The following is a transcript of the video above, from our webinar “Remaking the Economy: A Policy Vision from the Movement for Black Lives.” View the full webinar here.

Rahel Teka: When you use participatory budgeting processes as a method to directly and boldly face the legacies you’re standing on, there’s a lot of opportunity to have conversations that you’re not having otherwise. You’re not going to have these conversations during the election cycle about how a particular neighborhood was targeted [by redlining]. You’re not going to have conversations about how you use actual money, to think about how [the neighborhood] Skid Row has been targeted by economic disinvestment. One of the major strengths of participatory budgeting is that it is a tool that folks can use to open up really important conversations, and have them in a way that puts real impact, real money behind those conversations. [This is] not a couple of candidates having a discussion about how this community is feeling the impacts of White supremacy but actually putting that money into [the] community’s hands to decide what to do with it and start a process of real repair that involves an exchange of power.

In order to actually have a system that represents us, we have to be the ones representing ourselves.

Another key part of how the Participatory Budget Project has been thinking about participatory processes as a tool to move towards justice has been forms of participatory democracy. Our current representative democracy is purposely built in order to enact anti-Black racism. Representative democracy cannot be the method by which we get free. We need to rethink democracy, and we need to think about a version of democracy that is about more shared power and shared decision-making, that is about communities holding decision-making power. Not simply shifting what single individual is holding that overall power. We’re working through Democracy Beyond Elections, which is a coalition think[ing] about other forms of participatory democracy—thinking about community assemblies where folks are able to move through decisions, participatory policymaking where folks are able to actually have a say in the policies that are impacting their lives.

We see what happens when that is not the case. We see the impacts of the war on drugs, we see the impact of all these policies that were made behind closed doors by our representatives who don’t represent us. They represent the interests of White supremacy. In order to actually have a system that represents us, we have to be the ones representing ourselves, and we have to have direct democracy.