Bakari Kitwana – Racial Justice and Democracy

Through the lens of the new book, Democracy Unchained: How We Rebuild Government For the People, co-editor Bakari Kitwana reflects on the question: What is the future for Black Americans in U.S. Democracy? In the last six months, we’ve witnessed: the coronavirus pandemic that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and disproportionately affected Black Americans; ongoing police killings of Blacks around the country deemed “justifiable”; record unemployment filings also disproportionately affecting Blacks; open calls for violence against protesters; and dog whistles to white supremacists by a sitting president. On the flip side, one of the variables that distinguished the protests in over 2,000 US cities following the police killing George Floyd was that many of the protests demanding racial justice were multiracial and included significant numbers of white Americans. Likewise, the overwhelming unsolicited donations and support for racial justice organizations across the U.S., during and following the protests, also point towards a new day. Reflecting on these and other examples, as well as visionary aspects of the book, Bakari discusses sites of traction, hope and new possibilities. This presentation leans into the questions: How do we make democracy more inclusive? How do we build liberated Black communities? And what do they look like?

Bakari delivered this talk at the 2020 Bioneers Conference, introduced by Kenny Ausubel.


Bakari Kitwana, an internationally known cultural critic, journalist, activist, and thought leader in the area of hip-hop and Black youth political engagement, is Executive Director of Rap Sessions, which conducts town hall meetings around the nation on difficult dialogues facing millennials. A Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard, Kitwana co-founded the 2004 National Hip-Hop Political Convention and is co-editor of the new book Democracy Unchained: How to Rebuild Government For the People. To learn more about Bakari Kitwana, visit his website.

Democracy Unchained: How to Rebuild Government for the People

A stellar group of America’s leading political thinkers explore how to reboot our democracy

Democracy Unchained is about making American democracy work to solve problems that have long impaired our system of governance. The book is the collective work of thirty of the most perceptive writers, practitioners, scientists, educators, and journalists writing today, who are committed to moving the political conversation from the present anger and angst to the positive and constructive change necessary to achieve the full promise of a durable democracy that works for everyone and protects our common future.

Democracy Unchained: A Conversation Series

From the State of American Democracy Project

Watch “The Moral Foundations of Democracy,” episode one of a ten-part conversation series, where political thought leaders explore the moral foundations of democracy as the most certain way of defending the dignity of all citizens.

Dismantling Systemic Racism

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