Updates from the Black Futures Lab


Greetings from the Black Futures Lab!

Election Day has come and gone, and we are hard at work making sure that Black communities are engaged, educated and active when it comes to making decisions about who makes the rules and what the rules are. We are hopeful that there are ways forward in this terrifying moment — and the first step is working to strengthen democracy for all of us.

A wave of racial and religious terror is sweeping the country. While our hearts are broken, our resolve is not — we will make Black communities powerful in every aspect of our lives.

Read below for updates on how we are making the impossible, possible.

With love and hope,

Demetria, Brittany, Devonte, Robbie and Alicia for the Black Futures Lab team


We are entering the final stretch for the Black Census Project! Thus far, we have generated nearly 24,000 responses to the survey, and we’ve trained over 100 Black organizers across the country!

Last month, the Black Census went into prisons and jails across the country. The surveys cannot be done online, so they are being administered by hand and then entered manually into our database.  This is important to us — we want to make sure that we include the voices of incarcerated people, better understanding the experiences of incarcerated people and their hopes and dreams. Thank you to our partners for making this a reality:

The survey will remain open until December 31, 2018. In the remaining weeks of the year, we will work to ensure that the survey gets out as far and wide as it can. This involves bringing on endorsing partners who commit to sending the survey out to their networks. If you or an organization you know is interested in becoming an endorsing partner, click here to register for our upcoming webinar on November 20th.

Don’t forget–the survey is also translated into 8 languages that are commonly spoken by Black people across the country. Please help us get the word out!


The midterm elections were an important opportunity to build Black political power. The Black Futures Lab partnered with Afropunk to encourage Black people to turn out and vote, while also changing the narrative around why Black people should participate. We were careful not to shame people who are confused or cynical about the elections, and instead focused on making sure that Black people who could vote would feel excited and empowered to do so. The Black Futures Lab was featured in Marie Claire magazine as well, with our principal Alicia Garza talking about why she voted in the midterm elections.

We talked to nearly 55,000 Black women who vote in Alabama about why they should vote in the upcoming midterm elections, and nearly 10,000 voters in California about why they should vote in the Oakland mayoral elections. Through our sister organization, Black to the Future (the political arm of the Black Futures Lab), we endorsed candidates in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, California, and Minnesota. We built new infrastructure, including a federal super PAC (Our Future Is Black PAC), and established a state PAC (Our Future is Black PAC Florida) in Florida. We used the midterm elections as an opportunity to build our capacity to engage voters across the nation, and learned important lessons about how to engage directly in democracy.

The Black Futures Lab also collaborated with the Phenomenal Woman campaign to launch Phenomenal Voter, which engaged celebrities and influencers in using their platforms to encourage people to vote. Followers were encouraged to share the reasons that they were voting, and in return, influencers would share the reasons on their platforms. Influencers like Tracee Ellis Ross and W. Kamau Bell participated in the campaign.

The Black Futures Lab also collaborated with the Phenomenal Woman campaign to launch #1600Men, a campaign to get men across the country to stand with women who are survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault.  This campaign coincided with the hearings related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, along with 4 other women who came forward. The campaign aimed to get 1600 men to sign on to a full page ad in the New York Times, similar to the one that 1600 Black women signed on to when Anita Hill testified in front of Congress that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her when she worked for him. The campaign garnered more than 13,000 men to participate, with support from key influencers like Kendrick Sampson, W Kamau Bell, Rashad Robinson, Tony Goodwyn, and more.


For the last few months, we have been working to identify a focus for our policy work. We know that Black people deserve to be powerful in politics, and policy is a big part of how we do that. The Black Futures Lab has been in conversations with the Hood Incubator, a national organization that is focused on making Black people powerful in the cannabis economy. Recently, we made a decision to focus on impacting cannabis policy for the next 18 months, in California.

California is the 5th largest economy in the nation and has recently made both medical and recreational uses legal. As we speak, the rules for the cannabis economy are being written, without the very people who have been criminalized by the cannabis industry. Together, the Hood Incubator and the Black Futures Lab aim to change that. In 2019, we will work to monitor, develop and implement policy that puts the people who have been locked up by the cannabis economy into positions of power within the cannabis economy. We will focus on California because there are immediate opportunities to shift the balance of power. We will also work on a model project within municipalities in California that can help to set precedent in states across the country that are making cannabis legal.


This year, the Black Futures Lab raised over $2.4 million to support our work. In 2019, we aim to raise $3 million dollars to make Black people powerful in politics, including the launch of our Black to the Future Public Policy Institute, and the release of our Black Census Project summary report.

We are grateful to you for your support, and we encourage you to give even more.

Thank you to our current partners:

  • Wellspring Philanthropies
  • Akonadi Foundation
  • NoVo Foundation
  • Rockefeller Brothers Foundation
  • Carnegie Foundation
  • Rosenberg Foundation
  • Public Welfare Foundation
  • Marguerite Casey Foundation
  • Hertz-Gilmore Foundation
  • Women Donors Network


The Black Futures Lab team is growing! We brought on Devonte Jackson as our Organizing Director in October 2018.  At the Black Futures Lab, Devonte will be overseeing our organizing program, managing our partnerships, and building the capacity of our partners to be powerful in politics.

About Devonté

Devonté Jackson is an organizer, avid cooker, and keeper of a small collard greens garden in Oakland, CA. In October 2018 he joined the Black Futures Lab as Organizing Director and aims to support in accomplishing the mission of building independent Black political power here in the U.S. and at a global level.

Having over 4 years experience organizing in Black Immigrant and Black- American communities, Devonté aspires to strengthen connections and solidarity among the African Diaspora in order to accomplish international Black Liberation. In his spare time he is a member of the LeftRoots Socialist organization and working towards finishing his undergraduate career at UC Berkeley in the Political Science department.

In the next year, we would like to grow our team even more, and will be looking for a Communications Director, 2 Policy Fellows, and an Administrative Assistant.  Be on the lookout for more opportunities to join the Black Futures Lab!