While it’s endorsing only one local candidate in the election next week, a new political action committee plans to train and build support for Black candidates in the May 2021 City Council election.
Ultimately, Black Equity PAC aims to back Black progressive candidates in state and federal elections as well as weigh in on local ballot propositions.
“We have an agenda. … It’s rooted in progressiveness, equity, and accountability,” said Brandy Russell, one of seven co-founders of the PAC.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death in May, several local groups formed to call for change. Some organized peaceful Black Lives Matter marches, protests, and rallies. They showed up in force to ask Council members to reduce the City’s police budget. Another group is working on a petition to repeal police contract rules.
“The protests have a unique [role]; they are there to bring attention,” Russell said. But that attention fades, as it has done after other deaths of Black people at the hands of police. “After the march, what will we do next? And that’s what our job is.”
The group symbolically launched on Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating effective emancipation of Black slaves in the U.S.
In a way, getting Black voices in offices – from school boards to the U.S. Senate – is a continuation of those protests, Russell said. These elected officials are the ones setting the policies that directly impact the Black community.
Russell and her fiancé, Eddie Johnson III, participated in the protests but wanted to do more.
Russell and Johnson found several other Black community members who were thinking the same thing. One was fellow Black Equity co-founder Demonte Alexander, a political consultant who also works as a director for local polling collaborative Bexar Facts. Other co-founders include Akeem Brown, Karmin Tia Greer, Marcus Primm, and Eric Moore.
“We’ve seen these types [of PACs] across the country, but San Antonio didn’t have one,” Alexander said. “So what we want to do is recruit, train, support, and fund Black candidates.”
But another goal is to see Black people represented in the workforce and in leadership positions, he said. “We’re dedicated to building the political infrastructure to establish equitable representation in our institutions for the Black community.”
Roughly 7 percent of San Antonio’s population is Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s population estimate.
Training for candidates – basic introductions to fundraising, public relations, and other vital campaigning skills – is free. Black Equity PAC said a few potential candidates, most of whom are interested in the District 2 seat on City Council, are among the referrals the group has thus far received.
Being Black is not the only requirement for Black Equity’s support, Alexander said. “We don’t just support a Black face, we’re unapologetic about our agenda, which is a progressive agenda.”
The PAC will not directly support a Hispanic, Latino, or white candidate, he said. “It’s not that we’re against any other race or any other group. It’s just that right now, this is about us. And we’re willing to collaborate … [if an organization] wants to start a Black and Brown coalition. … But for Black Equity PAC it’s about us and it’s for us.”
Black Equity has raised $1,125, according to its most recent finance report filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. That report covers contributions and expenses from July 15 through Oct 15. It gave $500 to Bexar County Precinct 1 candidate Rebeca Clay-Flores, Black Equity’s first endorsement.
“We have not fully tapped the resources of our community,” Russell said. “The community has not heard of us yet.”
That is somewhat intentional as Black Equity is still working on finalizing the details of programming and policies, Alexander said.
Since the PAC partnered with Black Freedom Factory on a panel discussion surrounding Black voters earlier this month, an additional $1,300 has been donated, he said.
In the less than four months since the PAC formed, three propositions have been added to the November ballot, but Black Equity isn’t endorsing or opposing any of them. In the future, it will likely take positions and put money behind issue campaigns, Alexander said, but the committee hasn’t had enough time to fully vet the sales tax initiatives for this election.
“That’s an ongoing conversation,” he said. “Those propositions affect the Black community. … But when these were proposed, we were not organized as a community to [vet them]. We haven’t done our work yet.”
PAC leaders said they are optimistic that they can galvanize support from people of all ethnic backgrounds – in the same way a video of a police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes sparked a movement supported by people of different backgrounds.
“We’re sad for the reasons we have to be a part of it,” Russell said. “But we’re happy to actually be ready to make a change [after] what we all saw.”
Disclosure: Demonte Alexander has written columns that appear in the San Antonio Report.