Femme Founders: Emem Obot Blackout: Generation Liberation
Femme Founders is Equality for HER’s latest series featuring femme founders of different organizations, companies, and movements. Femme Founders asks, “Why did you embark on this initiative?” If you would like to nominate someone to be featured please email firstname.lastname@example.org with Femme Founder in the subject line.
By Emem Obot @femme_meme
Blackout: Generation Liberation (BGL) is an organization dedicated to the fight against capitalistic, cis-heteronormative, patriarchal white supremacist systems through community building/outreach and education.
We were not always like this.
Through the creation of this organization, I saw the ugly of activism, but also, its beauty. BGL was originally known as Blackout DC, which was originally created by M. I. Smith. I remember randomly coming to a Howard University campus meeting, and at that moment, I became fully committed to this fight.
As I reflect, I was young and didn’t know what it took to be apart of an organization. We were gearing up for a nationwide protest calling for the justice of all the victims lost since Michael Brown -- the starting point of a new generation of activism (in my opinion). While these efforts were beautiful and well intended, we were just kids trying to make a difference the only way we knew how -- protesting. This is fine, but not enough.
Once the first protest was done, we never heard from M. I. Smith ever again. She left the organization she created and focused her efforts elsewhere. The aftermath of my experience working with M. I. Smith was my first, ugly lesson in activism: not every “activist” is really about liberation and learning.
Months later, we were all still meeting to figure out how to move forward without M. I. Smith. What do we want to do as an organization? What’s our focus? How are we going to provide relief to our community? For months, we searched for the answer. Communication ceased, and everyone went their separate ways.
Still, after all the chaos, all that was on my mind was, “What the hell are we going to do with this organization? What am I good at? What do I want to do? How do I want to bring about change?”
I didn’t find my answer until Chicago Police assaulted me.
Honestly, I don’t think this answer could have come any clearer. At this moment, I realized the need for education amongst the community. We need an accessible space for the community to learn about their relationship with the system in which they rely on. I thought about all the amazing information I’ve been given in school and in activist spaces about the system and our relationship with it. School was a privilege I had, but it shouldn’t be. Accessible information is necessary for everyone.
This is how Blackout: Generation Liberation was formed. BGL became a safe space centering blackness and education about black folks’ surroundings in the social world. Through this, BGL gives them the tools to identify the injustices in their lives and fight them. We’re a community platform and a safe place for black folks to grow and become the leaders they want to be.
We don’t need to look for a singular leader. Our leaders are here -- they just need the chance to find it within themselves.
Emem Obot, Editorialist
Emem Obot is a sophomore at American University in Washington, DC. Obot is majoring in International Studies with a focus in Identity, Race, Gender, Culture and Human Rights. Obot is passionate about anti-black activism with the intersections of feminism/womanism and LGBTQ+ rights. Obot is also the co-founder of Blackout: Generation Liberation, an organization dedicated to the fight against capitalistic cisgender heteronormative patriarchal white supremacist systems through education and community outreach. Obot identifies as agender/ genderqueer and uses no pronouns.