyone, especially for organizers working with the most vulnerable populations. And while we’ve had to move slow in order to prioritize supporting our leaders in meeting all of their basic needs first, we’re now excited to transition to working on our campaigns in new ways with an expanded focus.

We have to think very long-term as well as win victories in the present. As always, the people need physical facilities, political homes, as a battle against gentrification and genocide.