WASHINGTON — Last week, the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution expressing support for the leaders and mission of Black Lives Matter. A few days later, Black Lives Matter released a statement rejecting that resolution — and DNC officials were blindsided.
Early Monday, a Black Lives Matter spokesperson sent a statement to reporters about the carefully worded DNC resolution: While the organization applauded "political change towards making the world safer" for blacks in America, that the organization's only endorsement "goes to the protest movement we've built together with Black people nationwide — not the self-interested candidates, parties, or political machine seeking our vote."
According to a pair of sources, Democratic officials were surprised by the response. A source said it wasn't the Democrats intent to elicit an endorsement, but the organization's response was "understandable" given the circumstances.
It's the latest indication that although some Democrats are eager to support (or take advantage of) the movement, there remains confusion about what Black Lives Matter organization wants from politicians and officials. Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the organization, reiterated to BuzzFeed News Monday evening it would not be working with the DNC going forward.
A Democrat with close ties to party leadership who was not authorized to speak for the DNC said that the perception was that the statement from the organization in response to the resolution was "overly aggressive" and "lacked forward thinking."
The Democrat added, "I mean, part of their demands was acknowledgment of systemic oppression and commitment to working on reform. The resolution did that. What else did they want the DNC to do?"
Here is the Black Lives Matter organization's statement in full:
"A resolution signaling the Democratic National Committee's endorsement that Black lives matter, in no way implies an endorsement of the DNC by the Black Lives Matter Network, nor was it done in consultation with us. We do not now, nor have we ever, endorsed or affiliated with the Democratic Party, or with any party. The Democratic Party, like the Republican and all political parties, have historically attempted to control or contain Black people's efforts to liberate ourselves. True change requires real struggle, and that struggle will be in the streets and led by the people, not by a political party.More specifically, the Black Lives Matter Network is clear that a resolution from the Democratic National Committee won't bring the changes we seek. Resolutions without concrete change are just business as usual. Promises are not policies. We demand freedom for Black bodies, justice for Black lives, safety for Black communities, and rights for Black people. We demand action, not words, from those who purport to stand with us.While the Black Lives Matter Network applauds political change towards making the world safer for Black life, our only endorsement goes to the protest movement we've built together with Black people nationwide -- not the self-interested candidates, parties, or political machine seeking our vote."
A DNC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity in response to BLM's statement, said, "The DNC unanimously passed the resolution to express the Democratic Party's belief that the Black Lives Matter movement is necessary in an era where, for so many, those three words are not self-evident."
"It reflects the values and lived experiences of DNC members," the official continued. "The resolution passed with the confidence that the movement will continue to hold all policymakers accountable."
The DNC resolution was championed by A'shanti F. Gholar, the organization's director of African-American, College Democrats, and youth engagement. Top party brass — including DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Donna Brazile, and DNC Secretary and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake — submitted the resolution. The source close to the party said that Brazile was also a leading advocate. But no one pushed the DNC more than Gholar, a former Obama administration appointee to the U.S. Department of Labor.
A Black Lives Matter spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The statement, however, said explicitly that the resolution was done without their consultation — which one Democratic strategist is par for the course. "You don't want to make a promise on something you might not be able to deliver."
Inside the DNC, two sources say aides have been pushing leadership to stress publicly that BLM is right to hold policymakers accountable, with hopes that the candidates do the legwork of engaging the activists and shaping their policy proposals in consultation with the activists. But internally, black Democratic operatives are concerned: While they want to support the movement in whatever way they can, they are increasingly frustrated that movement activists seem to be pushing them away, in this instance, in an embarrassing fashion.
Some Democratic strategists left the Movement for Black Lives convention in Cleveland invigorated about the movement, but miffed that there had been no voter registration.
Despite pushback from the party, some insist the engagement with Black Lives Matter is necessary, the aides say, because the injustices blacks are facing come at a unique time — and many black Americans feel the activists, who now have the power and platform, are actually on to something.
Some activists think the tension between the DNC and Black Lives Matter is going to be ultimately useful in the long run.
"The Black Lives Matter response to the DNC endorsement is important because for far too long, the Democratic Party has taken black votes and black lives for granted," said Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis, the founding organizer behind #BlackPoliticsMatter.
She added that the BLM statement is a reflection of displeasure the movement should rightly have with both parties, and even encouraged the creation of their own political party.
"The Black Lives Matter Movement has shown its creativity and I encourage us all to continue being creative about the political processes in America, no matter how flawed," she said.