Reader’s Forum — Jennifer Bullock

Jennifer Bullock

I am halfway through In the Balance of Power: Independent Black Politics and Third Party Movements in the United States. I appreciate how you lay out so clearly the integral role Africans and African Americans played in creating the conditions for, and participating in, our country’s political freedom from the British as well as making this country’s profound wealth. I love, for example, how you underline that the African slaves helped to build the wealth of the landowners, which freed the aristocrats up to be able to force a war of independence, since the slaves were doing all the other work needed to keep things going. Critical to our understanding of our history! Have you spoken to Nikole Hannah-Jones of the 1619 Project? What a wonderful conversation between the both of you that would be regarding how, why, where and when we educate Americans of all ages about our history.

I am at the part of the book where the Liberty Party is attempting to make an impact on two major parties, pre-civil war. Maybe you address what I am now going to ask later in the book. Do you think there is a current alliance to be made between the multicultural, non-ideological independent movement and the ideologically-based, independent black radical movement? I ask because I recently listened to a fascinating and fiery multigenerational panel discussion called The Challenge of Independent Black Radical Movement Today, with leaders such as Elaine Brown (Black Panther Party and prisoner justice advocate) and others discussing the challenges to building black power, peace, and political movements outside of the two-party, capitalist, militarist “imperialist” class. I wondered during the discussion, where the two parties were trashed as strongly as capitalism and our violent foreign policies, what might it look like to attempt now to have conversations with say the Black Peace Alliance and This might be naïve and loop us around the age-old tactical discussion of what’s most effective: change from inside the system, from outside the system, or a hybrid inside – outside movement. I am inspired by the stories you share of courageous leadership of ordinary women and men challenging the inhumane oppressive slave system based on practicality and humanity first, not on ideology and platforms first (perhaps an over generalization?).

At any rate, I am looking forward to the book club discussion and how we can keep taking your scholarly work to the people and advancing the conversation of the intertwined relationship between independence and black leadership in America. I keep thinking of the story a young black college women, a new volunteer with Independent Pennsylvanians , told me recently. She shared that she and her twin sister recently registered to vote. Both registered independent; her sister went with their mother, a Democrat, to the polls last primary day, excited to cast her first vote in elections. However, she was turned away. Why? She had the audacity to declare independence from the two parties. The parties punish that. Neither the new Independent Pennsylvanian’s activist nor her twin sister changed their registration. The brave fight continues. Thank you.

Jennifer Bullock is the Director of Independent Pennsylvanians, which is a proud founding member of the PA Open Primaries Coalition. She is a social therapist practicing in Philadelphia.


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Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

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